Stimulants are a family of drugs commonly used to treat diagnosed cognitive conditions, including attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), certain types of sleep disorder, and more. Prescription stimulants like dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®); dextroamphetamine/amphetamine combination product (Adderall®); and methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®) are commonly used to increase concentration, energy, and alertness for children and adults having difficulty in their academic, professional, and personal lives. These prescription drugs are in the same class as illicit substances like cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA. In the case of prescription stimulants, the lines between acceptable use and abuse often get blurred, particularly for those who use them as “study drugs.”
The term stimulants is used to describe prescription and illicit drugs. Surprisingly enough, some of the legally regulated stimulants have a similar chemical composition to those that are manufactured and sold on the street for recreational purposes. The stimulant family of drugs includes the following:
Stimulant addiction and treatment are primarily issues for children and young adults. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that people aged eighteen to twenty-five were more than twice as likely to use cocaine compared with other adults and that nearly 600,000 report past-month methamphetamine use. A recent study from Johns Hopkins University revealed that Adderall-related emergency room visits have risen dramatically in the past few years. The rates of ER admissions related to all stimulants rose from 2,303 in 2004 to 17,272 in 2011 and continues to rise. These drugs can create serious and potentially irreparable changes in the brain’s chemistry, leading to severe and erratic shifts in behavior, as well as psychosis.
Over time the signs and indicators of stimulant addiction will be harder and harder to hide and ignore. While each user’s symptoms will vary according to the scope and duration of their stimulant abuse, some of the more common include:
If you notice any of these physical or behavioral changes in yourself or someone you care about, it’s imperative that you consult the prescribing physician or seek professional treatment for illicit stimulant use. Many make the mistake of believing that cocaine and MDMA are less dangerous than other drugs and that they casually nurse a stimulant habit for enhanced social experience; this denial very often leads to serious long-term dependency and subsequent mental health issues. Physicians who prescribe prescription stimulants are specifically empowered to mitigate these effects.
Stimulants dramatically increase the short-term flow of the neurotransmitters called dopamine and nor epinephrine. Dopamine is responsible for activating the brain’s pleasure and rewards responses, and nor epinephrine affects blood vessels and blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing. The results are short-term effects such as:
Short-term effects of methamphetamine abuse can include severe bouts of aggressive energy that can rise to the level of psychosis, and a deep depression when the drugs wear off and the user crashes. Excessively high doses of prescription stimulants can lead to a dangerously high body temperature, an irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and seizures.
Symptoms of Stimulant Overdose
It is highly possible for stimulant users to overdose. When overdose occurs, victims will often experience a combination of restlessness, tremors, overactive reflexes, rapid breathing, confusion, aggression, hallucinations, panic states, abnormally increased fever, muscle pains, and weakness. Stimulant overdose can also result in heart failure, stomach illness, hypertension, dangerously low blood pressure, and more. Stimulant overdose must be treated by first responders and medical personnel. These professionals will try to reverse the effects of the overdose by restoring blood flow to the heart using medication and other means. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that stimulants figure prominently in the national overdose epidemic.
Treatment of stimulant addiction must address the physical and psychological aspects of the disease. This is accomplished through medically supervised detox to identify and arrest any emergency health issues and to mitigate withdrawal symptoms, followed by comprehensive behavioral rehab to address the root causes of the patient’s addiction as well as any psychological damage the user may have sustained during the course of their addiction.
Stimulant addiction treatment can be a long process as it may require the repair of neurological processing and the relearning of life skills to help patients successfully transition back into their everyday lives. Long-term behavioral rehab is especially important for serious meth users who have sustained potentially permanent damage to their neuro pathways.
Stimulant addiction and treatment can be an overwhelming ordeal; however, the longer you wait to get the help you need, the deeper you will fall into addiction. Individuals suffering from stimulant addiction are urged to enlist the help of a loved one to help them find treatment. Loved ones of those addicted to stimulants are encouraged to take an active role in getting their loved ones the help they need, as they will very often be reluctant or resistant to seeking care on their own. With the right care and long-term recovery plan, independence from stimulant addiction can be yours. Get the help you need now.
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