What are stimulants?

Stimulants are a class of drugs that enhance brain activity, causing an increase in alertness, attention, and energy. Due to their energizing qualities, they are often referred to as “uppers”. Stimulants are used as pharmaceuticals to treat a wide variety of ailments including depression, ADD/ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity. A wide variety of street drugs classified as stimulants have been abused by people for thousands of years. Rehab centers have been challenged to deal with an increasing number of stimulant addicts with the recent popularity of cocaine and methamphetamine. 

Examples of stimulants:

  • Cocaine: A white, crystalline powder which acts as a power central nervous system stimulant.
  • Caffeine: Both legal and unregulated in almost all countries of the world, caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug on the planet.
  • Methamphetamine: A powerful central nervous system stimulant with a high potential for abuse. Success in meth rehab attempts are typically lower than most other drugs.
  • Nicotine: The main psychoactive drug in tobacco, nicotine is highly addictive and can be one of the most difficult addictions to break.
  • MDMA (“Ecstasy”): A psychoactive drug of the amphetamine class, MDMA has been tested for its therapeutic effects, but is also widely abused (despite being criminalized in most countries).
  • Amphetamine (Adderall, Ritalin…etc.): A central nervous system stimulant often used as a prescription medication to treat ADD/ADHD.

Treating Stimulant Addiction

Stimulants are a class of psychoactive drugs which act to improve mental and physical function. Stimulants are often used in a medical setting for the treatment of ADHD, obesity, and narcolepsy, but they are often abused for recreational purposes. When abused, some stimulants have a high potential for addiction. An addict may have a hard time quitting the drug and might consider entering rehab or a substance abuse treatment program.

When deciding how to handle a stimulant addiction it is important to take into account which stimulant you are abusing.

Caffeine – A central nervous system stimulant, caffeine is the most widely used stimulant in the world to reduce physical fatigue. It is legal to consume across the world. Heavy caffeine use can lead to dependency. Conditions associated with caffeine dependency include nervousness, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, headaches, and heart palpitations. Withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening and only typically last from two to nine days. It is not usually necessary to seek a professional rehab program to treat a caffeine addiction.

Nicotine – The main ingredient in cigarettes and chewing tobacco, nicotine is used across the world as one of the most popular legal stimulants. Nicotine is very addictive and extremely hard to stop using once the body is dependent on the drug. The American Heart Association said that nicotine addiction is one of the hardest addictions to break. Many personal attempts to quit smoking end up failing. There are several smoking rehab products that are offered both over the counter and in prescription form.

Cocaine – Cocaine is a psychoactive stimulant which acts on the central nervous system. It is widely abused across the world and has a very high potential for addiction. It is illegal to distribute, grow, or possess cocaine for non-medicinal purposes in almost all countries. Cocaine causes a short burst of euphoria which lasts for 30 minutes to an hour. Occasional cocaine use does not typically lead to addiction, but chronic use can cause a powerful physical and psychological dependence. Cocaine rehab can be a difficult task and a serious user will likely need to enter a professional treatment program.

Methamphetamine – Meth is a synthetic stimulant of the amphetamine class of drugs. It has an extremely high potential for addiction. It acts on the neurotransmitter dopamine, causing and intense euphoric rush. Meth is relatively simple to manufacture at home, which has contributed to its widespread abuse across the world. After a person becomes physically and psychologically dependent on meth, it is very difficult to rehab successfully. The long lasting cognitive effects caused by meth make treatment especially difficult. The “amphetamine psychosis” associated with heavy meth use has similar effects on the brain as schizophrenia and can last for up to a year after the drug has been used. Most experts suggest meth addicts choose treatment programs that last from several months to a year. Treatment should also include an extensive outpatient program to ensure the patient doesn’t relapse.

Detoxification of Stimulants

Stimulants refer to a class of substances which raise the levels of physiological or nervous activity in the body. Stimulants carry a high potential for abuse and detox can be a long, difficult process. Stimulants help enhance brain activity by changing the way brain neurons communicate. With extended use, stimulants can fundamentally change the way your brain’s neurons work, causing long lasting side effects. Some popular stimulants used worldwide include methamphetamine, cocaine, nicotine, caffeine, and MDMA.

