Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

Understanding Stimulant Abuse

Learn About Stimulant Addiction

Stimulants are a class of drugs that cause the elevation of a person’s blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate, which then increases his or her attention capacity, alertness, and energy level. Stimulants include a number drugs, including prescription medications like Adderall and Ritalin and illicit substance like cocaine and methamphetamine. When any type of stimulant is abused, these substances can cause significant impairment and distress in a person’s life.

Stimulants work by enhancing the effects of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for the regulation of one’s feelings of pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation. When stimulants are used the brain’s reward system is activated, leaving users overwhelmed by a sense of grandiosity, inflated confidence, euphoria, and pleasure. Furthermore, stimulants enhance an individual’s mental acuity and performance.

Once an addiction to stimulants has developed, it can be exceptionally difficult to overcome this destructive habit without assistance. Fortunately, there are many treatment options for stimulant abuse available that can help people beat their addiction and successfully achieve and sustain sobriety.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Stimulant Abuse and Co-Occurring Disorders

There are a number of mental health conditions that have been known to co-occur alongside stimulant use disorder. Some of the most commonly cited of such conditions include:

  • Other substance use disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depressive disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)


Stimulant Abuse Statistics

According to the office of the National Drug Control Policy, approximately 3.6 million individuals use cocaine on a regular basis. Methamphetamine abuse is said to impact nearly 1.2 million people, and studies have suggested that approximately 13 million people misuse amphetamine substances.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Stimulant Abuse

Mental health and addiction professionals tend to agree that there can be a number of causes and risk factors that make individuals more prone to developing a problem with stimulant abuse:

Genetic: Years of research has established that addiction run in families, indicating a strong genetic link for its development. Those who have first-degree family members who struggle with chemical dependency concerns are at a much higher risk for eventually struggling with such concerns themselves.

Environmental: There are a wide variety of environmental influences that impact a person’s predisposition to developing an addiction to substances, such as stimulants. For example, individuals who grow up in environments where drug and/or alcohol use is widespread often find themselves facing substance abuse problems.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of chemical dependency
  • Personal history of abusing other substances
  • Personal or family history of mental health conditions
  • Being chronically subjected to high levels of stress
  • Exposure to violence and/or crime
  • Being exposed to stimulant substances (e.g. cocaine) while in utero
  • Easy access to stimulants

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Abuse

When an individual is abusing stimulant substances, they are likely to display a number of behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms. The specific symptoms themselves will vary from person to person depending upon a number of factors, but may include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Rapid speech
  • Increased energy or hyperactive behaviors
  • Participating in high-risk behaviors
  • Acting out aggressively
  • Engaging in violent activities
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Seeming as though one is constantly in motion

Physical symptoms:

  • Anemia
  • Hair loss
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Physical and mental exhaustion
  • Hypertension
  • Skin problems
  • Chronic itching
  • Profuse sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Teeth grinding

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Enhanced sensory awareness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Poor impulse-control
  • Flight of ideas
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Acute anxiety
  • Feelings of panic
  • Extreme feelings of unwarranted fear
  • Depression
  • Heightened sense of well-being
  • Feelings of fearlessness
  • Hypervigilance
  • Suicidal ideation


Effects of Stimulant Addiction

The main consequence that results from stimulant abuse is the development of an addiction, which can lead to even more negative consequence later on down the road. While the actual effects an individual may experience will depend of the specific type of stimulant being abuse, there are a number of common effects that will occur if stimulant abuse is not treated. These may include:

  • Malnutrition and extreme weight loss
  • Skin disorders
  • Ulcers
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Cardiovascular system damage
  • Respiratory / pulmonary damage
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Kidney failure
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Development of cognitive deficits
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Dramatic behavioral changes
  • Destroyed interpersonal relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Financial problems

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of Stimulant Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of stimulant withdrawal: When an individual has been abusing stimulants for a prolonged period of time and suddenly puts an end to his or her use, he or she is likely to experience symptoms of withdrawal. Some of the symptoms and effects that may occur as a result of stimulant withdrawal can include:

  • Impaired memory
  • Psychomotor lethargy
  • Agitated paranoia
  • Depression
  • Intense cravings for the substance
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Intense, vivid dreams
  • Dehydration
  • Dulled senses
  • Chills
  • Restlessness
  • Extreme hunger

Effects of stimulant overdose: When a person ingest more of a substance, such as stimulants, than his or her body is able to manage, he or she is likely to experience an overdose, which can result in a fatal outcome. An overdose should be viewed as a medical emergency and treatment should be sought right away. Signs that may indicate that someone has overdosed on stimulants can include:

  • Rapid rise in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Rise in body temperature / sudden onset of a high fever
  • Disorientation
  • Irregular breathing
  • Severe hypertension
  • Delirium
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Convulsions
  • Losing consciousness

Absolutely the best place I've been to compared to the others in the area. Stimulants were destroying my personal and social life, but I couldn't stop. The staff at Starlite Recovery Center helped me achieve sobriety and coping mechanisms to prevent me from relapsing!

– Benjamin R.