Stimulants Use Disorder Treatment
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Natalie Lindemann, Psy.D on 11/02/2022
Dr. Natalie Lindemann, Psy.D, holds a doctorate in Forensic Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.
By: Zinnia Healing Editorial Staff | Edited By: Rebecca Hill
Stimulant Drug Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options
Daily modern life is full of activities and responsibilities. Between work, school, home, and family, it’s no surprise that stimulants have become one of the most widely used and abused substances. There won’t ever be more than 24 hours in one day, but we still try to find ways of fitting as much as possible into those hours.
The stimulant class of drugs has become an addiction for many people because of today’s always-on way of life. However, stimulants are a commonly prescribed medication for treating physical illness and mental health issues.
Some stimulants are legal substances, such as caffeine. This is one of the most widely used substances. Caffeine addiction tends to fly under the radar because it isn’t illegal or particularly harmful, so its use isn’t monitored.
For many people, stimulants are a great help. Stimulants provide a way for children and adults to function and carry out the normal activities of daily living. But the abuse of legal substances or the use of illegal stimulants can quickly become an addiction, and it’s one that can have very drastic effects on the person’s health.
Even physician-prescribed medications can negatively affect a patient, such as children and adolescents who develop cardiovascular problems.
But what are stimulants? Why do some people need them? How do you know if someone is addicted to stimulants?
What is a Stimulant?
Stimulants belong to a drug class that speeds up the messages that travel between the brain and other parts of the body. A stimulant can help an individual feel alert, boost confidence, or provide energy.
Legal stimulants include caffeine, nicotine, and prescription stimulant medications, such as Adderall and Ritalin. Cocaine and methamphetamine are illegal stimulants. A form of amphetamine is the main ingredient in Adderall. Other stimulant drug ingredients can include:
Stimulants in large doses can overstimulate an individual, which can result in side effects such as:
- Panic attacks
- Stomach cramping
Using stimulants and other illicit drugs for long periods of time can adversely affect a person’s mental and physical health as desired effects take more medication to achieve the longer a person takes this it. Once the stimulant begins leaving the person’s body, withdrawal symptoms begin.
Why Do People Take Stimulants?
Stimulants increase activity in the body. Some people refer to stimulants as uppers. This class of drugs is quite often abused because of its ability to produce euphoria and enhance performance. Stimulant abusers have enhanced focusing abilities and heightened energy.
Stimulants increase the brain’s dopamine levels and speed up processes in the body both physically and mentally. In the near-term, stimulant users might feel great, like they’re invincible and can accomplish anything — the long-term effects, however, can be significant. Stimulant abusers must seek treatment as soon as possible.
There are both legal and illegal stimulants, and both types are among the most commonly abused or misused substances. The more commonly abused illegal stimulant substances include:
Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin, and the newer Vyvanse are all prescription stimulant medications — but prescription doesn’t equate to safe, and it also doesn’t mean the substance won’t be abused by the person receiving the prescription.
Do Stimulants Have Any Health Benefits?
While there are several dangers to stimulant misuse, certain types of stimulants can have incredible benefits for those who need this prescription drug and use it exactly as their doctor has prescribed. Some of the most common reasons why stimulants are prescribed include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD
A stimulant prescription can greatly improve each of these conditions and allow sufferers to lead better, healthier lives.
Stimulants for Treating ADHD
Hyperactivity, an inability to stabilize moods, pay attention, or organize, as well as irritability are some of the characteristics of the mental illness known as ADHD. The idea that a stimulant would help someone who already lacks focus seems counterintuitive, and you’d not be alone when wondering why stimulants are the go-to medication prescribed by doctors for ADHD, or how stimulants treat ADHD.
But ADHD sufferers react differently to stimulants. These drugs provide calm and focus, allowing people to complete normal tasks in their home and work lives. Stimulants have the exact opposite reaction you’d suspect on an ADHD sufferer’s brain, offering a quieted mind and the ability to organize thoughts, while inducing a state of alert wakefulness.
Stimulants for Treating Headaches
Caffeine is one of the most widely recognized, available, and accepted stimulants and it can ward off headaches. It is even found in migraine medications. Caffeine eases tension and offers relief in the head and neck.
