Stimulants are a class of substances made up of drugs that affect the central nervous system. They also boost brain activity while activating the brain’s pleasure receptors. Some of the immediate effects of stimulants consist of:
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased energy
- Sensitivity to touch, sound, light
- Increase in attention or concentration
- Heightened alertness
- Loss of appetite
- Erratic behavior
Although the short-term effects of stimulants are desired, continuous use of any drug in the stimulant drug class, over time, can lead to severe long-term consequences. These negative side-effects after prolonged use are both physical and psychological. Long-term effects of stimulants are:
- Permanent brain damage and damage to the blood vessels
- Depletion of nose cartilage (if the drug is insufflated)
- Rapid weight loss
- Uncontrollable mood swings
Stimulants initially make the individual feel as if they are invincible. They will feel euphoric, productive, and generally happy, but this is short-lived. Stimulants take a toll on the brain and the body rather slowly but it does happen and the effects aren’t as pleasurable as they initially seem to be. This can be extremely dangerous because the individual may be in denial or not realize their addiction is taking a serious turn for the worse on the body as well as the brain.
Stimulants affect the central nervous system of the brain. It affects the brain’s pleasure receptors by producing an overabundance of dopamine. With extended use of stimulants and the constant influx of “feel-good chemicals” the brain eventually stops producing them on its own, leading to intense psychological withdrawal symptoms as well as a continuation of using these types of drugs to avoid the lows brought on by a lack of the drug. At this point, the brain’s natural functioning begins to shut down.
When this immediate feeling of pleasure enters the brain, addiction is bound to set in. Becoming addicted to stimulants relies greatly on the individual and their pre-exposure to addiction, however, anyone can become addicted. The effects of stimulants on the brain and body can be alarming, especially when the disease of addiction is present. Tolerance, withdrawal, and dependence are all factors of addiction and the intensity of these factors while using stimulants can hinder an individual’s ability to recover.
Detoxing off stimulants can be uncomfortable, so getting professional help is almost always required. The point of detoxification is to remove all substances (drugs, alcohol, etc.) from the body through the use of different medications, methods, and tapering.
In general, users can be detoxed off stimulants with relative ease, usually taking around a few days. The length and intensity of detox for stimulants depends on the frequency and amount per dose, and the withdrawal symptoms associated with stimulant detox depend on frequency and amount per dose as well.
Although it is commonly thought to be unnecessary, stimulant detox plays a crucial role in the overall recovery process as a whole. Stimulant withdrawal symptoms commonly set in as soon as cessation occurs and may last from a few days to a few months, so professional help is the most consistent way to ensure that relapse is prevented.
While in the detoxification stage, antidepressants may be prescribed to patients who suffer from significant mental health conditions. However, use of medications such as these are reserved until the severe withdrawal phase is over. Anti-anxiety medications are used in short-term to help ease anxiety from withdrawal, and antipsychotic medications may also be used if the patient shows significant signs of psychosis.
Cocaine is a highly addictive drug produced from coca leaves in South America. Cocaine’s effects can last anywhere from 5 – 90 minutes after use. Initially, the drug is euphoric and pleasurable. However, over time, the drug can cause uncontrollable mood swings, paranoia, and severe anxiety. Cocaine is commonly found in powder form that can be insufflated or injected. It can also be turned into crack cocaine, which is normally smoked; however, crack cocaine can also be injected. A cocaine high is captivating and it can lead an individual to behave violently. The use of this drug can cause damage to the brain that may or may not be reversed, depending on the severity of the individual’s addiction.
Bath salts are synthetic drugs that are known to mimic the effects of methamphetamines. The high produced by this drug is inconsistent due to the lack of purity of the ingredients used to make bath salts. Since bath salts are synthetic, they are made with chemicals that are almost always unsafe for human consumption and lead to serious health complications early in the individual’s abuse timeline.
When an individual is high on crystal meth they will feel immediately feel an overwhelming burst of joy and energy; however, these feelings are short-lived. The drug can be smoked, injected, or snorted. People who inject meth, like cocaine, will feel an intense rush. Once an individual injects a substance, it hits them immediately. Although the rush is short-lasting, it is probably one of the reasons why intravenous stimulant users cannot stop. Crystal meth can also be smoked but regardless of the route of administration the drug can produce seriously uninviting withdrawal symptoms and side effects.
Ritalin is a drug prescribed to treat symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although these are not illicit drugs, they can be found on the street, and they do have the potential to be abused. Ritalin produces the same effects as other stimulants. Since Ritalin is often prescribed to children and teens, many people going into adulthood on these drugs have already built a tolerance to the drug and became dependent on it due to extended use. Ritalin addiction is common in those with ADHD and in individuals who do not suffer from a learning disorder.
Adderall is also another highly addictive drug used to treat ADHD. People who take this drug might feel as though they function better, either because they need it or have been using Adderall for a long period of time. This drug affects the brain and body like other stimulants, both during withdrawal and active addiction. Adderall use in adolescents and young adults is commonly paired with alcohol and other prescription medications, which can have significant complications on cardiac function. The medication is often prescribed by a doctor, which could lead some individuals to think they aren’t addicted to the substance. The side effects of Adderall can seem beneficial at first, but they slowly dissipate after continuous use.
Tips for Coping With Stimulant Withdrawal
- It is important to remember that your anxiety, agitation, and irritability are just symptoms of your stimulant withdrawal. If you find yourself constantly losing your temper with people, ask that they understand what you are going through. While it takes self-control, explaining why you are irritable can be very useful and effective in ensuring that you are not misunderstood.
- Sleep and diet are essential in helping treat your withdrawal symptoms. Because of stimulant withdrawal symptoms (insomnia, change in eating habits, etc.), it should be a priority to capitalize on the chances you may have to counter the symptoms. For example, if you suddenly feel tired after an extended period of insomnia, you should take advantage of it and sleep when you can.
- Do not spend too much time alone. While it may seem to make you feel better, isolation exponentially increases the chance and severity of depression as a withdrawal symptom. Going for a walk with a friend or having a conversation on the phone can very much help your withdrawal phase go as cleanly and comfortably as possible.