Stimulant Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & When To Get Help

When ingested, stimulants cause those who are taking them to experience increased focus, heightened energy, and a kick in their mood.

Understanding Stimulant Addiction

Learn about stimulant addiction

Legal stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall, can significantly help those who are battling symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) obtain relief from their daily struggles, while caffeine (another form of stimulant) can increase alertness. However, illicit substances like cocaine and methamphetamine can cause those who use them to suffer a high that can trigger the onset of similar effects; however, the potential for addiction is very dangerous.

When consumed on an ongoing basis, the abuse of these substances can make an individual susceptible to a number of negative outcomes. Also, if an individual finds that he or she is unable to end his or her abuse of these drugs without the help of professionals, it could signify that the individual has developed a chemical dependency on them and needs professional care to put an end to his or her stimulant addiction. When this occurs, it is imperative for an individual to consider effective treatment so that the abuse of stimulants can be stopped and a healthier life can be achieved.


Stimulant addiction statistics

Research shows that many individuals abuse and eventually become addicted to stimulants. Within America, alone, cocaine is the second most abused illicit substance. Through research, it was determined that this substance was abused by approximately two million people within the past month. Regarding legal substances, like those used in the treatment of ADHD, nearly three million individuals report misusing these substances each year.

As many as fifteen million individuals within the United States have admitted to abusing methamphetamine and/or other types of amphetamines within the past month. These startling numbers have caused the amount of emergency room visits due to stimulant abuse to increase each year, and are evidence of a strong need for treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for stimulant addiction

In order to understand why an individual might turn to the abuse of stimulants, one must consider the research that has been conducted on the subject. The causes and risk factors for stimulant abuse discussed below are some of the findings on which experts in addiction and mental health agree:

Genetic: A significant amount of research shows that substance abuse, addiction, and chemical dependency are heritable issues. This means that if an individual has a first-degree relative who battles with substance abuse, then he or she is more likely to also struggle with the same issues. In addition, specific gene clusters, which are also hereditary, are believed to increase one’s odds of abusing substances like stimulants.

Environmental: Experts feel that an individual’s surroundings and past experiences can increase his or her likelihood of developing a problem with stimulants. For instance, if an individual is exposed to substance abuse, such as the abuse of stimulants, he or she is more likely to partake in similar behaviors. In addition, if an individual is exposed to stress, resides within an impoverished place, or hangs out with those who abuse substances, he or she has a greater likelihood of participating in the abuse of stimulants as well.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of mental illness, namely ADHD
  • Being able to easily acquire stimulants
  • Family history of mental health conditions
  • Personal history of past substance abuse
  • Having underdeveloped coping skills
  • Gender (males are more likely to engage in the abuse of stimulants)
  • Family history of substance abuse, addiction, or chemical dependency

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction

Since there are several different types of stimulants, the signs and symptoms of stimulant abuse can vary. If you are worried that a loved one is struggling with this type of substance abuse problem, it can be helpful to take note of the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Using stimulants in situations in which it could be hazardous
  • Continuing to abuse stimulants despite negative repercussions
  • Taking other people’s ADHD medications
  • Displaying increased energy
  • Teeth-grinding
  • Prior unsuccessful attempts to discontinue or decrease one’s use of stimulants
  • Rapid speech
  • Aggressive behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Dry mouth
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Withdrawal in the absence of a stimulant
  • Tolerance for increased amounts of a stimulant
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased blood pressure

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Heightened focus
  • Lack of good decision-making abilities
  • Cravings for more stimulants
  • Poor impulse control
  • Increased concentration

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Anger
  • Anxiety


Effects of stimulant addiction

The effects of stimulant abuse can be dangerous to one’s physical health as well as to his or her livelihood in general. The effects listed below are amongst those that can occur if an individual stays addicted to stimulants and does not obtain professional treatment:

  • Social isolation
  • Disorientation
  • Depression
  • Kidney damage
  • Legal problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Financial problems
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Job loss
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Family discord
  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Liver damage

Co-Occurring Disorders

Stimulant addiction and co-occurring disorders

It is very common for those who abuse stimulants to also struggle with mental health conditions at the same time. The disorders below are of those that are known to impact the lives of those who abuse stimulants:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Withdrawal and Overdose

Stimulant withdrawal and overdose

Effects of stimulant withdrawal: The longer that an individual abuses a stimulant, the more likely it is that his or her body will develop a tolerance, and possibly a dependency on, his or her stimulant of choice. When this occurs, that individual might begin experiencing withdrawal if he or she is unable to use or attempts to stop abusing stimulants. The effects below are some of the many examples of what can occur during stimulant withdrawal:

  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares
  • Hallucinations
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Strong cravings
  • Generalized aches and pain
  • Anxiety
  • Delusions

Effects of stimulant overdose: If an individual overdoses on a stimulant, his or her body will react in an adverse way. Should any of the following effects present themselves, an individual might be experiencing an overdose, which requires immediate medical care:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Stroke
  • Irregular breathing
  • Coma
  • Tremors
  • Increased body temperature
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
What our clients are saying

In order to cope with the boredom I was facing in my life, I resorted to stimulants. I let my addiction control my life, and consequently had to seek out help before it was too late. Thanks to the recovery programs at Huntington Creek, I am now about to celebrate my first year being sober!

– Former Patient
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