Stimulant Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment
- What Are Stimulants?
- Prescription Stimulants
- Stimulant Abuse And Addiction
- Signs Of Stimulant Abuse
- Treatment Programs
Stimulant abuse and addiction can have harmful effects on health and livelihood. Drug rehab centers in Massachusetts may offer specialized treatment programs for those seeking to overcome addiction to prescription and illicit stimulants.
Prescription and illicit stimulants are a class of drugs that are commonly abused for their effects, which can include heightened energy, focus, and alertness. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), as many as five million Americans reported misusing prescription stimulants in 2016.
While some stimulants—such as Ritalin—may be prescribed for legitimate medical purposes, the possession and use of recreational stimulants—such as cocaine and meth—is illegal.
Individuals may misuse stimulants by:
- taking prescription stimulants in higher doses or more frequently than prescribed
- mixing stimulants with other drugs (including alcohol)
- smoking or snorting stimulants
- injecting stimulants
- stealing another person’s prescription stimulants
Stimulant abuse and addiction can have far-reaching effects on a person’s health, their ability to study and work, and general wellbeing. Overcoming stimulant abuse and addiction may often require substance abuse treatment.
At Spring Hill Recovery Center in Massachusetts, we offer residential and intensive outpatient treatment programs for people throughout the greater New England area who struggle with addiction to stimulants. If you or a loved one is struggling with stimulant abuse, don’t wait to call us today.
What Are Stimulants?
Stimulants are a class of psychoactive drugs that stimulate the central nervous system by increasing levels of two neurochemicals in the brain: dopamine and norepinephrine. This can cause increased alertness and energy and improve focus.
Common types of stimulants include:
- Prescription Stimulants:
- amphetamine (Adderall)
- dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
- methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
- Recreational Stimulants:
Prescription stimulants, such as amphetamine, are regularly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy in children and adults. The use of recreational stimulants like cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine, however, is illegal in the United States.
All stimulants function similarly in how they can affect the mind and body. The strength and types of effects they produce may vary according to the type of stimulant, the dosage, whether it’s being mixed with other drugs, and other personal factors.
Types Of Addictive Stimulants
Many people take stimulants for their effects, in order to feel more focused or alert or to increase their energy. Without a prescription, stimulant use can be dangerous. Even when you do have a prescription for a stimulant, it’s important to take the drug exactly as directed and to contact your doctor if you experience negative side effects.
Both prescription stimulants and recreational stimulants are widely abused for their effects, although the addictive potential for people may vary. Learning more about common types of stimulants, and their effects can help you identify signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction in yourself or a loved one.
Cocaine is an addictive recreational drug that comes from the coca plant, which is native to South America.
Cocaine comes in the form of a white powder or rock crystal (crack cocaine), and is typically smoked, snorted, or liquified for injection. Crack cocaine refers to a combination of cocaine powder, water, and baking powder—which can then harden into a rock form.
Cocaine is illegal to use and possess in the United States. The topical solution, cocaine hydrochloride—a low-dose anesthetic— is the only legal form that may be used for certain medical procedures, according to NIDA.
Street names for cocaine include:
- speedball (with heroin)
Cocaine acts on the brain chemical dopamine, activating the brain’s pleasure and reward system. After taking it, users may experience a rush of euphoria and energy.
How long it takes to feel the effects of cocaine varies according to the method of use. Depending on whether you smoke, snort, or inject cocaine, users may experience effects anywhere between a few seconds to up to 30 minutes after taking it.
Cocaine is commonly mixed with other drugs like methamphetamine, alcohol, and other “downers”. This can be dangerous and may increase a person’s risk of heart attack and other health consequences. Cardiac arrest is the most common cause of death among people addicted to cocaine.
Cocaine may cause dependence with repeated use and result in withdrawal effects when people who have developed a chemical dependency try to stop.
With repeated misuse and addiction, cocaine may cause a number of long-term and potentially permanent health problems, affecting the sense of smell, the nerves, the heart, and other systems throughout the body.
Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as meth, is a highly addictive and illegal stimulant that has become a growing problem in recent years in the West, Midwest, and the New England states. Meth may come in the form of a crystal rock, white powder, or pill.
