Stimulant Addiction, Abuse And Treatment Options

Both illicit and prescription stimulants are abused by people seeking increased energy, focus, and euphoria. Stimulant abuse can cause adverse health effects like heart and nerve problems, and increased the risk of overdose and addiction.

Stimulants are drugs that cause heightened mental and nervous system activity. They increase a person’s energy levels and concentration and—when taken in high amounts—can produce a feeling of euphoria.

These drugs can be obtained illicitly on the street or legally by prescription. Both types of stimulants are abused by some individuals for these pleasurable effects. Stimulant abuse can be hazardous to a person’s health and well-being and may lead to life-altering addiction.

Stimulant Abuse

Cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine are common stimulants sold illegally on the street. While these substances are still legal for medical use, they are Schedule II controlled substances that are highly abused.

Prescription drugs such as Adderall (amphetamine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate) are also stimulants. These are generally prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. Many people who do not have these issues abuse prescription stimulants to increase their focus at work or school.

There are many slang names for these types of drugs. Cocaine may be called flake, base, toot, yeyo or candy, while methamphetamine is commonly known as crystal, glass, ice or speed.

People often use clever code names for prescription stimulants so that they can talk about them openly. Some of these names include Diet Coke, Kiddy Coke, Smarties or Kibbles & Bits.

Stimulants are usually taken orally in pill form but may be smoked, crushed and snorted or dissolved in water and injected.

Signs Of Stimulant Addiction

Many people who become addicted to prescription stimulants start taking them before big events like midterms or all-night work assignments. As they experience success, they begin to take them before every project or test and are soon mentally dependent on them (addicted).

Illegal stimulants are often abused because they produce a sense of euphoria and a boost of energy. These may be taken in a binge and crash pattern, in which a person takes repeated doses to maintain a high until they are so exhausted they may sleep for days. This can indicate an addiction.

Other signs of stimulant addiction may be:

  • physical health effects as a result of excessive stimulant use
  • trying to get money from friends or family members
  • selling things to pay for drugs
  • a formerly responsible person becoming irresponsible and careless
  • visiting multiple doctors for prescriptions (“doctor shopping”)
  • loss of interest in social activities
  • strained relationship with family members

If someone wants to help a loved one who is struggling with stimulant addiction, it is essential that they do not enable drug abuse. This may mean cutting the person off financially, which can be heartbreaking.

A person who is addicted to stimulant drugs may present emergencies that have real consequences, but it’s important to realize when they intend to buy drugs instead of paying their rent, fixing their car or buying food as they promise to do.

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Short-Term And Long-Term Effects Of Stimulants

Stimulants increase attention, alertness and energy. They may enhance performance for a short time. Right after taking a stimulant drug, a person might feel:

  • happy
  • sociable
  • able to breathe more easily
  • less hungry
  • more focused
  • agitated
  • shaky (tremors)

When someone takes stimulants, their heart rate increases and may become erratic as their blood pressure rises. Their body temperature goes up, which can cause hyperthermia (dangerous overheating). The stress that this puts on the body can cause sudden death, especially in the case of stimulant abuse.

A person who abuses stimulants may experience these long-term effects:

  • heart damage (generally irreversible)
  • headaches
  • trouble breathing
  • stroke
  • seizures
  • muscle deterioration
  • stomach and intestine problems

Can You Overdose On Stimulants?

It is possible to overdose on stimulants by taking a high dose or taking them too frequently. This can occur with prescription or illicit stimulants and produces similar effects in either case.

Signs of a stimulant overdose include:

  • restlessness
  • tremors
  • rapid breathing
  • confusion
  • aggression or panic
  • hallucinations
  • muscle pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • cramps and diarrhea

Heart attack and nerve problems that may cause seizures are two of the most severe consequences of stimulant overdose. When more than one stimulant drug is taken at the same time, the chance of overdose goes up, as does the likelihood that it will be fatal.

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Stimulant Withdrawal

When a person first stops using stimulants, they may feel sad, agitated, and have intense cravings. Once the initial withdrawal has passed, they may have foggy thinking as well as physical and psychological exhaustion that can lead to depression.

During this time, many people relapse because they feel like the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms will never pass. Social or medical support during the detox process is helpful in preventing relapse and ensuring a person’s safety.

Stimulant withdrawal may last anywhere from four days to a few weeks. The intensity of the cravings usually gets worse before it gets better. Even after the withdrawal is passed, a person may still experience some cravings and triggers to stimulant use.

Treatment for stimulant addiction helps people manage these cravings and triggers. It focuses on replacing substance abuse with healthier behaviors.

Treatment For Stimulant Addiction

At The Bluffs, each person begins stimulant addiction treatment with a thorough assessment that is used to create a unique treatment plan. The most effective care considers all aspects of a person’s life that contribute to or are affected by addiction, and this is different for everyone.

Our holistic inpatient rehab program provides a safe environment where individuals can work together to heal their mind, body, and spirit. We offer a variety of evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dual diagnosis treatment.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This form of psychotherapy helps a person assess negative thought patterns and habits that may be keeping them in a cycle of addiction. CBT helps a person rewrite these patterns with more positive and solution-based thoughts and actions.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT helps individuals deal with their most painful emotions and relationship challenges. As they do this, they learn to express their emotions and love themselves first by setting appropriate boundaries so that they can more openly love and accept others.

Experiential Therapy

The Bluffs is fortunate to be situated in a peaceful, natural setting that allows plenty of opportunity for recreation and adventure therapy. This involves activities like hiking and camping that promote physical and mental health.

We also offer experiential therapies such as yoga, art, and music to encourage personal expression.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

People who have a stimulant addiction may also have a co-occurring mental disorder that makes overcoming addiction more difficult. This may be a primary or secondary disorder that either led to or stems from substance abuse.

If mental issues are not addressed during addiction treatment, relapse is more likely to occur. Our goal is to heal addiction from the inside out so each person can experience lifelong recovery.

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