Withdrawals from stimulant detox can have several negative effects on the body. With most stimulants, the withdrawal effects are not life threatening and do not necessarily need to be performed in a professional environment. With the more potent stimulants, professional rehab is recommended due to the intense psychological effects caused by stimulant detox. These negative psychological effects like depression, psychosis, and mood swings make abstaining from the drug especially difficult and relapse is common.

Withdrawal effects during stimulant detox include:

  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations and delusions

There a many horror stories about people becoming addicted to stimulants and being unable to identify the problem before the drug has taken control of their life. One such story involves former rap star Big Lurch of Compton, California. While under the influence of methamphetamine, Big Lurch stabbed his roommate (a woman with two children). He then proceeded to slice her chest open and cut out one of her lungs. When police arrived at the scene, Big Lurch was lying nude in the street, covered in blood. As they tried to apprehend him he screamed and fought back. It took four officers to handcuff him and get him into the patrol car. When the police investigated the scene, they found the lung Big Lurch’s coffee table with bites taken out of it. Big Lurch had chewed and actually swallowed pieces of his roommate’s lung. A stimulant detox program was successfully used once Big Lurch was apprehended and he is now spending life in prison for murder.

If someone you know is having problems abusing stimulants, a stimulant detox program may be necessary. When confronting the person, it is important to talk it over with other concerned family and friends to formulate a plan to confront them about it. There are also many non-profit organizations which serve as anonymous resources for help with drug addiction. While there are currently no medications approved for the treatment of stimulant addiction, stimulant detox centers provide professional experience and advice to those in need. Depending on the type of stimulant, a patient may need to spend up to a full year in a rehab facility. It is important for the patient to pay close attention to the detox regiment provided by the rehab facility. These people know how to beat the addiction and it is always best to heed their advice.



About Stimulant Drugs

Stimulants, or “uppers”, refer to several groups of drugs that act on neurotransmitters in the brain to elevate alertness, awareness, and increase physical activity or energy. The rush of energy caused by stimulants leads to a “crash” once the drug wears off. Some people choose to postpone the crash by using more stimulants. This is an example of stimulant abuse and can easily lead to addiction. Drugs categorized as stimulants include nicotine, caffeine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA (ecstasy).

Statistics on stimulant addiction:

  • The United States consumes about 85 percent of the world’s methyphenidate (brand name Ritalin)
  • Average per capita use of amphetamine across the United States was 1,060 grams per 100,000 people
  • A 1996 DEA study showed that in Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Indiana, roughly 30-50 percent of adolescents in drug treatment centers reported non-medical use of Ritalin
  • In 2003, 20.8 million Americans aged 12 or older had used prescription stimulants non-medically at least once in their lifetime
  • A National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) study reported that methamphetamine was the most widely used stimulant in the United States (5.2 percent of the population or 12.3 million persons)

Stimulants describe a wide range of drugs from caffeine to methamphetamine. Some stimulants are safe to use in small doses, while others should be avoided at all costs. In a medical setting, amphetamines have successfully been used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity. When used in appropriate doses, even the most addictive stimulants have proven helpful. However, when abused, stimulant addiction can become have devastating side effects including heart failure, amphetamine psychosis, paranoid thoughts, sleep disorders, and depression.

There are many stimulants that are abused recreationally as street drugs. These include methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA (ecstasy). Stimulants can be addictive when abused to the point that the body becomes physically and psychologically dependent on the drug. This can happen very easily in stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine. These drugs affect the central nervous system and can have an intense addictive hold on the user. Drugs like MDMA are less likely to lead to addiction, but still have the potential to do so.

Stimulants carry some very serious side effects, even if only used short term. While not common, in some cases death can result for an overdose of stimulants. Stimulant overdoses can lead to heart problems, stroke, and convulsions. The potential for serious complications or death increases if stimulants are mixed with other drugs (as they often are). For example, many people like to abuse cocaine and alcohol, producing a dangerous chemical experiment within their bodies. Cocaine is categorized as a stimulant, or “upper”, while alcohol is a depressant, or “downer”. The combination of the two produces a third substance called cocaethylene. This intensifies the euphoric effects making the combination much stronger than just one of the drugs alone. The risk of death increases greatly when drugs are mixed.