Stimulant Drugs Addiction and Treatment Options

Stimulants are drugs that stimulate and speed up the body’s central nervous system. They elevate the heart rate, respiration rate, and brain function.1 This helps to increase focus, alertness, and energy levels. Stimulants also increase dopamine, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitter, which can lead to feelings of euphoria.1,2,3
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Are Prescription ADHD Drugs Stimulants?

The most common prescription drugs used in the management of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are stimulant medications. These drugs are prescribed to both children and adults to help increase focus and alertness. While these drugs can be an effective source of treatment when used as prescribed, they have many of the same effects as illicit stimulants and also have the potential for addiction and abuse.3

Prescription stimulants include: 3

  • Methylphenidate—This central nervous system stimulant, which is commonly sold under the brand names Ritalin and Concerta, is prescribed in both immediate-release and extended-release forms.6
  • Dextroamphetamine—This stimulant medication is sold under the brand name Dexedrine and is prescribed for narcolepsy in addition to ADHD.7
  • Dextroamphetamine/amphetamine combination—This combination is also prescribed for narcolepsy in addition to ADHD and is sold under the brand name Adderall. It has been associated with rising levels of abuse in young adults and adolescents.8,9
  • Lisdexamfetamine—Sold under the brand name Vyvanse, this prescription stimulant used to control symptoms of ADHD has a high potential for abuse.10
Side Effects of Stimulants

Depending on the specific stimulant drug, physical side effects may include: 3,4,5,10,11

  • Headache.
  • Nausea.
  • Insomnia.
  • Pupil changes.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Heartburn.
  • Itching.
  • Muscle tightness.
  • Restlessness.
  • Changes in sex drive.
  • Muscle twitching/tremors.
  • Increased respiratory rate.
  • Elevated body temperature.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Dizziness.
  • Cardiovascular system failure.

Effects of Stimulants on the Brain

In addition to their primary intended effects of heightened alertness, energy, and focus, stimulants can also produce a long list of psychological side effects that, depending on the substance, may include:3,4,5,10,11

  • Release of social inhibitions.
  • Increased talkativeness.
  • Period of initial euphoria followed by irritability at comedown.
  • Mood swings.
  • Hostility.
  • Agitation.
  • Nervousness.
  • Paranoid thoughts.
  • Unrealistic or grandiose feelings of power, intelligence, and capability.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Delusions.
  • Hallucinations.

“Come-down” effects are also characteristic of illicit stimulant use. The “come down” refers to temporary unpleasant effects experienced as the drug wears off, and users may be short-tempered and behave unpredictably. The duration of the come-down period is influenced by the type of stimulant used.12 Common come-down effects from stimulants include:13

  • Agitation.
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety.
  • Restlessness.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Confusion.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hyperarousal.

Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms

Getting help for addiction often starts with detox. While stimulant withdrawal is not usually dangerous, it can be emotionally and mentally distressing and may lead some users to relapse when trying to quit.

Common stimulant withdrawal symptoms include:14,15

  • Fatigue.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritable mood.
  • Depression.
  • Aches and pains.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Vivid and potentially unpleasant dreams.
  • Psychosis.
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
  • Intense drug cravings.

Signs of Stimulant Overdose

People can overdose on any stimulant, even those that are prescribed to them, if they are misusing them. Each stimulant is unique. Some stimulants, like methamphetamine and cocaine, are more notorious for their dangers than others, but they all have the potential to be deadly, especially if combined with other illicit drugs, certain prescribed medications or alcohol.

If you suspect someone has overdosed on a stimulant, contact 911 immediately.

Some signs and symptoms that a person may have overdosed on a stimulant include: 3,6,11

  • Fever.
  • Muscle pains and weakness.
  • Sweating.
  • Flushing.
  • Headache.
  • Dark urine.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Restlessness.
  • Hyperreflexia.
  • Uncontrollable shaking of the body.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Irregular heart rate.
  • Panic.
  • Confusion.
  • Aggressive behavior.
  • Agitation.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.
Stimulant Addiction Treatment Options

A variety of treatment options are available for those struggling with stimulant addiction and can include both inpatient and outpatient options.

Inpatient treatment takes place in a residential facility 24 hours a day for a designated period and usually ranges from 30 to 90 days, but can extend to 6 months or 3 or more years when necessary.

Outpatient treatment is also effective and may be an appropriate option for those with less severe stimulant disorders or those who have already completed a higher-intensity program. Each outpatient program is different and may consist of daily, biweekly, or weekly individual and group therapy sessions depending on the program. Outpatient programs may also include holistic options and support groups.

In these programs, some of the most common psychotherapies for the treatment of addiction are provided, including but not limited to, the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people suffering from substance use disorder recognize the connection between their thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors.
  • Contingency management: Contingency management provides patients with motivational incentives for remaining drug-free and other positive behaviors. This therapeutic approach focuses more on positive reinforcement to help change behavior over time.3,14
  • Matrix model: This evidence-based treatment approach for stimulant addiction is an integrative treatment model that includes components of many different therapeutic approaches. Patients will work closely with a therapist who will provide them with drug education, self-esteem building, recovery skills, and relapse prevention strategies. They will also participate in group therapy, peer support, and/or self-help programs.17

Stimulant Addiction Treatment at Desert Hope

If stimulant addiction is keeping you or someone you love from living the life you want, consider one of the levels of addiction treatment we offer at our inpatient rehab in Las Vegas. Call us right now to begin the treatment admissions process and have all of your questions answered, including those about insurance coverage and paying for rehab.

Get started right now and have your insurance verified by filling out our secure online .

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