There is a flip side, though, as any daily caffeine drinker will tell you — it can also induce headaches if caffeine levels in the body drop from a person’s normal intake. For instance, when a person is used to having a few cups of coffee each morning but has to forego the coffee because they’re running late for work, the absence of caffeine (caffeine withdrawal) can bring on strong headaches, also known as a “caffeine headache.”
Stimulants for Treating Depression
When you think of depression treatments, you likely think of antidepressants. However, some of the effects of depression are treatable with stimulants, such as:
- Brain fog
- Lack of energy
By using stimulants to alleviate these depression symptoms, the patient’s overall quality of life is enhanced, which can, in turn, alleviate depressive moods.
Stimulants for Treating Obesity
Carrying around a few extra pounds is normal, especially if it’s around the holiday seasons. But excess weight that interferes with an individual’s ability to perform normal daily activities is a condition called obesity. Stimulants aren’t the first prescription doctors choose to treat obesity in patients. However, if a patient is diagnosed with a type of obesity caused by overeating, stimulants may be prescribed.
Stimulants naturally suppress appetite while providing additional energy. This can be the catalyst for losing weight. As the person refrains from eating and loses weight, exercising becomes an activity that they can do without overexerting themselves and jumpstarts the weight loss that can transform a severely overweight person’s entire life.
At the same time, stimulants can form an addiction, so most doctors won’t write this prescription unless the patient’s medical history, overall health, and current weight warrants treatment with stimulants.
Are you concerned for a friend or family member’s sudden weight loss? Trustworthy professionals are available 24/7 to answer your questions. Call Zinnia Healing at (855) 430-9439.
Stimulants for Treating Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy, or sleeping sickness, is a condition affecting men and women equally. Those with narcolepsy suffer from excessive tiredness and an irresistible urge to sleep during normal waking hours. While it’s a rare condition that affects fewer than 20,000 people in the US each year, it’s an illness that prevents sufferers from safely driving a vehicle or even having a career in some cases. Stimulants provide the alertness for narcoleptics to function normally, drive a car, and hold down a job.
Each of these conditions present circumstances in which stimulants qualify as the best course of treatment. In no case are other options not explored beforehand because stimulants present such a high risk of abuse and addiction.
Effects of Stimulant Abuse
Stimulants influence the brain and how it works by catalyzing changes in the methods of communication between nerve cells, or neurons. Neurons transmit and provide pathways for messages to the brain that either signify or respond to:
Stimulants influence the body’s central nervous system, causing effects like pleasurable mood or increased energy.
You may not be able to readily determine that a person is addicted to stimulants. Stimulant addiction can present through tolerance and dependence:
- Tolerance. The individual needs higher amounts of the stimulant to feel the drug’s effects.
- Dependence. The person doesn’t feel “right” or normal if they aren’t taking the substance.
Stimulant addiction is easier to spot when an individual is experiencing the withdrawal phase. Withdrawal begins once the substance begins leaving the body because the person has stopped taking it. In stimulant withdrawals, the person’s dependence on the drug begins to reveal itself in both physical and psychological ways. Some of these symptoms include:
- Craving the substance
- Intense irritability
- Mood swings
- Appetite increase
- Sleep disturbances
Once a person becomes addicted to stimulant medications, their work and home lives can experience dramatic problems. If in school, coursework can suffer. Relationships, whether platonic friendships, familial bonds, or romantic, can experience strain. The addicted individual could even subject themselves to legal problems depending on the extent the addiction has affected their life.
Once a person becomes addicted to a substance, they often turn to additional substances to supplement the addiction. Addiction in younger people is often the most pronounced. Younger people:
- Have the highest rate of stimulant abuse.
- Present the highest risk of addiction to multiple substances.
- Make poor decisions and engage in high-risk activities while using.
- Are most prone to developing substance use disorder.
If you’re concerned about your or a loved one’s stimulant use, we’re here to answer any questions you have. Zinnia Healing treatment professionals are standing by at (855) 430-9439.
What are the Effects of Stimulants on the Body?
