Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms

As one may guess from the name, stimulants have an awakening, energizing effect on its users alongside raising blood pressure, elevated heart rate and heavy breathing. For generations, stimulants have been used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems, obesity, neurological disorders and various other maladies. As stimulant abuse and addiction rose, use of it for medical purposes lessened. In contemporary times, stimulants are only medically prescribed to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, sometimes depression and only in special cases where there is no response to other treatment.

An assortment of stimulants exists including cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines. Even some completely legal, prescription medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are frequently stimulants. When these prescribed medications are misused, paranoia, hostility and psychotic symptoms may result. Dangerous body temperatures, irregular heartbeats, seizures, or heart failure are also possible. Of all stimulants, those you are most likely to encounter are amphetamines and methylphenidates.  

Prescription stimulants

While there exists a difference in molecular structure between amphetamines (like Adderall) and methylphenidate (like Ritalin), the results of abusing these drugs don’t differ much. Depending on the severity and duration of their ailment, patients are prescribed amphetamines or methylphenidates. A few noteworthy prescription stimulants are:

  • Adderall – Currently the most popular ADHD treatment drug and the most popularly prescribed amphetamine in the U.S., which wasn’t approved until 1960.
  • Dexedrine – Although used for other purposes, Dexedrine is most commonly used to treat ADHD. FRom World War II to the Gulf War, the U.S. Air Force used this drug to keep pilots awake, despite not being approved for the American market until 1976.
  • Ritalin – Similar in effect to amphetamines, Ritalin is a methylphenidate that produces the same results as Dexedrine and Adderall despite its difference in molecular structure. It was approved to treat hyperactive children in the U.S. in 1955.
  • Concerta – Approved recently in 2000, this drug is used to treat ADHD. A methylphenidate similar to Ritalin that contrasts in strength and duration.
  • Desoxyn – Uniquely known as the first medication prescribed to treat obesity in 1947, it functions as ADHD medication, too. Desoxyn is a methamphetamine.
  • Ephedrine – Most regularly used as an appetite suppressant and bronchodilator for people with asthma and has the key characteristics of a stimulant. It is usually acquired easily over the counter and regularly used as an ingredient in meth laboratories.

Illegal stimulants

Stimulants of the illegal variety include cocaine, crack and crystal meth. These illegal drugs produce similar effects to prescription drugs. Illegal stimulants tend to affect the user faster and have a more concentrated high,
compared to the timed release of prescription drugs.

  • Cocaine – A powder-form stimulant that goes through a laborious process starting with the leaves of a coca plant to the fine white powder it’s commonly known as. This powder can be soaked into the body several ways: snorted, swallowed, injected or rubbed into the gums. The user’s goal is to bring it into contact with blood vessels. Cocaine’s effect is instantaneous, as reported by the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR). The high is 30 minutes of fierce elation. These collateral effects last for one to two hours:
    1. Dilated pupils
    2. Paranoia
    3. Irritability
    4. Boosted heart rate
    5. Increased blood pressure
    6. Decreased appetite
    7. Impulsivity
  • Crack – Unlike regular cocaine, this rock-like, glassy form of cocaine is produced in a surreptitious laboratory with household ingredients such as baking soda. Like chemists or barbacks, they mix pure cocaine with other additives and boil it until it resembles rock candy. The crystals are slipped into a pipe, heated over an open flame, and smoked, at which point the crackling sounds are heard giving the drug its name. According to CESAR, the high is immediate, hitting the bloodstream and staying there for 15 minutes. Due to the heavy presence of other ingredients, it’s difficult to determine what the true effects of crack are. Many crack smokers report craving a lot more right after it fades, which is only minutes away from the initial hit. This, of course, urges the user to act on this craving and thus implants an addiction.

  • Crystal Meth – Short for Crystal Methamphetamine, meth begins with an extraction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from cold medicine (or elsewhere illegally). Toxic substances are added to create a chemical reaction such as anhydrous ammonia and lithium, red phosphorous, iodine crystals and water. Some type of solvent is added to separate the meth from the waste. Boiling the acidic gasses with the meth creates the crystals. Most notably, this kind of drug utilizes a combination of toxic, flammable, caustic, corrosive, and flammable chemicals. Meth labs are often homes that endanger neighbors as they may explode at any time or poison nearby people with toxic runoff or fumes. Adverse effects of Crystal Meth are:
    1. Raw, irritated sores from self-mutilation as users often feel bugs crawling on their skin
    2. Meth mouth: rotten teeth, dry mouth, loose or absent teeth
    3. Dangerous weight loss
    4. Extreme paranoia and twitching or ‘tweaking’
    5. Constant scratching
    6. High body temperature
    7. Mood swings and depression in between

Stimulant effects and abuse

Under the Controlled Substances Act, prescription stimulants are classified as Schedule II drugs due to their great propensity for abuse and addiction. Around 900,000 Americans misuse prescription stimulants every month.

Key stimulant withdrawal effects are:

  • Inability to feel pleasure
  • Miserable sleeping quality
  • Depression
  • Lack of cognitive functioning
  • Failure to feel pleasure
  • Difficulty concentrating

When stimulants enter the body a superabundance of dopamine is produced, and a surge of pleasure overwhelms the brain. Continuing stimulant use renders the brain unable to produce normal amounts of dopamine without the stimulant. In less technical terms, this means the activities and things that used to bring the user joy naturally can no longer have the same effect. Feelings of happiness will only come through stimulants and as such, an addiction develops through time. The stimulant-addict makes it their main priority. They will often begin making decisions that ignore negative consequences, personal- or health issue-related. Many of these consequences are long-term and not easily reversed. Needless to say, a cocaine addiction is best dealt with in the comfort of a drug rehabilitation center where withdrawals during detox and further psychotherapy can be handled by professionals.


Dangers of stimulant drug use

In addition to its strong ability to be addicting, much of the dangers of cocaine lie in its propensity to make the user impulsive and cognitively unable to consider long-term consequences of their actions. This includes taking more hits after the first one, therefore increasing dependency one hit at a time. It’s because of this that cocaine users tend to binge and plant an addiction, explaining cocaine’s high addictiveness. Importantly, it’s not uncommon for an addiction to stem from one or two hits of cocaine.

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