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Stimulant Withdrawal

In a time where opioids have dominated headlines, we have been ignoring the uprise of stimulant drugs. Methamphetamine has been flooding our towns as it has been cheaply produced over the border. It is then smuggled into our country to cause another wave of devastation in the endless war on drugs. 

Stimulants like methamphetamine have swept our country and are silently killing its users. Fortunately, treatment is available for those struggling with ongoing addictions to stimulants. While it is not deadly, stimulant withdrawal can bring intense side effects that force a user back to using.

Stimulant drugs as a whole are seen as dopamine reuptake inhibitor (DRI) drugs. These block the action of dopamine transporters, which results in higher levels of dopamine. When someone attempts to stop on their own, they can feel emotionally drained and stumble into a deep depression. 

Unfortunately, in addition to the crippling depression, abrupt cessation of stimulants may result in terrible anxiety or an inability for someone to think they can move forward. We’ll take a look at the various stimulant drugs available legally and on the black market.

Types of Stimulant Drugs

Different stimulant drugs can be purchased over-the-counter or bought on the illegal black market. The different substances vary in how they affect our bodies and can produce downright uncomfortable effects.

When some of these drugs are used in moderation, they can produce significant benefits, such as weight loss or increased alertness. It is the reason why doctors prescribe Adderall or Ritalin to children and adults struggling with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention-deficit disorder (ADD).

The drugs can have positive effects when the instructions are followed, but more potent stimulants can cause devastating outcomes, such as theft and addiction.

The most common stimulant drugs include:

  • Amphetamine
  • Caffeine
  • Diet pills
  • Cocaine
  • Ritalin
  • Adderall
  • Methamphetamine

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What Are Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms?

Although the drugs may vary, their withdrawal timeline is similar. However, withdrawal symptoms are going to differ from one individual to another based on different factors. Some of these factors include how long the drug of choice was consumed, when the last dose of the stimulant drug was consumed, if it was legal or illegal, if other stimulants were used in conjunction, and the user’s age and weight.

Stimulant drugs are different than depressants as they can cause the individual to “crash.” The unpleasant withdrawal symptoms will include depression, an inability to sleep, and feeling downright sluggish for periods. 

When the brain adjusts to a drug that produces excess amounts of dopamine, it stops producing the chemical on its own. When someone stops using, and the body cannot produce its dopamine, life becomes uncomfortable. It is known as a crash because there isn’t natural dopamine to supplement the body without a stimulant.

The most common symptoms of a stimulant crash include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Unable to focus
  • Anxiety

Someone that has developed an addiction to stimulants and abuses it in high doses will experience more severe side effects. The most common of these, which is known as a reverse effect of stimulants, will include:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Severe mood swings
  • An increased appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Severe headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia

The physical symptoms of stimulants are considered mild in comparison when compared to opioids or benzodiazepines, but that does not mean they can be tolerated. The psychological effects are often severe.

What Are the Stages of Stimulant Withdrawal Timeline?

When you compare stimulants to other drugs, it is not life-threatening during withdrawal. The symptoms will depend on the type, frequency of stimulant use, and severity of the addiction. 

It will typically include severe depression, and the onset can occur an hour after your last use, but last up to several days. Someone stopping will often sleep endlessly and eat in excess to compensate for their time spent with a lack of sleep and food intake. Other symptoms you can expect:

  • Unable to focus
  • Paranoia
  • Disrupted cognitive performance
  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Hallucinations

Cocaine is metabolized quickly and has a half-life of 40 to 60 minutes. When half the substance has been processed, the effects will continue to diminish after this stage. Methamphetamine can take up to 12 hours to achieve the same process. Meth’s effects will be experienced much longer and take a more extended period to recover from.

Should I Detox?

The psychological symptoms of stimulant withdrawal are enough to push someone into a relapse. The effects can be draining and the depression crippling, and someone attempting to do this cold-turkey will likely fail.

The most effective way to move into a stable and sober state is to enter into a medical detox facility, where addiction specialists will oversee the process, ensuring your safety.

Don’t be fooled by the less dangerous symptoms and not thinking you need long-term treatment. Withdrawal is a time of unpredictability, and having doctors in your corner is the only way to forego this process. The experience will be unique, and addiction specialists will treat it as such. 

The staff may place you on antidepressants to battle the depression or administer sleep aids to overcome insomnia.

lines of cocaine

In any case, detox is the first step in the continuum of care

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

Detox is an essential piece of the puzzle, but it cannot contribute to the success of sobriety on its own. Once you finish detox, all levels of care must be followed as the clinicians determine. Each case will be treated in a unique manner it deserves. Not attending treatment will increase the risk of relapse as the person will fail to understand their destructive behaviors.

The types of treatment you may attend include:

  • Residential treatment
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient treatment (IOP)
  • Outpatient treatment

Each client will be examined on a case-by-case basis. It will determine the level of care that helps them the most. Since the process is unique to the specific needs, it will be revised as needed.

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Methamphetamine. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

(n.d.). Stimulants. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/taxonomy/term/346

Treatment, C. for S. A. (1999, January 1). Chapter 5-Medical Aspects of Stimulant Use Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64323/

Treatment, C. for S. A. (1970, January 1). Chapter 3. Intensive Outpatient Treatment and the Continuum of Care. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64088/

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