Stimulant Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Understanding Stimulant Addiction

Learn About Stimulant Addiction

Stimulants are a category of substances that include cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), stimulants are Schedule II substances, which means they are likely to be abused, as they are highly addictive.

Stimulants such as prescription amphetamines can be highly beneficial in improving the lives of those who battle with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Medications such as Adderall and Ritalin are capable of increasing an individual’s attention and can allow them to focus on their tasks at hand. When those who do not have ADHD consume substances such as these, they can benefit from a sharper mental state that can improve upon alertness, energy, and attention. Cocaine and methamphetamines can bring about similar effects, as well as produce feelings of self-confidence all while triggering extreme euphoria. Stimulants are also capable of suppressing one’s appetite, which makes them appealing to those who desire to lose weight.

When individuals abuse any form of a stimulant to the extent that it becomes invasive in all areas of their lives and functionality, it is likely that they have developed stimulant use disorder. Once an addiction such as this develops, it can be exceptionally challenging to defeat it without acquiring professional help. Luckily, help is available and accessible for stimulants abuse.


Stimulant Addiction Statistics

Sadly, the abuse of stimulants is something that impacts a number of individuals across the country. Roughly 1.2 million people abuse methamphetamines, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that nearly 3.6 million people are abusing cocaine nationwide. Regarding amphetamines, it is reported that nearly 13 million people abuse these substances non-medically.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Stimulant Addiction

Below are some of the causes and risk factors connected to the abuse of and addiction to stimulant substances:

Environmental: The environment in which one is raised and/or lives in can increase his or her chances of starting to abuse stimulants and, in turn, developing stimulant use disorder. For stimulants such as cocaine, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that being prenatally exposed to cocaine or having parents who abuse it during one’s childhood can increase an individual’s chances of also abusing this substance in the future. In addition, bearing witness to community violence or the abuse of other forms of drugs and/or alcohol can also serve as an environmental risk factor for this type of disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Being impulsive or possessing other similar personality traits
  • Having a diagnosis of childhood conduct disorder
  • Abusing other types of substances
  • Suffering from other mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or antisocial personality disorder
  • Growing up in an unstable home environment
  • Being exposed to violence during childhood

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

When individuals abuse stimulants, the signs and symptoms that they display will vary based on a variety of different factors. Some of these factors can include the type of stimulant that is being abused, the length of time that it is abused for, and the frequency in which it is being abused. Some examples of these signs and symptoms can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Hypervigilance
  • No longer participating in activities that were enjoyed
  • No longer fulfilling obligations at school, work, or home
  • Changes in social interactions
  • Repetitive movements
  • Engaging in dangerous activities in order to obtain one’s stimulant of choice

Physical symptoms:

  • Perspiration or chills
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Seizures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chest pain
  • Lowered or elevated blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Experiencing intense cravings for stimulants

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Brief periods of euphoria
  • Psychological distress
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of emotional reactivity
  • Anger


Effects of Stimulant Addiction

When stimulant abuse is factored into an individual’s life, he or she becomes more likely to go through a variety of negative repercussions. The effects that will develop will vary depending on the type of stimulant that is being abused, the way in which it is being consumed, the frequency of use, and the length of time that an individual has been using it for.

The intravenous abuse of stimulants can put users at risk for going through the following physical effects:

  • Becoming infected with tuberculosis
  • Lung infections
  • Contracting hepatitis or HIV/AIDS
  • Puncture marks

Snorting stimulants can cause users to experience the following health effects:

  • Punctured nasal septum
  • Nasal irritation
  • Sinusitis
  • Nasal bleeding

Abusing stimulants by inhaling them can cause users to fall victim to the following dangers:

  • Pneumonitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Respiratory distress
  • Coughing

Stimulant abuse of any kind can cause the following to occur:

  • Job loss
  • Chest pains
  • Academic failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Deteriorated relationships
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Significant weight loss
  • Malnutrition

Co-Occurring Disorders

Stimulant Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

When individuals are struggling with stimulant use disorder, they tend to also battle with other mental health conditions as well. In addition, these individuals are more likely to abuse other types of substances, too. The most common substances that individuals who abuse stimulants also abuse are sedatives, which can help relieve some of the uncomfortable side effects that can develop from stimulant abuse.

Below are some of the many disorders than can co-occur with a stimulant use disorder:

  • Gambling disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD)

Withdrawal & Overdose

Know the effects of Stimulant Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of stimulant withdrawal: When individuals either stop their use of stimulants or dramatically reduce the amount that they are consuming, they will likely go through a period of withdrawal. Below are some examples of the many signs and symptoms of stimulant withdrawal:

  • Other types of functional impairment
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams
  • Disturbed social interactions
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired ability to perform occupationally
  • Increase in appetite
  • Psychomotor retardation
  • Dysphoric mood
  • Psychomotor agitation

Effects of stimulant overdose: Sadly, the risk of overdosing is very possible when individuals are stuck within a cycle of stimulant abuse. An overdose happens when individuals consume more of a substance that their bodies are able to handle. As the dosage they ingest continues to increase, or they start taking it more frequently, their risk for overdose increases. If an overdose happens, it is imperative that medical attention is immediately sought. Below are some of the signs and symptoms connected to stimulant overdose:

  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Irregular breathing
  • Cramping
  • Hypertension
  • Vomiting
  • Feelings of panic
  • Heart palpitations