In 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that about 5 million American adults misused prescription stimulants. Unlike some drugs, stimulant addiction can lead to overdose and death. At a minimum, it leads to unbearable stimulant withdrawal symptoms.
Many over-the-counter items fall into the category of what are stimulants, along with drugs used to aid cognitive disabilities. However, not all are innocent or legal. Addiction counseling can help victims of both prescription and illicit stimulants.
What Are Stimulants?
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), stimulants are drugs that speed up the body’s systems. It’s an umbrella term that covers a variety of narcotics but also makes an appearance in favorite breakfast beverages and guilty pleasures. People consume stimulants in the form of coffee, chocolate, diet pills, and prescription medications.
Yet, there is a darker side to stimulants. People abuse drugs with high doses of stimulant effects to feel awake, euphoric, concentrated, and increased physical sensations. Either a person with a substance abuse disorder will buy prescription drugs illegally or it’s made clandestinely.
Below are examples of stimulants as noted by the DEA:
- Amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine, MDMA)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
- Methamphetamine (crystal meth)
- Bath salts
Furthermore, stimulants can come in different forms. Legitimate, legal stimulants normally come in the form of pills. However, they also come in the form of powder, injectable liquid and rock. Those who abuse them are known to smoke, snort, or inject them. They do this so they can enter the bloodstream faster. People can overdose quickly and by accident if they aren’t careful. This is true even for people that are on a prescription and take too much accidentally.
On the other hand, stimulants aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can greatly benefit from a stimulant prescription. For instance, stimulants speed up the production of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical in the body that tells the body it should be happy, awake, and concentrated.
Some individuals with ADHD can barely function. Their grades drop and they lose friends because they can’t keep a train of thought, let alone carry a conversation. Decades of research prove that stimulants drastically help memory improvement in these individuals.
Before a Stimulant Withdrawal: Signs of Addiction
First off, it’s key to understand the warning signs of a stimulant addiction before touching on stimulant withdrawal. Since certain individuals are prescribed stimulants, they might not be aware they could be addicted to them. Both people who abuse stimulants and those who are prescribed might find themselves battling an addiction. However, people who are prescribed the medication typically won’t end up in this scenario.
Stimulant addiction can certainly happen after the first use. Nevertheless, it usually doesn’t materialize out of nowhere. A single conversation could put a loved one on the path of sobriety. But first, they must recognize the signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction.
Watch out for these common signs and symptoms of stimulant abuse:
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive sweating
- Teeth grinding
- Biting the inside of the cheek
- The insatiable desire to chew
- Speaking rapidly
- Needing money all the time and for vague reasons
- Partying excessively until the early morning
- Lack of need for sleep
- Extreme change in behavior or personality
One or more of these symptoms could indicate someone has a stimulant addiction. When a person suffers from a substance use disorder, they are out of control. All they can think about is how and where they will be able to use stimulants again. Their behavior becomes riskier as a result.
It’s not their fault, to a large extent. Their body craves the drug so intensely that they would destroy their life and relationships to satisfy the urge. This leaves up to more than willpower or desire to lead a healthy, normal life. Their brain and body make them feel like they’ll die without stimulants. The body’s desire for stimulants puts them in survival mode in a sense.
What Is Stimulant Withdrawal?
To continue, stimulant withdrawal is a physical and mental manifestation of the body’s cravings for this drug. This may happen when a person with a stimulant abuse disorder stops using completely, lowers a dose, or simply builds up a tolerance. However, a stimulant withdrawal is typically associated with a person who stops using them completely.
Further, stimulants speed up the systems in the body that produce feel-good chemicals. Dopamine was previously mentioned, but it can also speed up adrenaline and serotonin production. Adrenaline speeds up the heart rate, which can make a person feel energized and awake. Also, serotonin acts as a mood stabilizer, making people feel calm and happy. When the body stops producing elevated levels of these chemicals, the body goes through stimulant withdrawal.
