Stimulant Addiction


Medications that are typically prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, adolescents or adults. Stimulants, like amphetamines and methylphenidate, increase levels of dopamine in the brain and cause a calming and “focusing” effect. People with ADHD are hyperactive, impulsive and have difficulty paying attention. Stimulants help those individuals manage their hyperactivity and help improve their self-esteem, thinking ability and relationships. They typically come in the form of capsules or tablets and are prescribed by a therapist or psychologist.

How Are Prescription Stimulants Abused?

Stimulants are abused by people who want to take advantage of the calming and focusing effects of the medications. Students, teenagers and young adults use stimulants to enhance concentration for school or work. A new survey sponsored by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids found that one in every five college students abuses prescription stimulants. Studies have found that although stimulants can keep people awake, they do not enhance the ability to learn in people who do not have attention-deficit disorders.
People can abuse stimulants by taking a higher dose than prescribed or by taking the medications they do not have a prescription for.

People claim that stimulants produce other effects, such as:

  • Suppressing appetite
  • Prevent fatigue
  • Increase focus and attention
  • Weight loss
  • Performance Enhancement

If a high enough dose is crushed and snorted or diluted and injected, stimulants can produce a euphoric high.

Adderall, Concerta and Ritalin are examples of stimulants that are commonly abused because of their frequent prescription and availability.

How Do Prescription Stimulants Affect the Brain?

Stimulants target neurotransmitters in the brain associated with pleasure, movement and attention. The drug increases dopamine levels slowly to mimic the brain’s natural increase. This delivers the calming effect associated with stimulants. The doses prescribed by doctors are catered to the patient’s needs and can have harmful effects when not taken correctly.

When taken at an incorrect dose, prescription stimulants can produce a high, but can also lead to an addiction. It disrupts communication in the brain similarly to methamphetamine and the more frequently a high is attempted, the more likely someone will develop an addiction.

Addiction to stimulants can happen when stimulants are taken without prescription or counseling from a professional. Incorrect doses can cause an unsafe raise of dopamine in the brain causing the brain to crave the drug and addiction to occur. If addiction is reached and the drug is withheld from the brain, a person can have withdrawal symptoms including fatigue, depression and irregular sleep patterns.

Health Effects of Prescription Stimulants

People with attention deficit disorders find success with stimulants. When used responsibly, they allow people to lead more relaxing and productive lives. When abused stimulants are abused by people who do not have diagnosed conditions, stimulants can have several negative health repercussions.
Stimulants can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • High heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Decrease sleep
  • Decrease appetite
  • Malnutrition

Abusers of stimulants sometimes experience undesired mental effects such as hostility, paranoia and psychotic symptoms.

Treatment Options

The treatment options for a stimulant addiction are similar to those of other addictive drugs. Entering treatment and going through withdrawal are the first steps to breaking the body’s dependence on the drug. The next steps should be to enroll in a treatment plan that will keep the person from relapsing. The best treatment plans address cravings and triggers and supply the tools needed to avoid them.

Inpatient Rehab: Inpatient rehab centers are ideal for people who have serious prescription medication addictions or more than one addiction. Inpatient centers allow patients to live onsite for anywhere from 28 to 90 days. Residents of an inpatient center follow strict schedules and are treated by medical professionals. Patients are able to stay away from triggers and influences that might lead them back to stimulants.

Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral therapies like 12-step programs, NA (narcotics anonymous), holistic therapies, and cognitive behavioral therapies are also effective for rehabilitation.

Need more guidance?

If you feel you are starting to abuse stimulants or have maybe already become addicted, there are many programs and facilities that are dedicated to help you at any time, day or night.

Here is a compiled list of National Addiction Helplines.
For more help and information, visit Treatment for Stimulant Addiction.