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Effects of Addiction to Stimulants

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While opiate-based drugs such as heroin and Vicodin capture most of today’s headlines, stimulant addiction remains a big problem for many Americans. Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that around 1.7 million Americans report misusing stimulants, while 426,000 report an addiction to drugs in the category.[1]

What are the Most Common Stimulant Addictions?

Drug dealer snorting cocaineStimulants bring on a boost of energy and a higher level of awareness. The downside, however, is these drugs are addictive and cause potential side effects. People abuse a variety of different stimulants.

The following is a look at some of the most commonly abused types in the United States:

  • Cocaine: a widely used stimulant all over the world, cocaine is incredibly addictive and causes a variety of health, psychological and financial problems; most individuals snort, smoke or inject cocaine
  • Crystal Methamphetamine: a highly destructive drug; produces an intense rush that may turn casual users into addicts in a short period of time; most commonly, crystal meth is taken by smoking it or mixing it with liquid compounds and injecting it into the bloodstream
  • Amphetamines: many individuals take amphetamines in an effort to lose weight or stay awake for long periods of time; users crash after the pills wear off, which prompts them to take more and more, starting the cycle of addiction[2]

While the stimulant epidemic of the 1980s began to ease in the early 1990s, according to a report by the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, many people still abuse these drugs. Widespread use of cocaine is still common, although addictions to prescription amphetamines used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is more prevalent than in the past.

A growing number of high school and college students abuse ADHD medications as a way to enhance academic performance, and even adults abuse the drugs to improve work performance. Some people alter the pills to achieve a euphoric high, making these drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, even more addictive when misused.[3]

The Short-Term Effects of Addiction to Stimulants

When used medically, stimulants treat a variety of conditions, including obesity, ADHD, and occasionally depression. People who are addicted to the drugs risk serious complications, however.

The following symptoms occur along with stimulant addiction, particularly in people addicted to cocaine:

  • Increase in blood pressure and heart rate: stimulants constrict the blood vessels in the body which leads to potentially dangerous conditions
  • Irregular breathing: after the initial rush from a stimulant, users may experience shortness of breath or uneven breathing patterns
  • Hyperactivity: when someone takes a stimulant, he becomes restless and hyperactive as the active ingredients in the drug increase the production of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain[4]

People coming down from a stimulant high also experience uncomfortable symptoms, according to a SAMHSA report on stimulants. They may feel restless, anxious, and irritable. Some people use opiates, such as heroin, to manage these uncomfortable symptoms. The combination of cocaine and heroin, for example, is a growing problem that makes a person’s addiction more severe and increases their risk of death from overdose.

The Long-Term Effects of Addiction to Stimulants

Long-term use of stimulants brings on even more serious symptoms. People who inject stimulants are more likely to contract HIV, hepatitis C or other blood-borne illnesses. According to the NIDA, even people who do not share needles or inject are at increased risk of infectious diseases because drug use makes them more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as unprotected sex.[5]

Stimulants also produce the following symptoms:

  • Tolerance: over time, as users abuse stimulants, the body develops a tolerance; it takes more and more of the stimulant to generate the desired effect; with more drugs in the system, users open themselves up to more serious health hazards
  • Heart problems: stimulant abuse puts strain on the human heart; a stimulant addiction may lead to heart failure or an irregular heartbeat
  • Mood swings: someone addicted to stimulants for an extended time may erupt in anger without warning; their addiction is easy to spot because they always seem irritable

In addition, long-term stimulant users may become malnourished because the drugs take away their appetite. They also are at a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorder

Michael’s House offers residential addiction treatment for people addicted to stimulants who want to change their lives for the better. Through a combination of cutting edge treatment techniques and holistic care, the professionals at this Palm Springs facility offer comprehensive addiction treatment.

Contact Michael’s House today at 760.548.4032 for more information.


[1] “Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. 2016.

[2] “Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders.” Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 33. Chapter 1—Introduction. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. 1999.

[3] “DrugFacts: Stimulant ADHD Medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.” NIDA. 2014.

[4] “Stimulants.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. January 2014.

[5] “Cocaine.” NIDA. June, 2016.