Stimulants are a class of drugs with an interesting and unique history. Although they are controlled substances in most countries nowadays, this was not always the case. In fact, stimulants were readily available decades ago – for purposes of treating a wide range of maladies – without a prescription.
For example, did you know that Allied troops were given amphetamines during World War II to keep them awake, alert, and positively motivated? The Axis powers did the same. In Japan, one of the amphetamines they used was the drug Philopon. The Japanese government began distributing it across the country at the conclusion of the war in order to get rid of their stockpiles. It wasn’t until the medical community started recognising the addictive nature of stimulants that they were brought back under control.
The history of stimulant drugs notwithstanding, addictions to these drugs are a very real problem requiring professional treatment. If you or someone you care about is struggling with prescription stimulants, Addiction Helper is here to assist you. Please call our 24-hour helpline for more information about addiction symptoms, treatment options, and facilities in your area offering both residential and outpatient programmes.
Basics of Prescription Stimulants
Stimulants get their name from the fact that they increase alertness and attention by working on the central nervous system to increase energy levels. Many of these drugs also create mild feelings of euphoria at the same time. