Long-Term Effects of Stimulants
Stimulant drugs are known for their ability to increase alertness, attention, and energy. However, when abused over a long period of time, can also have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health. To fully comprehend the long-term effects of stimulants, there are many factors that we must consider.
To grasp a full understanding of the implications of stimulant use, we must look at their long-term effects on both our physical and mental health, as well as their associated risks, from addiction to the potential dangers associated with their use.
What Are Stimulants?
Stimulants are commonly used to improve concentration and motivation, while also increasing energy and alertness. For these reasons, they’re commonly used to help treat conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.1 However, the abuse and misuse of these drugs can have serious short and long-term side effects that can impact both physical and mental health. Stimulant abusers may experience the following:
- Short-term effects include feelings of euphoria, increased confidence, alertness, as well as concentration.
- Long-term use can result in more severe side effects such as stimulant addiction, depression and anxiety, paranoia, and even cardiovascular problems.2
In order to make informed decisions about stimulants, it’s necessary to understand the potential risks associated with using them.
Long-Term Effects on the Brain
Stimulants are powerful drugs that can severely impact our brains when used frequently. This, in turn, can take a large toll on overall mental health.
Effects of long-term stimulant use can include:
- impaired learning and memory4
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)5
When taken for a prolonged period of time, stimulant drugs like ADHD medication can cause changes to the chemical composition of the brain, leading to the likelihood of severe long-term effects.6,7, This is due to the brain’s expectation of higher levels of dopamine it is used to receiving from the drugs. As a result, higher doses of prescribed stimulants may be required.
Taking stimulants for long-term can also result in a decrease of dopamine production, which may lead to depression and a lack of motivation when the drugs are stopped.
Long-Term Effects on the Body
Commonly abused stimulants, including cocaine and methamphetamine, can harm the cardiovascular system, leading to an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.8 They can also increase the chances of developing diabetes or high blood pressure.9 In addition, regular stimulant use has been linked to liver damage, kidney failure, and other organ damage.
Due to their appetite-suppressing effects, stimulants have been known to cause significant weight loss.10 As a result, nutritional deficiencies and vitamin deficiencies may also occur.
Managing the Long-Term Effects of Stimulant Use
Although stimulant abuse has the potential to cause negative effects, both physically and mentally, there are actionable steps you can take to mitigate the risks associated with stimulant medication use.
- Assess the benefits and risks: Before taking stimulants for any sort of treatment, it is important to take the time to research and discuss all of the potential risks and benefits with your healthcare provider. They can provide professional advice and guidance on how to minimize the potential risks associated with stimulant use.
- Know when to seek help: It’s crucial to fully understand and recognize that long-term use is a problem in order to seek help for a stimulant addiction. The first thing you can do is seek professional help from a medical provider. A doctor or psychiatrist can provide proper guidance and suggest effective stimulant treatment plans and strategies.
- Eliminate stimulant use: It’s also important to also take steps to reduce or eliminate stimulant medication use completely. You can do so by slowly tapering off the drug gradually over time, avoiding situations where drugs are present, and finding healthy ways to cope with stress or withdrawal symptoms. If necessary, you may undergo medical detox with the supervision of a doctor.
- Establish a support system during recovery: Creating a strong support system of friends and family can provide the emotional and practical support you will need during the healing process. This network will help to lift you up and guide you throughout your recovery.
- Adopt healthy habits: It is also beneficial to develop healthier lifestyle habits, like getting adequate rest, eating nutritious meals, exercising regularly, and engaging in calming activities such as yoga or meditation. This helps to promote stress reduction, improve mood, and better focus and concentration.
By taking the necessary steps to address the long-term effects of stimulant use, you can manage the risks associated with these drugs better and work towards healthier habits.
Understanding the Risks and Making Informed Decisions
Understanding the potential risks of stimulants, or any drug, will help you to make informed decisions about use. It is also important to recognize the common signs of stimulant abuse and to recognize when it is time to seek help.
To prevent long-term health risks, consult a doctor or healthcare provider before taking any stimulants and never take them without a prescription. Additionally, if you or someone you know is struggling with stimulant drug addiction––don’t wait. Seek help now to start toward a healthier future.
Recovery and Treatments with Elevate
At Elevate Rehab, we understand that lasting sobriety is not only about achieving abstinence from stimulants but about digging deeper and focusing on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. That’s why we provide holistic rehab for recovery, addressing all aspects of your health and wellness. We aim to provide an environment for each individual to undergo treatment in a caring, professional, and positive manner while encouraging mutual cooperation, structure, and support.
At Elevate, you will receive personalized care tailored to your needs from experienced and compassionate professionals dedicated to helping you become the best version of yourself.
We’re here to support you throughout your journey and are committed to providing you with the tools and resources you need to find long-term sobriety. If you’re ready to take the next step in your recovery, visit one of our California detox centers to learn more.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Prescription Stimulant Misuse and Prevention Among Youth and Young Adults. store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/pep21-06-01-003.pdf
- Yale Medicine. Stimulant Use Disorder. https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/stimulant-abuse
- PubMed. Effects of Cannabis Use on Human Behavior, Including Cognition, Motivation, and Psychosis: A Review. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26842658/
- PubMed. Impaired Learning From Negative Feedback in Stimulant Use Disorder: Dopaminergic Modulation. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34197589/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Adults With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Substance Use Disorders. store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma15-4925.pdf
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Prescription Stimulants Drug Facts. nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants
- National Library of Medicine. How Stimulants Affect the Brain and Behavior. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK576548/
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines. nida.nih.gov/sites/default/files/drugfacts_stimulantadhd_1.pdf
- PubMed. The Effects of Substance Abuse on Blood Glucose Parameters in Patients with Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30501025/
- Wellness Resource Center. Signs & Symptoms of Stimulant Abuse. https://www.wellnessresourcecenter.com/drug-addiction/stimulants/signs-symptoms-withdrawals/
Scott Friend, MSW, M.S.
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