Abusing stimulants long-term can have several effects on the body. Stimulants can dangerously raise body temperature and result in an irregular heartbeat when taken in high doses. Abusing stimulants can also cause:
- Heart failure
- Psychotic episodes
- Intense weight loss
- Blood vessel obstruction (when crushing pills)
Cocaine abuse can cause users to experience all the above serious issues, anosmia (loss of sense of smell), and problems in the bowels. If the person uses needles, track marks leave visible evidence that can cause a loss of status in work and social circles, while also increasing the person’s chances of contracting HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, or other bloodborne diseases.
The longer an individual uses a substance, the greater potential long-term effects the use produces, and this varies drastically from person to person based on a variety of factors. Long-term effects of stimulant abuse can cause:
- Anorexia (severe or even life-threatening weight loss)
- Problems focusing
Stimulant abuse can also cause dental issues, such as tooth decay. Dental health is an important aspect of overall health, and dental health issues can contribute to a host of other health problems and exacerbate the initial health issues posed by stimulant dependence and addiction.
How stimulants are used can influence how the stimulant affects the body physically. For instance, cocaine users who snort this substance tend to suffer from:
- A runny nose
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Sinus infection
- Inability to smell
- A user who engages in drug use via the use of needles, such as a heroin user, can experience:
- Injection site infections
- Disease transmission via needle sharing
- Permanent scars
Over time, with continued abuse, stimulant abuse can produce:
- Panic attacks
- Permanent psychosis
- Mental health instability
Because long-term use of substances often leads to impaired judgment, substance abusers may:
- Contract STDs
- Lose sexual function completely
- Experience serious depressive states
- Experience delusions
In essence, no amount of drug use is considered safe. Using any substance, even when prescribed by a trusted physician, always presents a certain level of inherent risk. Introducing any substance into the body requires utmost care.
How Are Stimulants’ Effects Measured?
A stimulant can affect people in different ways. A stimulant’s effects can depend on a person’s:
- Overall health
- Age, size, weight
- If they’ve taken the drug before
- What, if any, other substances they take at the same time
- The substance’s potency
The last consideration, potency, can vary greatly, especially if a person purchases a street version of a drug. Illegal drugs’ ingredients and potency differs between batches and sellers, as there’s no legal oversight in the illegal drug trade.
Stimulants in low doses can:
- Produce feelings of euphoria or wellbeing
- Increase heartrate and/or blood pressure
- Increase alertness
- Reduce inhibitions
- Induce talkativeness
- Curb appetite
Stimulants in high doses can:
- Raise body temperature
- Create tension and anxiety
- Induce nausea
- Cause tremors and seizures
- Induce coma
- Cause death
When Do Stimulants Become a Problem?
Stimulants are a drug class that have one of the greatest potentials for tolerance that leads to dependence and, eventually, addiction. Addiction to stimulants can cause overdose, permanently life-altering side effects, and even death.
Repeatedly using any stimulant, whether it’s prescribed by a doctor or illegally obtained, typically leads to increased tolerance. Stimulant tolerance requires a user to take the drug in subsequent higher doses to create the same effect.
Signs of Stimulant Overdose
Overdosing on stimulants, or overamping, is different than a typical overdose. Overamping isn’t the same as an opiate overdose, for instance. An overdose on stimulants is really any experience that’s negative in relation to the stimulant overdose. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the user took too much.
A stimulant overdose can happen because:
- The user has been awake for too many consecutive hours (sometimes days).
- The user hasn’t eaten.
- The user hasn’t had any water.
- The user mixed the stimulant with something else — alcohol should not be mixed with stimulants.
- The user is surrounded by people that make them uncomfortable.
Physical signs that a stimulant user is overamping can include (but is not limited to):
- Passing out
- Pain in the chest
- Sudden hot flashes
- Heart racing
- Breathing irregularly
- Convulsions or seizures
- Tension in extremities
- Paralysis, or feeling as if paralyzed
A cocaine overdose can be fatal.
Seeking Treatment for Stimulant Addiction
If your stimulant use (or a loved one’s) affects how you live life, there is help available. If you see changes in your family or friend relationships, ability to work, go to school, or other situations, or you are concerned about someone special in your life, contact us or call Zinnia Healing at (855) 430-9439 to find out more.