Signs of Stimulant Abuse

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Stimulants are a broad class of drugs that can include everything from caffeine to illicit drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. Stimulants can also include prescription drugs used for the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. While stimulants do have differences from one another, their general effects are somewhat similar. Stimulants speed up the functionality of the brain and central nervous system. When someone uses stimulants, it can increase their alertness, cause wakefulness and boost cognitive function. There are different ways people misuse stimulants, depending on the specific drug. For example, they may be taken orally, which is the case with prescription stimulants. Stimulants can also be snorted or injected. The most common types of prescription stimulants are methylphenidates and amphetamines, which are the active ingredients in ADHD drugs. Some of the most well-known brand name prescription stimulants include Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin and Concerta.
Signs of Stimulant Abuse
There are certain symptoms of stimulant misuse that may be noticed. First, with prescription drugs, anytime someone is using a substance without a prescription or outside of prescribing instructions, it’s defined as misuse. Symptoms of prescription stimulant misuse can include taking it without a prescription or using someone else’s prescription. Other symptoms of prescription stimulant misuse can include taking higher doses or taking it more often than instructed by a physician. The most common symptoms of stimulant misuse also include:

  • Euphoria
  • An inflated sense of self-confidence
  • Increased talkativeness or sociability
  • Wakefulness or insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
Stimulant misuse can be dangerous or deadly. First, two big side effects of stimulant misuse are addiction and dependence. Both prescription stimulants and street drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine can cause addiction. These drugs affect neurotransmitters like dopamine, which can create a reward response. That reward response is what can give rise to the development of an addiction. Dependence can occur as well, so if someone tries to stop using stimulants, they will experience withdrawal. Other short-term side effects of stimulant misuse can include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiration
  • Decreased blood flow and circulation problems
  • Increased blood sugar levels
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Raised body temperature
  • Heart failure
  • Stoke
  • Seizures
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Overdose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Malnutirion
  • Gastrointestinal pain or problems
Signs of Stimulant Abuse
Cocaine is one of the most commonly misused drugs in the U.S., and the misuse of prescription ADHD medicines has gone up significantly over the past 20 years. Stimulant addiction often begins as someone develops a tolerance for these drugs. Stimulant tolerance means the patient needs higher doses of the same drug to get the effects they desire, such as a euphoric high. As someone builds a tolerance, they take more and more of the drug, and ultimately, they’re at a higher risk of becoming addicted. Stimulant addiction is compulsive, out-of-control drug usage and drug seeking. Stimulant addiction signs and symptoms can include:

  • Continuing to use stimulants, even when experiencing negative consequences or side effects
  • Trying unsuccessfully to stop using stimulants or to cut down on them
  • Stealing or lying to obtain more stimulants
  • People addicted to stimulants will often experience problems int heir relationships and issues at school or work

When someone is addicted to stimulants, their brain has been changed as the result of exposure to the drugs. It becomes difficult for that person to feel like they can function physically or psychologically without stimulants. Stimulant addiction is often accompanied by psychological symptoms or co-occurring mental health conditions, and it may also occur with addiction to other substances simultaneously.

There are short-term dangers and risk of stimulant misuse but long-term effects as well. Even when children are prescribed ADHD medications, there has been an increasing amount of research showing the drugs can have long-lasting effects on their brain. When someone misuses stimulants, the risks are even more significant. The longer someone misuses stimulants, the more likely they are to experience the most severe symptoms such as cardiovascular problems, stroke or seizures. Cognitive deficits can occur, such as problems with memory, concentration and problem-solving. There is the risk of gastrointestinal problems stemming from long-term stimulant use, and there are also psychological symptoms that tend to occur. Long-term psychological effects of stimulants can include:

  • Mania
  • Hostility or aggression
  • Violent behavior
  • Depression
  • Psychosis including hallucinations or paranoia
  • Symptoms similar to schizophrenia
  • Anxiety or panic attacks

The first step of seeking treatment is always the hardest, but we make it easy for you to take that step. Contact The Recovery Village to learn more, and speak with an intake specialist.