Stimulants, as the name suggests, increase stimulation, making users feel more alert, focused, and full of energy. It is a very broad classification of drugs, including the mild, legally, and widely consumed caffeine on one end of the spectrum and tightly restricted, dangerous drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine on the other.
Some stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall, are routinely prescribed by doctors to regulate the symptoms of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ADD (attention-deficit disorder). Stimulants are not always harmful, but it is possible to develop a drug addiction to any form of stimulant.
Dependency on a stimulant drug could have damaging consequences and may require rehab treatment and a stimulant detox and withdrawal to overcome.
Signs of Stimulant Addiction
The abuse of stimulants can affect the user in a wide variety of ways. The exact effects and severity will depend upon several factors, such as the type of drug being consumed, the heaviness and regularity of consumption, and the individual’s overall health. The misuse of stimulants can cause behavioural, physical and psychological changes in the user.
Below are some of the main signs of stimulant addiction to watch out for:
- Loss of appetite
- Chest pains
- Palpitations and heart irregularities
- Excessive sweating
- Difficulties with coordination
- Hyperactivity and manic behaviour
- Erratic behaviour
- Increase in aggression and irritability, potentially to the point of violence
- Feelings of anxiety
- Delusions, paranoia and panic
- Loss of concentration
If you relate to several of the symptoms of stimulant addiction, it is possible that you have become dependent on a stimulant. If this is the case, it is important that you address the problem as quickly as possible at a residential rehab.
Depending on the stimulant you are addicted to, you could even be putting your life in danger. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 840 cocaine-related deaths in England and Wales in 2021.
The number of deaths by drug poisoning as a result of cocaine abuse has been rising steadily year after year. The best thing you can do if you are suffering from a stimulant addiction is to undergo private drug and alcohol rehabilitation at a dedicated residential clinic.
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Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms
If you are addicted to a stimulant and suddenly stop taking it, it can have uncomfortable and potentially harmful effects on your body and mind. Stimulants block the transporters of dopamine, the chemical responsible for our feelings of satisfaction, pleasure, and motivation.
The blocking of these transporters leads to surges in dopamine levels in the brain. Suddenly cutting the stimulants out can leave you feeling emotionally drained. It can even trigger deep depression. In severe cases, these imbalances can lead to suicidal thoughts.
This is perhaps the most significant symptom of stimulant withdrawal. It is to regain those pleasurable feelings associated with that dopamine surge that addicts return again and again to their drug of choice. But this is not the only withdrawal symptom associated with stimulant withdrawal.
The physical symptoms of stimulant withdrawal are less severe than the withdrawal syndromes associated with addictions to substances like alcohol or opiates, however, can still be difficult to manage alone. Sufferers of stimulant withdrawal are likely to experience dizziness, headaches, increased hunger, fatigue and insomnia. The psychological symptoms tend to be the most severe, and can include intense feelings of paranoia, both insomnia and hypersomnia, hallucinations, bizarre and unsettling dreams, and psychomotor agitation.
Can I Detox at Home?
It is theoretically possible to overcome an addiction to stimulants at home. If you are addicted to a mild stimulant such as caffeine, the withdrawal period will probably be very uncomfortable, but you are unlikely to place yourself in great danger. However, with substances like cocaine or methamphetamine, or even with prescription drugs like Ritalin, it is much more sensible to undergo professional drug detox treatment at a rehabilitation centre.
Without professional support, you might find withdrawing too difficult to deal with, and there is always the risk that you will give in to the cravings and return to substance abuse.
What Happens During a Stimulant Detox?
Detoxification, commonly shortened to detox, is the period in which your body processes and removes harmful substances. This is the time when you will go through withdrawal and experience stimulant withdrawal symptoms. Rehabilitation centres give you the best possible chance of getting through the withdrawal phase and making a long-term recovery, and you will be surrounded by medical professionals throughout.
The withdrawal process will still be unpleasant, but you will be in a safe, comfortable space with constant medical and psychiatric supervision. Assistance will be immediately on hand should you suffer a particularly severe physical reaction during stimulant detox, and psychiatrists can help guide you through those horrible bouts of depression and anxiety.
How Long Does Stimulant Withdrawal Last?
Stimulant withdrawal typically lasts around 10 days. After taking your last dose, it will take between 24 and 72 hours for the first withdrawal symptoms to manifest. These early symptoms typically include fatigue, aches and pains, and general feelings of unhappiness. Heavy users may experience some more serious symptoms like paranoia and hallucinations.
The initial withdrawal symptoms are often intense and generally last for about a week. As they begin to subside, psychological problems such as insomnia and depression present themselves.
Any remaining symptoms by the time the detox period has ended should be mild. Sleeping issues, depression and the urges to return to stimulant use can persist for a long time, but prescription medications provided can help. You might still feel tired or depressed for weeks or even months. This is why it is so important to seek professional support.
Recovery from stimulant addiction can potentially be a long-term struggle. It is important that you have the support necessary to resist the ongoing cravings and deal with the long-term mental impacts of stimulant abuse.