Maybe you’ve seen the memoirs, heard the horror stories, or know somebody personally whose life has been shattered by stimulants. Or perhaps your curiosity has been piqued, and you want to learn more about the nature and effects of these drugs. According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly 5 million (or 2.1% of adults in the United States.) struggle with stimulant misuse. Additionally, 0.4 or .2% of adults suffer from addiction to prescription stimulants specifically.
This article provides information on stimulants so that you can make informed decisions and better understand how addiction to non-prescription and prescription stimulants can impact people’s lives. We’ll discuss what stimulants are, the different types of stimulant drugs, the signs and symptoms of addiction, how stimulants affect your brain and body, as well as the stimulant addiction treatment options for overcoming substance abuse.
Thankfully, help is available at Luna Recovery in Houston, Texas if you or someone you care about needs it.
WHAT ARE STIMULANTS?
Stimulants, also known as “uppers,” are a category of drugs that increase activity in the body. They work by stimulating the central nervous system, leading to improved concentration, alertness, and energy. They work by increasing the activity of numerous neurotransmitters, including dopamine, adrenaline, and serotonin. Stimulants come in different forms, ranging from legal prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin to illicit stimulants like crystal meth.
Cardiovascular stimulants and central nervous system (CNS) stimulants are two different categories of stimulants, each with their specific effects and uses.
- Cardiovascular Stimulants: These are drugs that stimulate the heart and the circulatory system. They’re often used in the treatment of conditions like low blood pressure, and heart failure, and during certain types of surgery. Cardiovascular stimulants work by increasing heart rate, force of contraction, and blood pressure. Some examples include dobutamine, dopamine, and epinephrine.
- Central Nervous System Stimulants: CNS stimulants primarily affect the brain and spinal cord. They increase the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, boosting alertness, attention, and energy. They’re often used to treat conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy and include drugs like amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine), methylphenidates (Ritalin, Concerta), and certain types of antidepressants.
It’s important to note that while these drugs can be beneficial when used properly, they also have potential side effects and risks, including addiction. They should only be used under the direction of a healthcare provider.
- Amphetamines: These include drugs like Adderall and Dexedrine, which are often prescribed for conditions like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
- Methylphenidates: This category includes Ritalin and Concerta, which are also commonly used in the treatment of ADHD.
- Cocaine/Crack Cocaine: These are powerful, illegal stimulants that have a high potential for abuse and addiction.
- Caffeine: Found in coffee, tea, and many sodas, caffeine is a widely used stimulant.
- Nicotine: This is the stimulant drug found in tobacco products, including cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
- Methamphetamines (Meth): A highly addictive and illegal drug, meth has a more potent effect than other amphetamines.
- Ephedrine and Pseudoephedrine: Found in some cold medicines and diet pills, these stimulants can be misused.
- MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly): This is a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception.
Each of these categories of stimulants carries its risks, side effects, and potential for misuse and addiction. It’s important to use prescription stimulants only as directed by a healthcare provider and to avoid illegal stimulants entirely.
Stimulant use disorders, both prescription and illicit, have been on the rise in recent years. This troubling trend has been driven by several factors and poses serious risks to individuals and communities.
- Increase in Prescriptions: There has been a significant increase in the number of prescriptions written for ADHD medications like Adderall and Vyvanse. This uptick could be due to increased recognition and diagnosis of ADHD, but it also means that more of these drugs are available for potential stimulant abuse.
- Misuse Among Youth and Young Adults: Misuse of prescription stimulants is particularly common among youth and younger adults, especially those aged 18-25. Some students misuse these drugs in an attempt to improve focus and academic performance, a practice often referred to as “academic doping.”
- Illicit Manufacturing: The illegal manufacturing of stimulants like methamphetamine or illicit stimulants laced with fentanyl has also contributed to the problem. These drugs are highly potent and often unpredictable, putting users at high risk.
Risks and Consequences:
Substance misuse carries serious risks, including addiction and a host of physical health problems. High doses can lead to dangerous increases in body temperature, irregular heartbeat, seizures, and potential cardiovascular failure or seizures4.
