Stimulant addiction can be deadly. With a growing number of teens and young adults abusing stimulants, it is imperative that we understand the dangers of stimulant addiction. Because stimulants temporarily increase wakefulness, decrease appetite and improve focus, they are often misused in attempt to lose weight or improve performance. As the number of atypical users increases (students, athletes) so does the potential for stimulant abuse. Understanding the risks of stimulant abuse can help a potential addict avoid the long and painful road from addiction to recovery.
What are stimulants?
Stimulants are drugs that stimulate the nervous system and increase brain activity. The use of stimulants, sometimes called “uppers,” can temporarily elevate awareness, mood, alertness, physical capabilities and feelings of self confidence.
Stimulants are structurally similar to neurotransmitters that produce dopamine and norepinephrine, the chemicals responsible for feelings of happiness. When prescribed, stimulants are released slowly into the body so that the effects are controlled. When stimulants are abused, large amounts of “happy chemicals” are released making the user feel high. Over time stimulant abuse can permanently alter the natural production of these chemicals, making it difficult to feel happy without drugs.
Which drugs are considered stimulants?
The term stimulant covers a wide range of drugs, both legal and illegal. Coffee, chocolate, colas and cigarettes all contain stimulant properties and are widely available. Medicinal stimulants are often prescribed to treat depression, narcolepsy and ADHD. Many popular street drugs are stimulants.
All stimulants have the potential to lead to addiction.
Those who struggle with stimulant addiction often begin using because of what they perceive to be positive effects of stimulant drug use. A sense of euphoria, increased alertness and energy, and improved self confidence may be experienced. These effects, however, are not long lasting and can quickly become unpleasant and dangerous. Learning to recognize the signs of stimulant abuse can help save an addict’s life.
Symptoms and signs of stimulant addiction
Recognizing stimulant addiction can be difficult as the effects on behavior can be subtle. Some signs to look for:
- Erratic or manic behavior
- Increased anxiety
- Restlessness and insomnia
- Periods of paranoia or depression
- Irritability, hostility and aggression
The effects of stimulant abuse are progressive can lead to mental illnesses including:
- Debilitating depression
- Recurring panic attacks
When an addict stops using stimulants, intense physical and emotional distress can result. The physical process of stimulant detox can begin within hours of the last dose and, depending on the type of stimulant being abused and the amount taken, can last from weeks to months.
What are the symptoms of stimulant withdrawal?
Symptoms of withdrawal can range from uncomfortable to extremely dangerous:
- Difficulty sleeping, disturbing dreams
- Muscle pain
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
- Cardiovascular complications
Being unable or unwilling to stop using stimulants and developing an increased tolerance are all signs that stimulant addiction treatment may be necessary. Watching a loved one sink into addiction is never easy and professional help may be necessary to help an addict through the detox process. Users can become extremely moody, fluctuating between highs and lows quickly, as their body begins to recover from stimulant abuse. They may lose interest in friends, family and work, becoming so withdrawn that professional help is the only way to help them through their withdrawal.
How is stimulant addiction treated?
After an addict has gone through the detox process, they will need help staying sober. Sometimes medications to ease the pain of withdrawal may be prescribed, but more often therapy and support groups are the next step in the recovery process. Techniques to manage cravings and tools to help an addict find new ways of handling stress and triggers can be an important part of recovery.
Sometimes stimulant addicts may be treated for dual diagnosis where both the physical addiction and underlying psychological problems will be treated. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) looks at the connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviors and how they contribute to addiction. CBT helps a patient look at negative or self destructive thoughts and actions so that they can begin to develop healthy patterns of thinking that will improve coping skills and help them understand how irrational thought patterns can lead to self destructive behavior.
Stimulant addiction recovery can be extremely difficult and is best done under the care of professional addiction counselors. The team of specialists at Luxury Beach Rehab can help you better understand potential risks of stimulant addiction and can guide your long term recovery.