According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, deaths from overdose of illicit stimulants increased by a factor of 10 from 2009 to 2019. Unfortunately, overdose occurs with the use of prescription stimulants as well. Stimulant addiction treatment helps individuals to overcome abuse and dependence on these substances, improving overall wellbeing and reducing the chance of overdose and other negative consequences.

What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants are drugs that increase the activity of many of the body’s vital structures, including the central nervous system. Therefore, prescription stimulants treat a variety of medical conditions, such as ADHD or narcolepsy. While there are certainly benefits to using medications as prescribed, nearly 5 million people misuse these prescriptions over the course of a year.

Many typical foods and beverages contain stimulants, and this use generally does not require intervention through stimulant addiction treatment. However, there are even more varieties of stimulants that provide no medical value with a high potential for abuse. These are classified as Schedule I drugs and are illegal for use in the United States.

Common Stimulants

Individuals obtain these drugs both legally and illicitly, making stimulant addiction a real danger. Additionally, many stimulants are illegally manufactured, resulting in new types coming out regularly. Because of this, it is difficult to know every single stimulant drug that is currently available. However, these are the most common types that are used or misused.

Prescription Stimulants

Stimulants may be prescribed for narcolepsy, ADHD, and even weight loss in some cases. Regrettably, studies show that approximately 40 percent of those who take these medications use them for purposes that are unrelated to the prescribed intent.

  • Amphetamines such as Adderall
  • Methylphenidates like Ritalin and Concerta
  • Dextroamphetamines including Dexedrine
  • Dexmethylphenidates like Focalin
  • Lisdexamfetamines such as Vyvanse

Nicotine

Surprisingly, nicotine is actually a stimulant although some users find smoking to be relaxing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 percent of adults smoke cigarettes in the United States. People consume nicotine by smoking, vaping, and smokeless tobacco products.

Caffeine

The most widely produced stimulant is found in everyday foods and beverages. Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, and chocolate are the most common products found on store shelves. Additionally, many over-the-counter supplements contain caffeine.

Methamphetamines

Close to 1 percent of US adults have admitted to using meth in the past year [6]. However, actual use is believed to be much higher since many people attempt to hide their use. Methamphetamines are commonly taken orally, smoked, snorted, or injected.

Cocaine

Cocaine typically comes in a powdered form though it can be found in rock form as in crack cocaine. While the powder form is typically snorted, the solid form is usually smoked but can be altered for injecting or snorting.

Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts)

Synthetic Cathinones are man-made stimulants that have effects similar to the khat plant. Commonly known as bath salts, users swallow, snort, smoke, or inject these drugs. Highly addictive and equally dangerous, drugs of this type are believed to be 10 times more potent than cocaine.

How Stimulants Affect the Body and the Brain

Physicians commonly prescribe stimulants to increase alertness, concentration, and focus. These drugs boost energy levels as well. They amplify the response of multiple body systems through physiological changes. Many of these substances work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a well-known chemical that produces intensely pleasurable feelings within the body.

Short-term Effects of Simulant Use

Using stimulants provides immediate benefits to the user, leading to an elevated risk of stimulant addiction.

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Boosted energy
  • Increased alertness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Enhanced self-confidence and well-being
  • Increased talkativeness and sociability

Subsequently, as people begin to rely on the enjoyable experience of using stimulants, they may begin using these drugs for longer periods of time.

Long-term Effects of Stimulants

Unfortunately, many people develop stimulant addiction because they depend on the positive feelings associated with drug use. When the body adjusts to incoming stimulants for increased dopamine, it stops producing this chemical on its own. As a result, this causes people to continue using just to feel normal.

Sometimes, users increase the number of stimulants taken to get the same rush or high previously experienced as they develop a tolerance. Moreover, they may experience negative effects that lead to continued use to avoid stimulant withdrawal if they try to stop using.

Long-term use of stimulants dramatically impacts the body in a negative way, making stimulant addiction treatment important. The most common symptoms are paranoia, hostility, and the development of psychosis. Consequently, long-term use of stimulants also generates anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and delusions.

