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Stimulant Addiction and Treatment

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Stimulants are a class of drugs (illicit and prescription) that increase energy and alertness and, in some cases, improve focus. 1 Due to these effects, stimulants can be misused and this misuse can possibly have negative health outcomes, as well as a risk for addiction (also known as substance use disorder, or SUD).1,2 Misuse means that a person uses a substance in unintended ways, such as taking them without a prescription, taking drugs prescribed to someone else, taking more than prescribed, or using the drug to get high.2

In Nevada in 2019, around 101,000 people aged 18 and older had an illicit drug use disorder, which includes addiction to stimulants such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulants.3 That same year, about 69,000 Nevadans aged 18 and older reported using cocaine and around 31,000 people reported using methamphetamine in the past year.3

This article will help you learn more about what stimulants are used for, their possible health effects, the signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction, and how to seek stimulant addiction treatment.

What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants are substances that work by increasing (stimulating) the activity of your central nervous system.4 The term “stimulants” includes legal stimulants like caffeine or prescription medicines, as well as illegal stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine.4 When used under a doctor’s care, prescription stimulants can be helpful for treating conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), asthma, and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder).5 But both prescription and illegal stimulants can be addictive, and stimulant misuse can lead to substance use disorders.2,5,6

Knowing how stimulants work in the brain and body can help you understand why people misuse them and how such use may lead to addiction. Stimulants work by increasing the activity of dopamine and norepinephrine, which are chemical messengers in the brain known as neurotransmitters.2 Dopamine is your body’s natural “feel-good” chemical that makes you want to repeat rewarding behaviors; it plays a large role in addiction and may also play a role in the development of ADHD.2,7 Norepinephrine helps control your blood flow, blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing, all of which are increased when you use stimulants.2

Common Types of Stimulants

Prescription stimulants are mainly used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. They include:1,2,4

  • Adderall (dextroamphetamine/amphetamine).
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine).
  • Concerta or Ritalin (methylphenidate).

Non-prescription stimulants:4,9,10

  • Nicotine is one of the most addictive legal stimulants. It is found in tobacco products such as cigarettes, gum, and vape pens.
  • Caffeine increases alertness and energy and is found in a wide variety of products, including coffee, tea, sodas, and chocolate.

Illegal stimulant drugs are used for different reasons, such as to enhance self-esteem, improve focus, reduce appetite, increase wakefulness, and get high. Illegal stimulants include:1,2,4

Stimulant Health Effects

Both prescription and illegal stimulants can increase energy and focus as well as cause a pleasurable “rush” or “high” (euphoria.1,2 But misusing stimulants, especially at high doses, can lead to many negative health effects as well. The health effects of stimulants can vary widely depending on the type of stimulant you use, the way you use it, and your overall health.4

Stimulant health effects may include:2,4,8

  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
  • Increased blood sugar.
  • Heart rhythm changes.
  • Seizures.
  • Sleep troubles.
  • Psychosis (believing things that aren’t true).
  • Angry or hostile behavior.
  • Paranoia (extreme distrust of others).
  • Nosebleeds (if snorted).
  • Chest pain, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Overdose.
  • Addiction.

Signs of Stimulant Addiction

Addiction is a chronic brain disease marked by compulsive drug use no matter the harms it causes. But addiction is treatable, and recovery is possible.

Keep in mind that only a doctor or qualified mental health professional can formally diagnose a stimulant use disorder. But there are some signs and symptoms that might mean stimulant use is becoming a problem. These can include:2,11–13

  • Using stimulants in higher amounts or more often than intended.
  • Continuing to use stimulants despite the negative impact they have on your life.
  • Drug cravings.
  • Using stimulants even though it harms your ability to fulfill your work, home, or school responsibilities.
  • Mental health problems, such as depression, feeling suspicious or agitated, paranoia, or suicidal thoughts.
  • Unexplained and extreme weight loss.
  • Poor hygiene and self-care.
  • Hair loss.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Extreme fatigue, exhaustion, and disrupted sleep.
  • Taking other people’s prescriptions, asking for frequent prescription refills, or asking multiple doctors for prescriptions.

Treatment for Stimulant Addiction

It’s never too late to seek help for stimulant addiction. Treatment can help you learn healthier ways of managing stress and triggers and take back control of your life.2

Treatment may include a combination of medical care in an inpatient or outpatient setting, behavioral therapies, and other support to address and treat the addiction as well as any co-occurring disorders you may have.2,12 While medication might be helpful for some people, especially for certain withdrawal symptoms like severe depression, it’s important to note that the FDA has not approved any medicines to treat stimulant use disorder (although medications may sometimes be used off-label).12,13

Addiction treatment should be tailored to your unique recovery needs and your treatment team will strongly consider your medical history, social support, job and legal needs as well as your age, gender, ethnicity, and culture.14

American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers personalized stimulant addiction treatment in Las Vegas and other locations across the country. If you are ready to start the path to recovery, call us at or text us to discuss your treatment options.

Does your insurance cover treatment for stimulants in Las Vegas? 

Check your insurance coverage or text us your questions to learn more about treatment by American Addiction Centers (AAC).