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Stimulants: Addiction, Withdrawal, Overdose & Treatment
When most people think of stimulants, they think of drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. While these are certainly examples of stimulants, there are many others. Prescription medications like Adderall and Ritalin are also considered stimulants. Regardless of the type of drug, all stimulants have one thing in common: they stimulate the central nervous system. This can result in several different effects.
As with any other type of drug, there is potential for abuse and addiction with stimulants. There is also a risk of overdose and accidental death. In this post, we will take a look at all aspects of stimulants, including their effects, dangers, and treatment options.
What Are Stimulants?
Stimulants are drugs that increase the activity of the central nervous system. This can result in many different effects, including increased alertness, energy, and heart rate. These substances are classified as psychoactive drugs which can either be an illicit type of prescription medicine.
In the market, they are known by several brands and street names. Examples of known brands of stimulants include Concerta, Dexedrine, Adderall, Steroids, and Ritalin. These brands cannot be readily bought from stores without a prescription from medical personnel.
Meanwhile, in the streets and alleys, these drugs are known by the following names: Skippy, Bennies, R-ball, the smart drug, speed, uppers, hearts, LA turnaround, and more. These street names vary depending on the culture of the place.
What Do Stimulants Look Like?
In terms of physical appearance, these drugs are available in various forms for different brands in the market. Depending on the type of stimulant, they can be in different colors and shapes.
For instance, Dexedrine exists in capsules with a pill identifier consisting of the strength (in mg) and the brand name. Tablet forms of these drugs include Ritalin and Adderall, although the former also exist in capsules.
Meanwhile, the street forms of these drugs are also varied. They can come in tablets, capsules, powder, or crystal form that is meant to be snorted. It can also come as a liquid that is injected or as a solution that is inhaled through the nose.
What Are Stimulants Used For?
The prescription stimulants are mainly used for the medication of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It helps patients with this disease to gain better concentration to live a normal life.
Stimulants are available in the market in various applications and Each of these types has a specific function. Topical agents are applied directly to the skin. These types are used to constrict blood vessels to stop bleeding.
Injectables such as epinephrine are mainly used to elevate breathing patterns and heartbeat. Oral medications like Ritalin are used to medicate extreme sleepiness during the day while Narcolepsy is for patients with ADHD.
How Do Stimulants Work?
The general mechanism of stimulants is to speed up the activity of the brain. This action is true for both prescription and illicit types. Some physical manifestations of this include increased breathing, high blood pressure, and a feeling of being high.
These bodily reactions are a result of the magnified effect of dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine and norepinephrine are two of the many neurotransmitters in the brain and the ones affected by stimulants.
Dopamine is responsible for the balance of body movements, focus, emotions, and the person’s learning. It is also responsible for the reward system in the brain. A person with low concentrations of dopamine in the brain will have mental diseases such as Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, and Parkinson’s disease.
Meanwhile, norepinephrine is a brain chemical secreted in the adrenal medulla. This chemical has similar functions to adrenaline. Once secreted, this chemical increases blood pressure by allowing blood vessels to contract. In line, stimulants enhance the secretion of this brain chemical to speed up mental and physical activity.
In the brain, these substances can either strengthen brain signaling or collapse it due to excessive dosage. Examples of illicit stimulants which disrupt brain signaling pathways are heroin and cocaine.
How Long Before You Can Feel the Effects of Stimulants?
The effects of stimulants can be felt in a matter of seconds if taken intravenously or within minutes if inhaled. The effects are more gradual if these drugs are taken orally and will peak after 30 to 60 minutes.
These effects can last for 3 to 5 hours depending on the type of stimulant, its dosage, and the person’s tolerance to the drug. The effects of some prescription drugs can last longer, up to 12 hours.
How Long Do Stimulants Stay In Your System?
The answer to this question depends on the specific drug involved and a variety of factors including a person’s age, weight, metabolism, and how often they have used the drug.
Generally speaking, stimulants tend to stay in a person’s system for 2-4 days, although some may be detectable for up to a week or longer. If a hair test is being done, stimulants can be detectable for up to 90 days.
What are the Short and Long-term Effects of Stimulants?
Some of the short-term effects of these drugs include increased breathing patterns, rapid heartbeat, and high blood sugar levels. Whereas, its long-term effects include unstable behavior, mental diseases, extreme weight loss, and irreversible damage to the liver and kidney.
A person who can no longer control one’s intake of these substances may experience serious health consequences. This uncontrolled intake can lead to an overdose and addiction. The severe damage from abusing these substances includes coma, seizures or tremors, and gradual memory loss.
Are Stimulants Addictive?
Yes, stimulants can be highly addictive. This is because they work by increasing levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These brain chemicals are associated with pleasure and reward, so taking stimulants can produce feelings of euphoria.
With continued use, people develop tolerance to the drugs, which means they need to take higher and higher doses to get the same effect. Eventually, people who abuse stimulants can become dependent on them just to feel normal.
Even when taken as prescribed by a doctor, Stimulants carry a high risk for abuse and addiction. People who have chronic medical conditions such as ADHD or narcolepsy may be tempted to misuse their medication to increase its effects.
What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms?
The withdrawal symptoms of stimulant abuse can be harsh, and they often lead to a craving for more. Sleep difficulties are common as well.
Extreme mood swings also occur while some people may experience depression and anxiety after quitting cold turkey. Other withdrawal signs include loss of cognitive function, tremors, chills, fatigue, and aches.
What Causes Stimulant Overdose? Signs of an Overdose
Stimulant overdose is often caused by taking too much of the drug or combining it with other drugs or alcohol.
Some common signs of overdose include nervousness, short rapid breaths, muscle spasms, highly temperamental, and slight delusions.
What Should You Do If Someone Is Overdosing?
In case of an overdose, you should immediately call emergency medical services. If the person is not responding to you, try to keep them awake and safe until help arrives.
Do not give the person anything to eat or drink because it might make the situation worse. You should also avoid giving them any more drugs unless under strict medical supervision.
How Do You Treat Stimulant Addiction? Detox & Treatment
Treating stimulant addiction is not an easy process, and it requires a lot of determination from the patient. The first step is to detox from the drug, which can be done in a medical facility where patients are closely monitored.
After detox, patients typically undergo behavioral therapy to address the underlying issues that led to stimulant abuse. In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to help with cravings and withdrawal symptoms. With proper addiction treatment, it is possible to recover from stimulant addiction and lead a healthy, drug-free life.
Final Thoughts: Addressing Stimulant Abuse and Addiction
Getting help from a professional addiction treatment center is crucial for anyone struggling with stimulant abuse or addiction. These facilities can provide the necessary resources and support to help people detox and recover from this disease.
If you or someone you know is struggling with stimulant abuse, don’t wait to get help. Contact us today to learn more about your options for recovery.