According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 1.5 million adults abuse stimulant drugs every year. Although cocaine is a popularly abused stimulant, people also abuse prescription stimulant medication and other illicit stimulants. Popular for their use in partying, studying, and staying awake, these drugs are commonly abused and are often much more socially acceptable to use than other classes of drugs like opioids.
Stimulants are a class of drugs that increase activity in the central nervous system. Commonly abused stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine, ephedrine, and amphetamine. Stimulants generally act quickly on the body, with drugs like cocaine having a half-life of under one hour. Drugs like meth can stay in your system for a few days, but the half-life of stimulants is generally pretty low.
Stimulants work by activating the central nervous system (CNS), which releases dopamine and adrenaline to the body. This may result in an increase in blood pressure, intense feelings of euphoria, and sweating. Stimulants can increase alertness and cognitive function, and may be used to help treat ADHD. Because of the energizing effects, stimulants are also often abused as “study drugs.”
Stimulant abuse can cause a number negative side effects with long-term use. Individual may experience different effects with long-term use, depending largely on the drug being abused, the length of use, the frequency of use, and the dosage. Common symptoms of long-term abuse of stimulants include:
Withdrawal from stimulants can be quite unpleasant. As dependence grows on the drug, individuals are likely to use the drug just to feel normal. Drug tolerance may also build, which means the individual needs to take more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. Over time, the body and brain become accustomed to functioning with the drugs in the system. When the individual stops taking the drug, they are likely to experience drug withdrawal.
Symptoms of stimulant withdrawal may include:
The experience of stimulant withdrawal varies from individual to individual. Those that have used for longer periods, are using more often, abuse at higher doses, and are abusing other drugs are more likely to experience severe symptoms of withdrawal.
The timeline of withdrawal symptoms will vary from drug to drug. The half-life of stimulants varies greatly. Generally speaking, the symptoms will begin arising within the first day or two, and will have peaked within the first week.
During the first few days, symptoms of withdrawal will begin to arise. This may include cravings to use stimulants again, physical discomfort and pain, and irritability. During these first few days, the arising and worsening of symptoms may begin to make the individual feel like returning to stimulant use to cure the discomfort.
During the following few days, symptoms will reach their peak. The worst of the experience will generally be sometime around the fifth day. During these days the individual may experience mood swings, anger, feelings of hopelessness, and depression. Although the experience may be incredibly uncomfortable, the good news is that symptoms may begin to subside during these days.
In the second week after quitting abusing stimulants, the symptoms of withdrawal will subside substantially. Cravings are likely to linger, as are the mood swings and depression. However, the physical pains will improve quite a bit, headaches will likely subside, and sleeping habits are likely to improve.
Unfortunately, many people who go through withdrawal end up relapsing due to the severe cravings. At a detox facility, medical and clinical professionals can help you to come off drugs in a safe and effective way. Continuing at a residential treatment center proves to greatly increase the chance of staying sober. At an addiction treatment center, you can have the opportunity to build a sober life for yourself.