People use drugs, whether prescription or illicit, to make themselves feel better. Some drugs give users the feeling that they are on top of the world, they are focused, and they can accomplish anything. That feeling lasts until they come crashing down, feeling worse and wanting to use more. The drugs that work this way are known as stimulants. They are highly addictive and can be extremely detrimental to an individual’s life and relationships. People who become addicted to stimulants are often unable to break their addiction without the help of a drug rehabilitation program.
What Are Stimulants?
Stimulants are drugs that are designed to increase energy and alertness. Some of them are used therapeutically to help improve an individual’s attention and focus. They are called stimulants because they stimulate specific processes in the brain and in the body. They cause the heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure to increase.
Stimulants as a class of drugs encompasses both pharmaceutical medications that are prescribed by doctors to treat certain disorders and widescale illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. Illicit stimulants like these have been responsible for tens of thousands of overdose deaths in the last couple of decades, and the numbers have been on the rise in the last several years. However, prescription stimulants can be equally as dangerous when abused or when they are diverted for nonmedical use.
What Are the Different Types of Stimulant Drugs?
All stimulants, prescribed and illegal, carry a risk of addiction. However, some are more likely to be misused than others. The most commonly abused types of stimulant drugs are:
Prescription amphetamines – These medications are typically prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The most commonly prescribed amphetamines are Adderall, Dexedrine, and Desoxyn. Additionally, there are some prescription stimulants that are not actually amphetamines, but they have similar pharmacologic effects, can be abused, and are addictive. Methylphenidate (brand names Ritalin and Concerta) is such a drug.
Cocaine – Often called crack or coke, cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug that is derived from the coca plant. It’s a white crystalline powder that is smoked, snorted, or injected.
Methamphetamine – Meth is a drug that is more potent than amphetamines and cocaine. It typically is found in a white, odorless powder form that can be smoked, snorted, or injected. It is sometimes called crystal meth or ice.
MDMA – Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA, Ecstasy, or Molly, is a stimulant with hallucinogenic effects. It’s usually taken in pill form and often used at clubs, parties, or raves.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction?
The warning signs of addiction to stimulants can vary depending on the individual and the type and amount of the drug that is used. However, there are some common indicators of addiction to stimulants, including:
- Mood swings
- Extreme changes in energy levels
- Needing to take or use stimulants to perform normal functions
- The inability or reluctance to reduce doses or stop using stimulants
- Extremely reduced appetite and rapid weight loss
- Being tired but unable to sleep restfully or regularly
- Need to take higher or more frequent doses to feel the same effects
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when drug doses are reduced or discontinued. The withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, depression, trembling, trouble sleeping, and sensitivity to physical touch.
- Paranoia or psychosis
Individuals who display these warning signs may be abusing stimulants. It’s important to get help as soon as possible. Addiction to stimulants carries some serious health complications that can be life-threatening.
How Does Chronic Stimulant Use Affect Your Health?
Stimulant drugs increase the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine. The increase leads to feelings of euphoria along with heightened alertness. In the body, stimulants raise breathing and heart rates, and blood pressure. Heavy or chronic use can cause arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), heart failure, seizures, and even death.
An individual who is coming down from a stimulant high may feel restless, anxious, and have trouble sleeping.
Methamphetamine and cocaine are both highly addictive. The withdrawal symptoms from these illicit drugs include powerful cravings, insomnia, mood swings, headaches, and hallucinations.
The effects of prolonged stimulant use may include confusion, anxiety, paranoia, decreased sexual function, and the inability to concentrate. However, much more serious complications may also arise as a result of damage to the cardiovascular, respiratory, and central nervous systems. Chronic use of methamphetamines has additional physical and mental side effects, including weight loss, tooth decay, sores, aging skin, aggression, and hallucinations.
Like some other addictive drugs, prolonged stimulant abuse can increase an individual’s risk for suicide.
How is Stimulant Addiction Treated?
Most people who become addicted to stimulants need help to break the cycle of addiction. The first step is to rid the body of substances so the real work of treatment can begin. Detoxification, or detox for short, is a program that does that. Medically supervised detox is recommended because patients are monitored around the clock in case symptoms become severe. Also, certain medications may be given to help ease the discomfort of withdrawal. After completing detox, inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment programs may be suggested.
Inpatient Rehab for Stimulant Addiction
Inpatient treatment for addiction offers 24-hour supervised care at a residential addiction treatment center. Inpatient programs typically last from 30 to 90 days, or in some cases, even longer. During treatment, patients will receive psychiatric and medical care as needed. Additionally, patients attending an inpatient treatment program will receive many benefits, including:
- Addiction education
- Group and individual therapy
- Stress management techniques
- Coping and living skills
- Relapse prevention techniques
- Help to rebuild relationships
Outpatient Rehab for Stimulant Addiction
Outpatient treatment for stimulant addiction also offers addiction education, some therapy, relapse prevention, coping and life skills, and stress management techniques, but on an outpatient basis. The program typically meets several times a week for several hours. Outpatient treatment offers some advantages that inpatient does not, including:
- Lower cost. Outpatient programs cost far less than inpatient, and a portion is usually covered by insurance.
- You can live at home. This can be a disadvantage as well because outpatient treatment doesn’t remove you from the environment in which you used drugs or alcohol.
- You can work or go to school. Most outpatient program schedules can accommodate you staying at your job or at school. Getting Help for Stimulant Addiction
Addiction to stimulant drugs, both prescribed and illicit, can be difficult and dangerous to overcome. Some users try to detox by themselves after quitting cold turkey. But doing so can be unsafe and even life-threatening. Withdrawal from stimulants can include anxiety, fatigue, depression, and suicidal thoughts. For that reason, if you want to stop using stimulants, it’s critical that you attend a medically supervised detox program where you will be monitored and have immediate medical attention if needed.
The good news is that addiction to stimulants, or any other type of drug or alcohol, is treatable. There is help available to teach you how to live a happy and fulfilling life completely drug-free. The first step is asking for the help you need.