Stimulant abuse is a growing problem that affects millions of people around the world.
While some stimulants are legal and prescribed for medical purposes to treat conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, others are illegal and highly addictive, such as cocaine and methamphetamine.
Even commonly used substances like caffeine and nicotine can become potentially harmful if abused, as they possess the same addictive qualities as other stimulants.
The misuse of stimulants can have serious physical, mental, and social consequences and can lead to long-term health problems or even death.
According to data from the 2015 and 2016 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, 5 million adult Americans misused prescription stimulants.
Tragically, in 2021 alone, an estimated 32,537 people died from an overdose involving methamphetamine, and 1.6 million people had a methamphetamine use disorder.
This article will provide an in-depth look at the nature of stimulant abuse and addiction, the different stimulants used, and the effects this type of drug abuse can have on an individual.
We will also discuss available treatment options for those struggling with stimulant addiction.
What Are Stimulants?
What Is a Stimulant Drug?
The effects of stimulants brought on the streets can be unpredictable and dangerous. Stimulants bought from illicit sources may be mixed with other substances, such as fillers or drugs of different potency, which can have serious health repercussions for the user.
How Do Stimulants Work?
These neurotransmitters help regulate mood, attention, memory, and behavior. When a person takes a stimulant like caffeine or amphetamine (Adderall), it increases the release and inhibits the reuptake of these neurotransmitters resulting in increased energy and alertness.
Stimulants can also cause physical changes in the body, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, pupil dilation, and increased sweating.
Some people may experience jitteriness or anxiety as well.
These physical and mental effects can be both pleasant and unpleasant, depending on the individual and their level of tolerance for stimulants.
Unfortunately, this often leads to misuse as people attempt to reach a certain high by abusing these substances. The motivation to repeat the experience can subsequently cause addiction.
Types of Stimulants
So, for example, while Adderall can be used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and obesity, it can also be abused by those with prescriptions and those who obtain it illegally.
Stimulants can help improve concentration, attention, and impulsivity in individuals with ADHD.
Stimulants can help combat the excessive daytime sleepiness that is a symptom of narcolepsy.
Stimulants are sometimes used as an adjunct treatment for depression when other antidepressant medications have been ineffective.
Some stimulants have been approved for short-term use to treat obesity by suppressing appetite and increasing metabolism.
Illegal stimulants can be snorted, injected, or smoked and are more powerful than their prescription counterparts. Commonly abused illicit stimulants include cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy or Molly (MDMA), and 'bath salts' such as mephedrone.
Another common OTC stimulant is nicotine which, though waning in use in the US, is still widely available in the form of cigarettes and vaping products.
Though it has proven to be an effective treatment for individuals with ADHD, Adderall abuse is becoming increasingly common among young adults and college students who don’t have the disorder.
Often labeled as a 'smart drug,' they view it as a way to improve their cognitive performance while studying. Regrettably, many underestimate the negative effects of misusing Adderall, such as addiction and psychological issues.
However, over-consumption of caffeine can lead to adverse reactions such as anxiety, restlessness, headaches, and insomnia.
Increased heart rate and the jitters are also common side effects of too much caffeine. Along with that comes increased heart rate as well as the jitters - all telltale signs of having too much caffeine than necessary.
Unfortunately, due to its reputation as a party drug, it's easy for people to fall into the cycle of abuse and addiction before they realize what has happened.
Generally, users will feel euphoric and confident after taking cocaine. But, this feeling of euphoria comes with several short-term side effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia, agitation, and paranoia.
Prolonged usage is even more dangerous, with the risk of lung damage, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, psychological symptoms, and overdosing as a real possibility.
Nevertheless, you should be aware that this drug can become habit-forming, and it's essential that it is taken solely when prescribed by a doctor or health professional who will provide guidance on the appropriate dosage to use.
However, like most prescription stimulants, when taken without medical supervision, Dexedrine can be addictive and induce adverse effects.
Unfortunately, a variety of compounds are found in diet pills, some with stimulant effects akin to amphetamines.
Ecstasy is a synthetic drug that came into the spotlight during the rave culture of the 1980s and has remained popular as a social drug for its ability to make the user feel energized and euphoric.
