Stimulants are a class of drugs that temporarily increase the speed and performance of bodily and mental functions. Stimulants can be found on the street as well as the doctor’s office.
Dexedrine) and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concentra). Both amphetamines and methylphenidate are commonly used for treating ADHD and narcolepsy.
In the past, amphetamine and methylphenidate were used to treat a number of ailments, including:
- Nasal congestion
- Breathing problems
- Many other issues
These substances were even used during wartime. Soldiers who needed to stay awake in battles would use stimulants to stay awake and alert.
All things considered…that probably sounds like an awfully long list. That is because today, stimulants are never prescribed for issues like breathing problems or nasal congestion.
Nowadays, stimulants are most commonly known as being a part of treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD is typically first noted in childhood, and usually develops at 7 years old. The disorder can improve, but more often than not, it persists into adulthood.
ADHD diagnoses are on the rise, as is the number of teens who are trying stimulants for the first time. Stimulant use is on the rise among youth. The increasing availability of stimulants in cheaper, more easily prepared forms, and the higher rates of ADHD diagnosis can only mean that the rates of addiction will continue to grow.
Did You Know?
Recent research has demonstrated that the improper use of amphetamines bears similarities to methamphetamine use. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has indicated that Ritalin is stronger than cocaine, with the same effects on the brain.
Stimulant Addiction and Abuse
After World War II, amphetamine use increased greatly, around the time that methamphetamine began to spring up, as it was cheap and easily produced in small domestic labs. Since then, amphetamine use has increased precipitously.
A Story of Stimulant Abuse
A teen struggles in school; maybe they are feeling tired. Suddenly, they start hearing about this magic pill. They have heard about “uppers,” “speed,” and “bennies,” but this really isn’t an upper, right? It doesn’t seem like such a big deal. What’s bad about a little pill that helps you to ace school?
The stimulant increases the teen’s heart rate, and they feel great—alert and attentive as an owl. Studying all night and acing that test the next day—great! A win-win situation. They feel focused and energized, as if they may never sleep again.
The Truth Behind Stimulant Abuse
This appeal of stimulants lies in its ability to transition an individual from feeling down and out, to feeling energized, upbeat and even euphoric—a semblance of superhuman ability.
However, research into the so-named “cognitive enhancement” of stimulants has shown that students who abuse prescription stimulants actually have lower GPAs in high school and college than those who do not.
Stimulants trigger a brief release of dopamine, which is the brain chemical that is responsible for our happiness and well-being. This neurotransmitter is responsible for our energy levels, whether we feel happy or sad, energized or fatigued, alert or tired.
The intended therapeutic effect of ADHD medication is a careful introduction of the drug, and a gradual increase of the medication until symptoms decrease. When ADHD medication is used properly with a prescription, the symptoms tend to decrease, providing more focus and alertness.
Instead of this incremental, planned treatment, stimulant abuse causes dopamine levels to skyrocket. As stimulants are used more and more, their effectiveness wears off, prompting the abuser to search for more intense highs, which can be achieved by increased doses, stronger variations of the drug, or different methods of drug intake.
Stimulants can be ingested in pill form, crushed, snorted, or diluted with water and injected. These ingredients can hinder small blood vessels, as insoluble blood fibers can block the blood flow to the heart and other organs.
Why on earth would you want to snort or inject a stimulant?
Well, when stimulants are injected, the amount of dopamine in the brain increases quickly and in larger amounts. The effect of immediate, acute dopamine levels in the blood stream is often euphoria—a state that keeps an addict running back for the same high, only to never quite find it again.
Signs and Symptoms
When the normal function of brain cells that communicate and produce dopamine are manipulated through the use of stimulants, it may be difficult for the stimulant addict to find pleasure in other activities. This is because normal communication between the brain cells has been compromised.
Stimulant Overdose Symptoms and Stimulant Withdrawal and Detox
It is crucial to address stimulant addiction before it’s too late.
Cravings may seem unavoidable and unsurmountable, however, treating any underlying mood issues that accompany the craving can help. The synapses that produce dopamine in the brain have been seriously compromised, and the stimulant-addicted individual must learn to experience pleasure again in a natural way.
Withdrawal from stimulant addiction cannot be helped with the use of drugs, like with recovery from narcotics, or other types of rehabilitation programs.
