Stimulants are any of a large number of drugs, both legal and illegal, which increase central nervous system activity and/or provide energising and invigorating effects. Stimulants include illegal drugs such as methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy) and cocaine, and prescription substances including methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine; alongside their use in medicine to treat disorders including ADHD, stimulants are widely used recreationally – thanks to their energising and euphoric “highs” – and as performance-enhancing drugs.
Most stimulants are to some degree addictive, with some such as methamphetamine and cocaine notoriously so, and long-term stimulant abuse carries with it a great many very severe health risks – indeed, some stimulants can cause fatal overdoses even after only one instance of consumption. In the UK, stimulants are the second most popular type of illegal drug after cannabis; collectively known as “uppers”, “rave drugs” and by many other names, they can be found in every town and city in the country and stimulant addiction is a significant problem nationwide.
While the precise effects vary from one stimulant to another, generally speaking, stimulants create a feeling of invigoration and mild to extreme euphoria, heightened mood, an increased ability to focus, enhanced confidence, increased libido, and greater sociability. In some cases, these may be accompanied by slightly altered perceptions and even mild hallucinations. Unfortunately, stimulants are also associated with numerous negative side-effects including potentially dangerous physical effects such as increased heart rate hypertension, breathing difficulties, raised body temperature, dehydration and cardiac arrhythmia; and psychological effects including aggression, irritability, paranoia, psychotic episodes and suicidal ideation.
Stimulants – especially cocaine and methamphetamine – are a factor in a great number of drug overdoses each year; typically an excess of stimulant will lead to heart attack, respiratory failure, stroke, cerebral haemorrhaging and/or hyperthermia-related organ failure. “How much is too much” varies significantly from one drug to the next and depending on the physiology of the user, but it is important to note that first-time stimulant users have died after taking even apparently moderate dosages. Stimulant use is also accompanied by a greater risk of accidents and/or the negative consequences of risk-taking behaviour such as driving whilst under the influence and unsafe sex.
At low to moderate dosages, stimulant use may be very difficult to identify in any given individual as many of the effects are relatively easy to mask. Beyond a certain point however intoxication is likely to become obvious, with certain traits becoming prominent including speaking rapidly and loudly (and possibly incoherently); twitching; rapid movements; jittery eyes; volatile moods; sexual disinhibition; responding to increased body temperature (including by sweating and possibly removing clothes); inability to focus; grinding teeth; dilated pupils; and muscle spasms. As many stimulants are consumed by snorting, a runny nose and other flulike symptoms, and even nosebleeds may also manifest.
Over the long term, along with the negative side-effects mentioned in the previous section, stimulant abuse may result in significant neurological damage leading to cognitive disability, and in the emergence of stimulant psychosis disorder. It is extremely common for stimulant addicts also to suffer from depression, including major depressive disorder, due both to the effects of drugs directly upon the brain and to the impact of addiction upon their life prospects: stimulant addiction can be devastating financially and professionally and in terms of its consequences for the addict’s relationships with loved ones and friends.
Stimulant addiction can result in the manifestation of serious withdrawal symptoms if and when the addict ceases taking the drugs. The precise nature and severity of the symptoms will vary considerably from one user to another depending on various factors including the specific drugs in question, the dosages consumed; the frequency of consumption; the length of the addiction; and the physiology of the addict, among others.
For many people going through withdrawal can be extremely distressing, even apparently unbearable, without support, and a tragically high number of people each year result to self-harm or even suicide in an attempt to cope with or escape – or put an end to – the unpleasant symptoms which may manifest. As a result, withdrawal is a perilous process and should never be attempted without the assistance of a medical professional: various “at home detox” kits are available on the internet but doctors strongly advise against this method, for the aforementioned reason.
Many stimulant addicts benefit from residential rehabilitation (“rehab”), in part because the first phase of rehab is invariably a medically assisted detox, with doctors on hand to ensure the safety of the addict and to minimise where possible the worst effects of withdrawal symptoms.
As mentioned above, each case of addiction and subsequent withdrawal is unique, and it is impossible to provide a timeline of withdrawal which will be applicable to every addict. However, if you are addicted to stimulants, a rough guide to what you may expect from withdrawal is as follows:
If symptoms – in particular depression – persist for longer than two weeks, you may be suffering from post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) which may last for months or even years and may require therapy to deal with the worst effects.
At Primrose Lodge, we personalise our treatment to cater to the individual requirements of each addict. We provide a caring and supportive environment, and our highly trained and experienced medical staff will be on hand at all times to ensure withdrawal is as smooth and as comfortable as it can be.
Treating Stimulant Addiction
The addictive nature of stimulants has been known for many years and a large number of different treatment methods have emerged. Some of these are not endorsed by the medical community, and may be extremely dangerous to the user; do not embark on a course of treatment – especially one which you have found online without a recommendation from a doctor or addiction specialist – without consulting your GP.
Your GP should always be your first port of call and you may wish to discuss with them options such as private addiction counselling, NHS services and support groups. However, the consensus amongst the medical community is that rehab is the most effective treatment option for long-term recovery as only rehab provides a holistic combination of medically assisted detox, a variety of therapy models, dietary and fitness plans, peer group support and reliable confidentiality.
Rehab has proven extraordinarily successful in helping countless addicts to achieve long-term recovery. Some of the advantages of rehab include:
If you are struggling with an addiction to stimulants, you are by no means alone: unfortunately many thousands of Britons are dependent on these drugs. However, one silver lining to this greatly problematic cloud is that there is now a great level of expertise in dealing with this condition, and if you are ready to take the first key step and reach out for help, that expertise can be at your disposal. Addiction is a terrible illness and places a huge strain on the addict and on those around, and overcoming addiction can genuinely mean the difference between life and death. In order to avoid becoming another tragic statistic, and to get back on the path towards a happy, healthy, successful life, get in touch with one of our addiction specialists today:
Call 0203 553 9263 and take that first step on the road to recovery.