The biggest danger when using ecstasy comes from overdosing on the drug, which can lead to coma and even death in extreme cases. Long-term ecstasy use has been linked to liver damage, memory loss, and decreased cognitive abilities over time due to neurotoxicity caused by the drug's active ingredients.
Flakka is a stimulant with effects similar to Cocaine and Bath Salts, only much more powerful. It can produce an intense euphoria in its user, increased physical strength, and enhanced sexual drive.
Adverse effects associated with taking Flakka can include confusion and paranoia, hallucinations, agitation and panic attacks, aggression, heart palpitations, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.
Flakka has a short half-life, so its effects wear off quickly, leading users to take frequent doses of the drug to keep feeling its effects. This leads people down a dangerous path where they become addicted and may be unable to stop taking the drug even when they want to. It also has very severe withdrawal symptoms, so if you believe you or someone else is addicted to Flakka, it's crucial to get help from an addiction specialist as soon as possible.
When consumed, it increases alertness and energy levels while decreasing hunger and fatigue. As such, it has been used by Somali and Yemenee farmers to help them stay awake during long days of work in the fields.
Khat is an illegal substance in the United States and is classified as a Schedule I drug due to its potential for abuse. While not as prevalent as other illicit stimulants, it can still be found in certain communities, usually among immigrants from countries where khat is still legal.
Long-term use of Khat can lead to physical and psychological dependence and have a negative toll on the body and mind. Physical effects include liver and kidney damage, elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, insomnia, headaches, and nausea. Psychological effects may include depression, anxiety, aggression, paranoia, hallucinations, and psychotic behavior.
By adding flavors like chocolate and strawberry to the powder, Cream is made - a product that replicates ice cream in taste appealing to young users.
Crystal Meth is especially addictive and can produce intense cravings for the drug even after just one use. The powdered form is usually swallowed, snorted, and injected, while Crystal Meth is usually smoked.
As with other drugs, such as cocaine, that affect the central nervous system, users will feel a powerful rush of energy and intense euphoria, but with Meth, this feeling lasts much longer.
These short-term effects come with many potentially serious long-term consequences, such as addiction, hallucinations, violence, paranoia, organ damage, and, in the most extreme cases, death.
Meth users often go on binges where they take the drug for several days without sleep or food in order to keep feeling its effects. This can lead to extreme exhaustion and malnutrition, which further weakens their already fragile mental state.
Withdrawal from meth varies from person to person but can be challenging, as it often involves serious cravings, depression, fatigue, and anxiety.
Nicotine stimulates the body's reward system and creates feelings of pleasure for the user. It also can increase alertness and improve cognitive function; for this reason, many non-smokers are drawn to products that contain nicotine.
But it's highly addictive—often more so than alcohol or other drugs of abuse—and when used over a long period, it can lead to chronic health problems like heart disease and lung cancer.
Quitting is difficult, but it is possible with the right strategy and support.
While Ritalin is generally considered safe with a low risk for abuse when taken as prescribed by a doctor, there are potential risks associated with long-term use or misuse of the drug.
If someone stops taking Ritalin abruptly after long-term use, they may experience withdrawal symptoms which can last for weeks or months afterward.
Effects of Stimulant Abuse
Treatment for Stimulant Addiction
It should be noted that there are no one-size-fits-all treatment options; your course of action may involve medication, behavioral therapy, or a combination of both.
Counseling and support groups are invaluable resources to help individuals manage their addiction and make lasting lifestyle changes. A range of holistic approaches, such as meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and nutrient-dense diets, can also be beneficial for recovery from stimulant abuse.
If you or someone close to you is struggling with stimulant addiction, it's essential that you take action immediately. With the right treatment plan and support system in place, a full recovery from substance abuse is possible.
At Miracles Asia, our drug and alcohol rehab center, situated on a peaceful and tropical island of Phuket, can provide you with the resources and support you need to make lasting changes.
With a success rate of over 85%, our program has been verified by Luxury Rehabs as having the best results in all of Asia & the leading rehab in Thailand. We offer tailored inpatient programs using evidence-based therapies to help our guests overcome their addictions and make lasting and meaningful changes in their life.