Stimulant Treatment and Rehab
Treatment for prescription stimulant abuse is based upon the behavioral therapies used for treatments for cocaine and methamphetamine addiction. Unfortunately, there are no drugs available for easing the process in treating withdrawal from stimulants.
Detoxification is necessary, where the drug use is tapered down slowly with the assistance of a medical professional in order to avoid major withdrawal symptoms. Here are some of the symptoms of stimulant withdrawal:
- Increased appetite
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- In extreme cases, hallucinations and delusions.
Also, severe nutritional depletion is likely, therefore, it is necessary to provide nutritional supplements and nutritional treatment.
Following the drug detoxification process, there are many potential routes for recovery from stimulant abuse. Contingency management, or a system of obtaining vouchers for drug-free urine tests, may be recommended. Since recovery from stimulant addiction cannot be aided by a drug like methadone (used to help with withdrawal from narcotic drugs, such as heroin), it is especially to address the underlying mood or psychological issues at hand.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and recovery support groups are often an integral part of recovery from stimulant addiction. The support of other addicts, going through the same recovery process, is an invaluable resource that helps to prevent relapse.
Coming to Terms with Your Stimulant Addiction
This is the crux of addiction—recognizing that you desperately need stimulants in order to feel, happy or sad, energized or fatigued.
Approaching the detoxification process alone is not only a serious physical risk, as withdrawal from stimulants is frequently moderate to severe. Stopping stimulant use on your own is a highly ineffective form of treatment, as the intense, unavoidable physical symptoms of withdrawal often provoke relapse.
A prolonged recovery process, through assisted withdrawal and behavioral management, leads to successful recovery. During an assisted medical detox, a medical professional will help to treat both the physical symptoms of withdrawal, as well as the mental issues at hand. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and other behavioral medications can be helpful in the recovery process.
In fact, for many drug addicts, there is quite often an underlying, undiagnosed mental illness. Self-medication (or taking a prescription improperly) can happen when you are depressed, anxious, or nervous. It is natural to seek out a way to feel better. Unfortunately, mood disturbance is often the result of stimulant withdrawal, and at times, these types of disturbances can last up to a year.
If you are addicted to stimulants, or know someone struggling with an addiction, it is time to find the way to recovery.
Recognizing and Addressing the Signs of Stimulant Addiction
Stimulants have a variety of psychological and physiological effects on the body. Long-term stimulant abuse can lead to:
- Sleep disturbances
- Intense cravings for the drug
The stimulant addict has lost the inability to feel pleasure from everyday living, and must search for stimulants to simulate this feeling.
The well known “speed freak” is not always the telltale addict. The more young people, such high schoolers and college students abuse and develop dependencies on the drug, the more visible this epidemic will become.
Helping a Friend or Family Member Address Their Stimulant Addiction
You may wish to hold an intervention to address the addict’s behavior, express your unconditional support, and help them onto a path of rehabilitation. A counselor or medical professional can also attend the intervention, and lead the intervention group in the process. An intervention is an excellent way of truly demonstrating to the addict that they are loved and supported. Since stimulant abuse is mostly treated through detox and therapy, unconditional support from friends and family is undoubtedly a crucial element of the process.
- Let them know you are aware of their problem
- Let them know that you care, and want to help
- Tell them that there are treatment options for them
- Tell them that you love them and will be there
- Bring this up when they are under the influence
- Make them feel like they are failures
- Let them convince you they don’t need treatments
- Bring up too many hurtful reminders of their addiction at once
The Bottom Line: You Can Beat Addiction
If you’ve reached this point it is hard to deny the fact that you’re serious about beating your addiction, and that is something to have pride in. Your life matters and there is no reason why you should allow a drug to dictate the rest of your life when help is available. Remember, choosing to go into a rehab treatment center for abuse will help you rid yourself of the horrible side effects you’ve had to endure, extend your life span, and most importantly place you on track towards regaining you own life. So don’t fight addiction alone. Instead allow us to help you live the life you deserve to have.
There are many different options for rehabilitation. You may also be concerned about payment options. The options for treatment are as varied as the potential forms of payment.
Rehabilitation centers are covered by your insurance provider, depending on your plan. Often, rehabilitation centers may provide you with billing payment options. No matter your situation, we will find the best rehabilitation treatment plan, as well as the most ideal payment plan.