Signs of Stimulant Abuse
Stimulants ranging from ADHD medication to cocaine are often abused for their effects, from alertness to the euphoric high. Those who frequently abuse stimulants, regardless of their intentions, are at risk of becoming addicted. Knowing what to look for in a person abusing stimulants can help you identify if someone has a problem with these drugs.
Common signs of stimulant abuse include:
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Deceptive behavior, such as lying or stealing
- Doctor shopping, or meeting with multiple doctors to get prescriptions
- Using prescriptions more than prescribed
- Using stimulant drugs without a prescription
- Using illicit stimulant drugs
- Exhibiting excessive energy or motivation
- Aggressive behavior or anger outbursts
- Risky or impulsive behaviors
- Rapid heartbeat
- Elevated blood pressure
- Flight of ideas
- Racing thoughts
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Increased sense of well-being or confidence
If any of these signs look familiar to you, contact a treatment provider for rehab programs that can help break a stimulant addiction.
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The Dangers of Stimulant Abuse
Abuse of all types of stimulants can lead to negative consequences. The most obvious danger of abusing stimulants is their addictive quality. However, there are also consequences that can affect a person’s health in both the short- and long-term.
Stimulants put individuals who abuse them at risk of cardiac arrest, stroke, cardiac arrhythmia, and other consequences. Abusing stimulants to enhance athletic performance is particularly dangerous because stimulants increase blood pressure. The combination of physical exertion and stimulants make cardiac arrest or stroke even more likely. Several athletes have died due to stimulant abuse.
The dangers of illicit stimulants like cocaine and meth are similar, albeit amplified, to those of prescription stimulants.
There may be a higher risk of fatal overdose amongst those using illicit stimulants due to the potency of these drugs.
Immediate Side Effects of Ecstasy Abuse
Short-term consequences of abuse include overdose and hospitalization. These effects usually only present themselves when stimulants are taken in large doses. Some of the negative effects from taking large doses of stimulants include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Increased breathing rate
- Cardiac arrest
Long-term Side Effects of Stimulant Abuse
Aside from addiction, there are other adverse effects of chronic stimulant abuse on a person’s health. These effects include:
- Psychotic behavior
- Damage to blood vessels
- Kidney damage
- Lung damage
- High blood pressure
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Recognizing a Stimulant Addiction
An addiction to stimulants can develop with frequent abuse, whether that abuse is for recreational or performance purposes. Often, the person abusing stimulants doesn’t realize an addiction is forming.
Doctors and addiction specialists treat addiction as a chronic illness, much like diabetes. Just like any illness, an addiction diagnosis requires clinical criteria that must be met.
Some of the greatest indications of a stimulant addiction include: a need for increasingly larger amounts of stimulants to gain the desired effects; experiencing withdrawal symptoms when cutting back or discontinuing use; and making frequent unsuccessful attempts to cut back or quit. Learn more about the criteria for diagnosing an addiction.
Intervention for a Stimulant Addiction
People with addictions often don’t realize or won’t admit that they have a problem. Stimulant addiction is no different.
Many people use drugs with the intent of getting high. This is not always the case with prescription stimulants, as many users take them to focus on work or stay awake to study for a test. Stimulant abusers may incorrectly assume that they do not have a problem because their ultimate goal is to be productive rather than intoxicated.
If you know someone who can’t see that their stimulant use has become a problem, staging an intervention can help them realize they need treatment. Learn more about staging an intervention.
Withdrawal from Stimulants, Treatment and Next Steps
Once someone has formed a tolerance to stimulants, they can no longer function normally without them. A person addicted to stimulants will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using them. These effects may develop within hours or may take days to set in.
Some common withdrawal symptoms from stimulants include insomnia, depression and irritability.
Overcoming an addiction to stimulants may require a detox period. An inpatient treatment center can provide a safe environment for detox as well as therapy and support groups. Those addicted to stimulants may also seek therapy outside of a treatment center. Therapy is one of the best ways to beat an addiction to stimulants — users learn the tools they need to conquer cravings and make a successful, lasting recovery.
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