Addiction to stimulants can also lead to social and legal problems, including issues at school or work, relationship difficulties, and encounters with the criminal justice system.
Moreover, the use of illicitly manufactured stimulants can be particularly dangerous due to the unpredictability of their composition. For instance, drugs laced with fentanyl, a powerful opioid, can lead to accidental overdose and death3.
TYPES OF STIMULANT DRUGS
Stimulants are drugs that temporarily enhance the user’s alertness, focus, and energy. These drugs can be illicit or prescribed and are often used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. The most common stimulants include:
- Amphetamines: Amphetamines are typically prescribed to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Common examples of amphetamine-based drugs include Adderall, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse.
- Methylphenidate: Methylphenidate is a stimulant used to treat ADHD. Common brand names for this class of drug include Ritalin and Concerta.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and certain foods such as chocolate.
- Cocaine: Cocaine is an illicit stimulant drug made from the leaves of coca plants found in South America.
SIGNS and SYMPTOMS OF STIMULANT ADDICTION
When it comes to stimulant use disorders, it’s essential to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms. Habits can often be difficult for an addict or a loved one to catch on their own, but there are many red flags you should look out for.
When it comes to the psychological effects of stimulant addiction, they can be long-lasting and devastating. Here are some common signs and symptoms of stimulant use disorder:
- Increased anxiety and agitation
- Paranoia or delusions
- Mood swings, including irritability, anger, and depression
- Impulsivity and reckless behavior
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Obsessive thoughts or behaviors related to drug use
- Neglect of personal and professional responsibilities
- Leaving friends and relatives behind or isolating oneself
- Continued drug use despite negative consequences
Additionally, an addict may experience the need for increased dosages or frequent binging or use of prescription drugs at inappropriate times.
Stimulant addiction can have both psychological and physical symptoms. Physical symptoms may include:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Weight loss and decreased appetite
- Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns
- Tremors or shakes
- Excessive sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Decreased immune function and frequent illnesses
- Tooth problems and Gum disease
- Skin sores or infections, particularly on the face and arms
Long-term stimulant use can also lead to more severe physical complications like heart disease, seizures, and stroke.
The use of stimulants can have a wide array of social consequences, ranging from lost jobs to serious legal trouble. Others include:
Social symptoms of stimulant abuse include:
- Neglect of personal hygiene and grooming
- Isolation from friends and family
- Financial problems, such as unpaid bills or debts
- Issues with the law, like drug-related arrests
- Decreased job performance or job loss
- Strained or damaged relationships with loved ones
- Increased risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence or unprotected sex
- Unpredictable and erratic behavior, including aggression or violence
- Engaging in illegal activities to obtain drugs
- Continued drug use despite negative social consequences
- Experiencing stimulant withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop stimulant use
Seeking expert assistance as soon as you can is crucial if you or someone you love is battling with stimulant addiction. A medical professional or addiction specialist can make an accurate diagnosis and assist in creating a personalized treatment plan that takes into account both the psychological and physical elements of addiction.
HOW DO STIMULANTS AFFECT THE BRAIN AND BODY?
Stimulants affect the brain’s dopamine system, which is responsible for regulating reward-seeking behaviors, producing feelings of pleasure, and reinforcing stimulant use disorder. They also increase alertness, energy, and heart rate.
When taken in large amounts or over a long period, stimulants can cause numerous symptoms, like:
- Increased heart rate
Long-term use of stimulants can lead to addiction, dependence, and tolerance—which means having to take more and more of a substance to get the same effect—as well as severe mental health problems like depression or psychosis. Stimulant addiction can have a huge physical toll on the body too: some people experience cardiovascular problems, including irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest; dehydration; potential liver damage; or digestive problems such as nausea and vomiting.
Treatment for Stimulant Addiction
Treatment centers offer a variety of options for stimulant abuse. Programs are targeted to treat psychological symptoms of stimulant withdrawal by providing professional treatment in the form of therapy and holistic modalities. According to the Mental Health Services Administration, there are no current medications that are approved for stimulant addiction treatment. However, treatment professionals can treat symptoms caused by this form of drug abuse. Addiction treatment for stimulant mi
One of the most crucial aspects of assisting people in overcoming substance abuse and mental disorders is receiving proper treatment. Stimulant addiction can be incredibly difficult to understand, and it can take an individualized plan to see success in recovery. Fortunately, Luna Recovery offers a range of treatment options designed specifically for individuals suffering from this condition.
