Stimulants are prescribed to a wide range of ages to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. They create a calming and focusing effect and are commonly abused by individuals without ADHD who want to focus on school, losing weight or preventing fatigue. Stimulants have a high risk for abuse because of their widespread availability. This misuse of the medication often leads to an addiction.
Seeking Treatment: If a person finds that they cannot function in their daily lives without taking a stimulant or feel uncomfortable symptoms when they stop taking stimulants for any period of time, it could be time to seek treatment for an addiction. Seeking treatment is not an easy decision to make but it is a necessary first step if a person wants to live an addiction-free life.
Detoxification: Detoxing from an addiction to stimulants can be a frightening and very uncomfortable time. Detoxification is the time shortly after drugs are no longer in the system and the body is trying to rid itself of the toxins that are left over. An individual may exhibit a wide range of symptoms including:
Symptoms may vary in appearance and severity depending on the frequency of use and the amount of stimulant usually abused. Detoxification can last for several days, often with long periods of sleep in between stages. Detoxification is the most vulnerable time for someone because the desire to return to the comfort of stimulants will be very high. Having a support system of family, friends or medical professionals will make the experience more comfortable and will keep the person from relapsing. When detoxing, it is recommended that a person be under the supervision of a medical professional to ensure that they are not in any danger. The easiest way to do this is to go through detoxification at an inpatient rehabilitation center. Rehabilitation centers have the medical staff and appropriate medications to decrease the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
Utilizing Therapy: There are currently no medications that are approved to treat an addiction to prescription stimulants. It is usually recommend that patients gradually taper their drug dosage to better manage withdrawal symptoms. This method, combined with finding the right behavioral interventions is a good way to begin a treatment journey. Every individual needs their own personalized plan of recovery, which is why working with a medical professional, counselor or therapist is essential.
Staying on Track: Once a treatment plan has been made, it is important to build a strong support team to prevent relapses and encourage the patient when treatment is tough.
There are no FDA approved medications that treat a stimulant addiction, but there are several pharmacological options for those who need help with withdrawal symptoms.
Antidepressants: Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed during stimulant withdrawal to help curb the intense feelings of depression that can arise.
Pain relievers: Low-dose pain relievers can reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms when used under the recommendation of a doctor. Reducing withdrawal symptoms increases a person’s chances of completing detoxification.
Under the supervision of a medical professional, the most patients find success when they actively participate in behavioral therapies. There are many different types of behavioral therapies and using one or a combination of a couple have shown to be extremely helpful in reaching sobriety.
Psychotherapy: Addiction is a complicated disease that affects both the physical and emotional body. Psychotherapy is a type of behavioral intervention that is led by a mental health counselor and aims to explore the behaviors and feelings that lead a person to abuse stimulants. Psychotherapy addresses the external triggers (such as environment and influence) and the internal triggers (such as thoughts and feelings) that lead to addiction. Psychotherapy sessions usually occur one-on-one and are used alongside other types of behavioral interventions.There are several specific forms of therapy that fall under the umbrella of psychotherapy that can aid those recovering from addiction including cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and psychodynamic psychotherapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most popular forms of psychotherapy and is widely used by rehabilitation centers. In this therapy, therapists and patients openly discuss the relationship between a person’s thoughts and behaviors. As a result, the triggers that lead a person to stimulant abuse can be identified. Once identified, a plan can be made to avoid triggers and replace the need to abuse drugs with positive and constructive behavior. Although cognitive-behavioral therapy is only meant to last for a limited number of sessions, the plans that are made with the therapist should be manageable enough to be carried through after therapy has ended.
Support group therapy is one of the oldest and most practised methods of therapy. They can be held almost anywhere and are often sponsored by churches, rehabilitation centers or hospitals. Support groups and 12-step groups are very helpful because they create an open environment where peers can discuss their struggles and encourage one another. Support groups are a judgement free place where people want to help one another overcome addiction and sometimes even allow their members to remain anonymous. People go to share stories about their recovery and encourage others to stay on a good path. Studies have shown that is a person undergoing treatment becomes active in a support group, they have a better chance of overcoming their addiction. This is due in large part to having a tangible goal to achieve and a place to release frustrations instead of relapsing. Achieving successful sobriety is not easy and is often a lifelong struggle but being a part of a local support group shows that people struggling are not alone.
Finding a Sponsor: Finding a sponsor when undergoing treatment for a stimulant addiction is sometimes a requirement of a support group. A sponsor is someone who has successfully remained sober for at least 5 years and can act as a mentor. They offer encouragement through the struggles of the recovery process.
Contingency management interventions/ motivational incentives: This behavioral intervention uses physical rewards as motivation to avoid relapse. The physical incentives usually come in the form of a voucher or a prize can be exchanged for food items, movie passes or other valuable goods. If a participant can effectively avoid relapsing over a determined period of time, the incentives increase in value. Support groups and 12-step programs typically employ this method to encourage participants to continuously return to therapy.
To find a treatment facility in your area, call SAMHSA’s National helpline at 1-800-622-HELP or use the services locator on their website. Want more information about your addiction? Read more on drug specific recovery resources.