Stimulant Addiction

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Stimulant Addiction Overview

Stimulants are a class of drugs that make us feel energized and social. These drugs are known as ’uppers’ because they increase central nervous system (CNS) activity. Illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, and prescription drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, are all stimulant drugs.

Stimulants speed up signals between the brain and body. They provide a brief sense of euphoria and allow users to focus and concentrate to a higher intensity than normal.

Stimulants have some medical value. For example, prescription stimulants Adderall and Ritalin are often prescribed to patients with ADHD because they improve focus and concentration. Still, they have a high potential for addiction. Stimulant addiction can lead to a range of physical and psychological health issues that require professional treatment.

The dangers of stimulants are not commonly known. While people know that cocaine has a high potential for misuse, fewer people know that prescription stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, or Concerta are harmful to one’s health.

What goes up must come down. When we use stimulants, and our nervous system gets excited, it must eventually return to normal. The issue is that when we come back to normal, normal can feel low.

The excitement, euphoria, and powers of focus and concentration granted by the stimulant we used all fade away. We are left feeling worse than we did before we took them. People will take more of the drug to chase the high – this is the start of an addiction.

Types of Stimulant Drugs

Some stimulants are used medically, but some are illegal. Below is a list of both types.

Prescription Stimulants

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Dexedrine)

Illicit Stimulants

  • Cocaine
  • Crack cocaine
  • Crystal meth
  • Bath salts like MDPV and mephedrone

People are often prescribed stimulants by their doctors. For example, doctors prescribe Ritalin or Adderall to patients with ADHD or narcolepsy. One might make a common mistake in thinking that just because a doctor prescribes these drugs, they are safe.

Even stimulants given to us by medical professionals can be dangerous. This is especially true if people use stimulants outside of their doctor’s recommendation.

This could include:

  • Taking more than prescribed
  • Snorting tablets
  • Injecting tablets

Stimulant Use in the U.S.A

Stimulant abuse and addiction are growing problems across the United States. They are cheap and readily available, which makes them a popular recreational drug of choice. Users take stimulants for their social and energy-enhancing abilities.

Stimulants are sometimes used to aid study or work and are also used in club and party settings because they keep users awake and alert. They also allow people to consume more alcohol than usual without feeling as drunk.

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry reported that almost 5 million Americans had misused prescription stimulants at least once, while around 400,000 had a stimulant use disorder.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that over half of people who misused stimulants (56.3 percent) reported cognitive enhancement and alertness as their motivation for misuse.

Stimulant Dependence and Addiction

What begins as recreational use can soon turn into dependence and addiction. Stimulants cause the brain to produce abnormal amounts of dopamine – the brain’s reward chemical. The more that people take, the more the brain seeks out that same level of dopamine release.

Normal dopamine release seems underwhelming compared to the release from stimulants. As such, people may seek out more stimulants to maintain their ‘high’.

Regular use of stimulants leads to dependence. When a person develops a dependence, life can become challenging when they don’t take the drug. Routine daily tasks can seem overwhelming.

Dependence is dangerous because the more we use a drug, the greater our body’s tolerance to its effects. As such, a user will need to take more of the drug more often to achieve the desired results.


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Consequences of Stimulant Addiction

Increased stimulant use can have dire consequences. Dependence and addiction make a person prioritize their drug use over other aspects of their lives. This can lead to strained interpersonal relationships, such as your relationship with your family members or with a romantic partner.

A person may even enter into a relationship with another person because of their mutual drug addiction. This is harmful to both partners, as each will perpetuate the other’s drug use.

The negative consequences of stimulant misuse and abuse may not seem evident to the individual at first. Still, they soon will be obvious to friends, partners, family, and employers. One may disbelieve or deny their loved one’s concerns – another characteristic of dependence and addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

Though the effects of stimulants seem positive at first, they soon wear off. It also becomes harder to achieve the desired effects the more we use because the body builds up a tolerance to the drug. The negatives eventually outweigh the positive effects. Individuals who have misused these drugs come to face a range of physical and psychological health issues.

Stimulant addiction doesn’t just affect our personal lives. It can also have extreme health consequences. Our bodies can’t handle stimulants for extended periods. Slowly, they wear away at our mental and physical health.

Some of the physical symptoms of stimulant use disorder include:

  • Poor dental health
  • Sores from picking skin
  • Weight loss
  • Shakiness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting

Though some stimulants are legal, while others are illicit, the negative consequences are similar. Suppose you have been using cocaine, methamphetamine, or methylphenidate for a prolonged period. In that case, you may experience any of the following when you take a break from the drug, outlined in the journal Addiction.

  • Mood swings
  • Depression, paranoia
  • Increased irritability
  • Anxiety, risk of panic attacks
  • Poor sleep, nightmares
  • Headaches
  • Aches and pains
  • Decreased sensitivity to alcohol

Heavier use can lead to more significant health issues, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Severe depression
  • Frequent panic attacks

Short-term Effects of Stimulants

The massive dopamine release from stimulants feels very pleasurable. This contributes to their addictive quality. Stimulants also cause the release of another brain chemical – norepinephrine. This brain chemical affects our heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory system.

Norepinephrine is a naturally occurring brain chemical, but it is released in large amounts when we use stimulants.

As a result, stimulant use creates the following short-term effects:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches

In high doses, the effects above become more pronounced. High doses can lead to a dangerous spike in blood pressure and body temperature and may lead to seizures or heart failure.

Stimulant Withdrawal and Detox

When a person becomes addicted to stimulants, they are subject to a range of withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using. Of course, cessation of use is crucial for achieving good health. The withdrawal symptoms can be so uncomfortable and distressing that many people return to stimulant use to avoid or escape from withdrawal.

Stimulant withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Poor concentration and attention
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia

Stimulant Addiction Treatment

The first step in treating stimulant addiction is detoxification. Detoxification is the elimination of toxic chemicals that have accumulated in the body due to prolonged and sustained substance misuse.

Here at Detox West Tennessee, we provide clients with a fully medically supervised detox program. Our stimulant detox program offers around-the-clock care and support for clients as they move through the withdrawal stage of addiction recovery. Our approach is in line with safe detox guidelines outlined by the World Health Organization.

Stimulant addiction jeopardizes your quality of life. If drug use is affecting your life in any way, we can help. You deserve to live your best life.

The first step to recovery is to seek professional treatment. Contact us today to arrange for an assessment or consultation. Help is readily available at Detox West Tennessee.

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