Common street names for meth include:
- croak (with cocaine)
The increased use of meth in recent years has compounded the devastation of the United States opioid crisis, which has taken the lives of over 800,000 Americans since 1999.
Meth is generally believed to have longer-lasting effects than cocaine. Although the two drugs are often mixed, both can cause physical and mental health damage with use. Most forms of meth are illegal in the United States. There is one prescription form of methamphetamine (Desoxyn) that may be prescribed to treat ADHD.
Across the nation, drug overdose deaths involving meth have increased by 7.5 times between 2007 and 2017. Meth is believed to be involved in up to 50 percent of opioid overdose deaths.
In New England states like Massachusetts, meth has become more widely available and less expensive to purchase on the street. This is believed to be a contributing factor to its increased use in the Northeast—particularly among people who also abuse opioids.
Prescription Stimulant Abuse
Prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are prescribed to treat conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy—characterized by frequent, uncontrollable episodes of deep sleep. It may also be prescribed for the purpose of weight loss, due to its ability to suppress appetite.
Prescription stimulants are believed to boost concentration, focus, and reduce hyperactive behaviors in children and adults with ADHD. The medical use of prescription stimulants, which cause similar effects to drugs like cocaine, is a subject of controversy. When taken as prescribed, they may offer benefits for people who struggle with chronic impulsivity and concentration problems.
Among college students, prescription stimulants are sometimes termed “smart drugs”. Stimulants may be crushed and snorted, taken orally, or injected for their effects. They may pose both short-term and long-term consequences for health when abused, including heart problems, psychological issues, and unhealthy changes in weight.
Ecstasy (MDMA) is a synthetic drug with hallucinogenic effects that is commonly grouped with “club drugs” such as LSD, GHB, ketamine, and Rohypnol (the date rape drug).
Ecstasy is illegal to use but is still widely used and abused in club and party settings. It’s not known to be as addictive as drugs like methamphetamine, nor as widely abused. It’s most often taken socially for its hallucinogenic and stimulant effects, which may affect mood, sense of reality, and sociability.
Common street names for ecstasy include:
- love drug
- vitamin E
- E, X, XTC
Ecstasy may be abused for the purpose of taking advantage of another person without their consent. Similar to Rohypnol (roofies), ecstasy may cause lapses in memory, euphoria, and an increased sense of closeness and trust that might increase the risk for unsafe sexual behavior.
MDMA can come in various forms, with effects that typically last between three to six hours. Afterward, those who take it may experience a range of unpleasant symptoms, including nausea, depression, sleep problems, aggression, and low appetite among others.
Stimulant Abuse And Addiction
Drug abuse refers to any use of a drug that is not guided by a medical doctor or prescription. For instance, if a person takes higher doses of a prescription stimulant to feel stronger effects. Another example might be mixing prescription stimulants with other drugs to achieve a “high”.
People who abuse stimulants may develop drug tolerance and dependence on drugs over time. This can make it more difficult to stop taking stimulants and may require that a person take higher doses over time to feel the same strength of drug effects.
Prescription stimulants act on the brain’s reward system, which can reinforce the continued use of the drugs. When abused, these drugs may cause more powerful effects, including stronger urges to continue abusing the drug in greater quantities.
Physical and psychological effects of stimulants may include:
- increased energy
- increased alertness
- rapid breathing
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- higher blood sugar
- reduced inhibition
Taking excessive doses of stimulants may also lead to certain dangerous side effects, including irregular heartbeat, high body temperature, seizures, and heart failure.
Long-term effects of stimulant abuse and addiction may include:
- significant changes in weight and appetite
- memory problems
- cardiac issues
- violent or hostile behavior
- tooth decay
- skin sores
- ongoing hallucinations
- losing touch with reality
- severe depression and suicidal thoughts
- nerve problems
- extreme agitation
- increased risk for HIV and hepatitis (from drug injection)
The side effects and consequences of stimulant abuse may vary by personal factors, such as the method of use, age, body weight, and mental health history.
