Signs of Stimulant Abuse
Stimulant abuse has become an increasingly serious problem in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 5.1 million Americans aged 12 years or older misused prescription stimulants in 2020.1
However, it may be difficult to identify any signs of stimulant abuse since they can manifest both physically and mentally. Signs can include changes in physical appearance and behavior to even long-term health issues. So, to help you identify symptoms, we’ll go over everything you need to know when it comes to the signs of stimulant abuse.
What are Stimulants and How Do They Work?
To help you recognize stimulant abuse signs and symptoms, it is necessary to first understand how stimulant drugs work. Stimulants are psychoactive drugs that can raise the level of alertness, energy, and even your heart rate. They work to increase of certain chemicals in the brain, like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These chemicals help to regulate your mood, motivation, and attention, among other things.
Prescription stimulants are commonly used to treat medical conditions, such as ADHD, narcolepsy, and depression. However, some people use them recreationally as performance enhancers or as drugs of abuse. Examples of commonly used stimulant substances include:2
These drugs can frequently be misused or abused because of their ability to give users a feeling of euphoria and an improved sense of concentration. And the continuous misuse of these can even lead to severe health consequences, including a range of physical and psychological side effects, like an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, irritability, insomnia, and paranoia.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Abuse
Stimulant abuse symptoms can vary greatly, depending on the specific substance being abused. The type of drug, how often, and how much of the drug is being used are all factors that may affect your symptoms. Common symptoms of prescription stimulant abuse you should look out for include:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure: Stimulant abuse has been known to cause increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Long-term, this may lead to cardiovascular problems and even heart failure.
- Increased energy and activity: Stimulants can increase energy and activity levels. Others may begin to notice this behavior and even describe it as abnormal.
- Weight loss: They can cause a decrease in appetite and significant weight loss, especially if abused over a long period.
- Insomnia: Normal sleep patterns can be disrupted which can lead to insomnia and other sleep-related problems.
- Paranoia: Stimulant drug abuse can cause paranoia or suspicion, leading individuals to believe that others are out to get them.
- Agitation or irritability: Misuse and abuse can also cause feelings of agitation, irritability, or even anger.
- Repetitive or compulsive behaviors: Individuals abusing stimulants may engage in repetitive or compulsive behaviors, such as picking at their skin or hair.
- Social isolation: It can also cause individuals to withdraw from social activities or relationships and become more isolated over time.
Stimulant abuse over time can lead to long-term damaging effects on the body and the brain. Knowing which signs to look out for can help you or your loved one seek stimulant treatment early before long-term effects begin to develop.
Short and Long-Term Effects of Stimulant Abuse
Prescription stimulant abuse presents both short and long-term side effects. More serious side effects of stimulant drugs may result in cardiovascular complications such as heart attack, stroke, and irregular heart rhythm.3
Stimulant addiction or overuse can also result in severe physical and mental health issues. Symptoms of stimulant overuse may include seizures, tremors, chest pain, severe sweating, nausea, vomiting, and rapid breathing.3
Additionally, the risk of developing psychotic conditions is especially high with chronic methamphetamine abuse. Long-term effects of stimulants also include an increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other diseases due to sharing needles or engaging in risky sexual behaviors while under the influence.4
How to Get Help for Stimulant Abuse
If you or someone you know is struggling with stimulant drug abuse, don’t wait to seek help. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can start your journey to recovery. Addiction treatment options can include individual counseling, group therapy, holistic rehab, and medication-assisted treatment, or a combination of these three.
- Individual Counseling: Individual counseling can help individuals who are struggling with drug abuse work through their triggers and cravings, learn better-coping skills, and receive support.
- Group Therapy: As a form of treatment for stimulant abuse, group therapy allows individuals to connect with others who are struggling with similar issues, share experiences, and learn from one another. Furthermore, addiction can be discussed openly in group therapy without judgment.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment: Treatment for stimulant abuse can also include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which makes use of medications to reduce cravings and stimulant withdrawal symptoms.
- Holistic Rehab: The holistic approach to addiction recovery aims for total healing rather than just focusing on the addiction alone. This option uses a combination of traditional and alternative processes and therapies including yoga, meditation, fitness and exercise, and acupuncture.
Road to Recovery with Elevate
At Elevate, we believe that seeking treatment should go beyond just achieving sobriety. The road to recovery should also encourage a change and transformation of their life for a more meaningful and purposeful way of living.
Our holistic rehab program empowers individuals to focus on deeper healing and to lead lives free of addiction and substance abuse. We strive to provide comprehensive treatment that enables our clients to overcome their addiction and achieve lasting recovery.
With the right treatment and support, it is possible to recover from stimulant abuse and lead a healthy life. To learn more about our California detox centers, contact us.
- SAMSHA. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35325/NSDUHFFRPDFWHTMLFiles2020/2020NSDUHFFR1PDFW102121.pdf
- SAMSHA. Prescription Stimulant Misuse and Prevention Among Youth and Young Adults. store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/pep21-06-01-003.pdf
- Shatterproof. Substance Types and Effects: Stimulants. https://www.shatterproof.org/learn/addiction-basics/substances-and-effects/stimulants?gclid=Cj0KCQjwuLShBhC_ARIsAFod4fKBzk2dkBkPL_n9YBkMwccLhQaLSsCXvrcUYxaQc77T1Q5dGOVb5pAaAjvwEALw_wcB
- NIDA. Methamphetamine DrugFacts.http://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
Scott Friend, MSW, M.S.
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