The detoxification process is the initial step in treating stimulant addiction. During this, the body clears itself of harmful substances, while medical professionals monitor and manage withdrawal symptoms. A detox may involve tapering off the stimulant or using medications to ease withdrawal symptoms and cravings. The primary goal of detox is to stabilize the individual physically and ensure they are ready for the next phase of treatment.
Residential treatment involves the individual living at a treatment facility for a specified period, usually 30 to 90 days. This immersive, structured environment allows patients to focus entirely on their recovery. Residential treatment programs provide a combination of therapies, including individual and group counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and family therapy. These evidence-based treatments aim to address the root causes of addiction and teach coping skills for long-term recovery.
Outpatient treatment allows individuals to continue living at home while attending therapy sessions at a treatment center. This option provides more flexibility than residential treatment, making it suitable for those with work or family commitments. Individual, group, and educational sessions on addiction and relapse prevention are all frequently part of outpatient treatment. The frequency and duration of therapy sessions may vary depending on the individual’s needs.
A Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) is a step between residential and outpatient treatment. PHPs provide a higher level of care than standard outpatient programs, with patients attending treatment sessions for several hours a day, multiple days a week. This intensive therapy often includes individual and group counseling, family therapy, and medication management. PHPs are suitable for those who require a structured environment but do not need round-the-clock supervision inpatient treatment.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPs) offer more intensive therapy than traditional outpatient treatment while still allowing individuals to maintain their daily responsibilities. IOPs typically involve attending treatment sessions for a few hours a day, multiple days a week. These programs focus on relapse prevention, stress management, and developing healthy coping mechanisms. IOPs are ideal for those who have completed residential treatment or PHP and are transitioning back into their daily lives.
At Luna Recovery, we offer mental health services and a comprehensive approach to recovery for those struggling with stimulant addiction. We are committed to providing the highest quality care in an environment of respect and compassion. Learn more about our stimulant addiction treatment in Houston, Texas.
WHY IS TREATMENT NECESSARY? HOW TO FIND HELP?
Stimulant addiction treatment is necessary because it can have severe physical, psychological, and social consequences on an individual’s life. Stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamines, can impact the brain’s reward system, leading to intense cravings and an increased risk of addiction. Long-term use can also lead to changes in brain chemistry, causing mood disturbances and cognitive deficits. So, how do you find help?
The first step is to find a drug treatment program with a team of professionals who are experienced in treating stimulant addiction. This team should include doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and addiction counselors. Luna Recovery offers several treatment services for those struggling with substance abuse, including detoxification and inpatient services as well as outpatient care.
In addition to professional care, it’s also important to seek out personal support from family or friends. Having people in one’s life who understand the difficulties of drug use can be a wonderful source of comfort.
It can also be beneficial for the loved ones of an addict to join a support group or attend counseling sessions themselves to better understand what their loved one is going through and how they can help them in their recovery process.
OVERCOME STIMULANT ADDICTION AT LUNA RECOVERY
If you think you have a stimulant addiction, the most important step is to seek help. Luna Recovery can provide the support and guidance you need on your road to recovery. Our compassionate staff will work closely with you and your loved ones to develop an individualized plan that meets your specific needs.
At Luna Recovery, we believe that everyone should have access to quality care without fear of judgment or discrimination. No one should have to struggle alone with substance abuse and mental health, so reach out today and let us help.
Dr. Allaire received his Bachelors of Science in Biology from the University of Houston, as Valedictorian of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and his Medical Doctorate from Baylor College of Medicine, where he served as Chief Resident. He is the medical monitor for the Physician Counseling Committee of the Harris County Medical Society and the Medical Director of Serenity House Detox. Dr. Allaire specializes in medically assisted detox cases, treating patients in recovery from addiction or other mental health disorders, the medical assessment and monitoring of patients with addictive disorders, medical care related to eating disorders and the medical treatment of patients with mental health conditions.