Dangers of Stimulant Use

Physical changes in the body include increased heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and body temperature. In some cases, users may report tremors or even seizures for instance. Whether through long-term use, high dosages, or overdose, those who use stimulants risk these acute conditions:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Hyperthermia
  • Coma
  • Death

Stimulant addiction treatment is recommended to help people so that they avoid the potential dangers associated with both short- and long-term use of these drugs.

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

Although even one-time users can experience negative consequences to stimulant use, those who become dependent on these drugs have a greater risk. So how do you know if you or a loved one is addicted to these drugs? Here are the most common signs that could signal dependence and the need for stimulant addiction treatment.

If you notice these signs in yourself, you may wish to consider stimulant addiction treatment:

  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Intense skin itching and discomfort resulting in the need to pick or scratch
  • Break from reality
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Increased tolerance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Obsession with the drug, such as using and finding ways to obtain it
  • Inability to stop using even if trying to quit
  • Use of stimulants to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • Engagement in risk-taking behaviors
  • Inability to function without the drug
  • Continued use despite negative consequences

For those close to someone with suspected stimulant addiction, look for these signs:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Poor hygiene
  • Skin sores and picking
  • Tooth loss or noticeable tooth decay
  • Rapid heart rate, respiration, speech, and body movements
  • Personality changes, such as increased aggression or hostility
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in sleep patterns, which include sleeping too much or too little
  • Strange behaviors
  • Isolation from others
  • Avoidance of personal responsibilities

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Withdrawal

Sadly, one of the reasons that people continue to use stimulants even if they want to quit is to avoid or overcome withdrawal symptoms. Although stimulant withdrawal is not life-threatening in most cases, it can feel like it to those who are trying to quit. Symptoms may begin within just a few hours of stopping the drug, and some may continue for weeks or even months.

  • Intense cravings
  • Depression with potential thoughts of suicide
  • Thoughts of violence or harm to others
  • Unrelenting exhaustion
  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Sleep disturbances and vivid dreams
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Increased appetite

Because withdrawal can feel so intense to those who are dependent on stimulants, it is highly beneficial to get some type of stimulant addiction treatment. This will help in overcoming these symptoms and preventing health complications associated with continued use.

Treatment Options for Stimulant Addiction

Although abused drugs may vary in their composition and effects, similar treatment modalities are very effective in overcoming addiction. However, since many of those who quit stimulants become aggressive and easily agitated, stimulant addiction treatment should be non-confrontational in nature.

Stimulant Detox

While detox is often associated with life-threatening withdrawal, it can be highly beneficial to those quitting stimulants as well. Most importantly, it prevents the user from going back to drug use to overcome the withdrawal while managing symptoms in healthier ways.

Treatment Settings

Depending on the stimulant, those undergoing treatment may decide on one of these options:

  • Outpatient treatment allows individuals to stay at home and continue working while attending several scheduled appointments throughout the week.
  • Intensive outpatient requires more appointments that may each last for an entire day.
  • Inpatient treatment provides intense structure and learning sessions to help individuals to overcome addiction.
  • Residential treatment is a long-term program where the person will stay for many months to focus on recovery.

Therapies for Overcoming Addiction to Stimulants

While the setting and length of time for treatment are important, the specific types of therapy are crucial as well. These therapies are effective in treating stimulant use disorders:

  • Motivational interviewing increases the individual’s willingness to participate in and continue with treatment.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to unlearn negative thought patterns by replacing them with more positive ones.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy focuses on painful challenges involving emotions and relationships.
  • Contingency management works by using rewards for positive behaviors that minimize the desire for stimulants.
  • 12-step recovery was traditionally used with alcoholics but is highly effective when integrated with other therapies.
  • The Matrix model is an effective method for stimulant abuse that combines several therapies in an intensive outpatient setting.

Find Stimulant Addiction Treatment Through BRC Healthcare

If you or a loved one suffers from stimulant addiction, it can be difficult to quit alone. Contact us today for more information about treatment options that will bring real change. Even chronic relapsers or those resistant to previous treatments can find lasting recovery.

References: 

https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2020/11/rising-stimulant-deaths-show-we-face-more-than-just-opioid-crisis

https://drugabusestatistics.org/prescription-drug-abuse-statistics/

https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Stimulants-2020.pdf

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26486603/