What doesn’t change based on personal factors are the dangers that stimulant abuse and addiction can pose to a person’s health and all other aspects of their wellbeing and livelihood.
Getting stuck in a pattern of drug use may make it more difficult to hold a job, continue studies at school, and may hurt relationships with friends and other loved ones.
Signs Of Stimulant Misuse And Addiction
If you believe someone you know may be misusing stimulants, there are certain signs you can look for. Stimulants can cause a range of effects on behavior and physical appearance.
People who are misusing stimulants, or have become addicted, may become secretive, socially withdrawn, or behave in ways that seem strange or unusual for their character.
Signs of stimulant misuse and addiction may include:
- taking prescription stimulants in ways other than prescribed (e.g. crushing and snorting, taking excessive doses, mixing with other drugs)
- lying about or hiding drug use
- stealing stimulants from others
- missing work, class, or neglecting other responsibilities
- lacking interest in activities previously enjoyed
- being unwilling or unable to stop taking stimulants
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms within hours after the last dose
- neglecting personal hygiene
- significant changes in appetite and weight
The signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction may vary depending on the type of drug, the severity of addiction, and other personal factors related to physical and mental health. Chronic abuse of stimulants can lead to a wide range of health issues that may become more obvious and serious over time.
Treatment For Stimulant Abuse And Addiction
Substance abuse and addiction can affect all areas of a person’s life, including their relationships, ability to work, finances, and health. Overcoming drug addiction is not an easy process.
For most people, overcoming an addiction to cocaine or prescription stimulants will require some form of substance abuse treatment.
The most effective form of substance abuse treatment for people overcoming addiction is an inpatient or residential rehab program. This type of treatment offers 24-hour care within a safe, supervised, and supportive environment.
Treatments for stimulant abuse and addiction include:
Medically Supervised Detox
Misuse of a stimulant can lead to a chemical dependency on the drug over time. This can cause the body to experience certain symptoms with stopped use, known as withdrawal.
Although stimulant withdrawal is not known to be terribly dangerous, it can still be uncomfortable and carries a risk for relapse without professional medical and behavioral support.
The safest and most effective way to stop using stimulants is medically supervised detoxification. Within a medical detox setting, addicted individuals can undergo the process of detox in a supervised environment, with 24-hour medical support on standby.
Following drug detox, behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management are the primary treatments for people recovering from stimulant abuse.
This can help shift a person’s attitude about their drug use and teach supportive coping strategies for managing stress and drug cravings.
Find Treatment For Stimulant Abuse At Spring Hill Recovery Center
If you or a loved one in the greater New England area is struggling with stimulant abuse or addiction, look no further than Spring Hill Recovery Center.
Spring Hill Recovery Center is an accredited rehab center in Ashby, Massachusetts that offers residential and intensive outpatient programs for substance abuse and addiction.
Our comfortable, family-style environment provides a peaceful and supportive setting for people to address the underlying causes of their drug abuse and rebuild a healthier and more fulfilling future in recovery.
At Spring Hill, we understand recovery is not a one-size-fits-all process. Through an initial assessment, our treatment professionals can personalize a treatment plan most suitable to meet the needs of yourself or a loved one.
This includes considerations for people with prior experience in recovery programs, people with mental health disorders, and those with other co-occurring health concerns.
Don’t wait to discover what recovery can look like for you. Call Spring Hill today to learn more about our addiction recovery programs and the types of treatment services we offer for people overcoming stimulant abuse.
Written by Spring Hill Editorial Team
©2023 Spring Hill Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved
This page does not provide medical advice.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Prescription Stimulants https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Five million American adults misusing prescription stimulants https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2018/04/five-million-american-adults-misusing-prescription-stimulants
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)— What is the scope of methamphetamine misuse in the United States? https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-scope-methamphetamine-misuse-in-united-states
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—Commonly Used Drug Charts https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/cadchart.pdf
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)—MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/mdma-ecstasymolly
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus—Substance use - amphetamines https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000792.htm
- The Boston Globe—Meth has taken hold in Massachusetts https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/08/13/really-last-thing-need-right-now/pj9C3U4JcI9wTgKlxpJOKI/story.html