Common signs and symptoms of stimulant withdrawal include:
- Extreme anger and irritability
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Extreme change in appetite
- Bodily aches and pains
- Intense cravings
Stimulant Withdrawal Timeline
There is a certain timeline for stimulant withdrawal, although it’s different for every individual. In the first few days, those who abuse stimulants may notice subtle symptoms. These may include bodily aches, pains, and general malaise. However, heavy users will have a completely different experience. At this point, they may begin to have hallucinations, a slew of mental illnesses, and exhibit paranoid behavior.
Then, past a few days up to 10 days, they might begin to feel intense cravings. At this point, they may feel most symptoms subside (except if they are heavy users). Their cravings for stimulants might intensify, though. Mental illness will appear at this point or worsen if already manifested.
After about half a month withdrawal symptoms will be mostly gone. If not, they are considered post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). While stimulant withdrawal tends to go away, PAWS may last 18 months.
Risk Factors for Stimulant Use and Stimulant Withdrawal
There are a variety of reasons why a person would resort to drugs and alcohol. For instance, a large chunk of the American population is uninsured despite legislation over the past decade to insure more individuals. People in this group might deal with mental and physical problems. Hence, an attempt to self-medicate turns into an addiction.
Marginalized groups in the U.S. are more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. For example, homeless populations have an issue with stimulant addiction and stimulant withdrawal. Crack and cocaine had high rates of usage within the homeless women population in particular. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) cite that some estimates show up to 63% of homeless women have a drug addiction. Rates increase for African-American women who are homeless.
These groups of people might be more at risk to develop a stimulant dependency:
- Individuals with a mental illness
- Someone suffering from chronic pain
- Those with ADHD who try to self-medicate
- Students in college
- Trauma victims
- People who have lost their job
- Those who can’t afford a rent spike and lose their home
- People at or under the poverty line
In summary, individuals who are going through a difficult time in their life are more likely to resort to stimulants overall. Trauma victims in particular may try to mask the pain they are in with drugs and alcohol. The brief moments of peace they get from substances outweigh any risks that addiction may pose. The same can be said about people with mental illness and physical illness.
People don’t decide to do drugs illegally to develop an addiction. They consume them because they want to be happier, anxiety-free, and forget the weight of the world for a moment. Those who deal with an addiction to stimulants want to solve a problem, albeit the wrong way.
Treatment for Stimulant Withdrawal
Every person has a unique reason for needing stimulant withdrawal treatment. For this reason, a good addiction recovery center needs to create a personalized plan that works for each patient. An individual with a substance addiction may have a more severe case than their peer. Our addiction treatment center in Palm Springs, CA offers the following forms of treatment to help with stimulant withdrawal and dependency.
Stimulant Detox in Palm Springs, CA
Stimulants are known as “hard” drugs. This is because they are extremely addictive. In a way, this is what makes stimulant withdrawal so unbearable. Phoenix Rising uses medical detox as the first step to sobriety. Our stimulant detox program in California will make patients quit their addiction cold turkey.
For long-time users especially, detox will induce withdrawal symptoms. Medical professionals might prescribe medication to help patients feel more comfortable. In addition, they will prescribe medication that will help with a dual diagnosis.
Inpatient Programs for Stimulant Addiction
The best way to kick a drug dependency is by removing all external factors which may lead to relapse. An inpatient program means that a recovering addict will live at the facility. Also, it means patients will receive care around the clock.
Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) for Stimulant Withdrawal
Sometimes patients are unable to stay at an addiction treatment center in Palm Springs, CA 24/7. A PHP is a happy medium. While it’s intense like an inpatient program, at the end of the night a member will go home. It’s perfect for people who work or are caretakers.
Psychotherapy in Palm Springs, CA
Also, psychotherapy (aka talk therapy) is a major part of recovery from stimulant addiction. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can both aid and ease stimulant withdrawal symptoms. They focus on changing maladaptive behaviors and thoughts before they start. This may be combined with holistic therapies like art and exercise.
Phoenix Rising Can Ease the Pain of Stimulant Withdrawal
Stimulant withdrawal is known to be uncomfortable and often unbearable. Phoenix Rising is well-versed in what are stimulants and how to support a patient who needs to recover from an addiction to them. To say recovering from stimulant addiction is difficult would be an understatement, but Phoenix Rising can help you or a loved one get through it as a team. Contact us now.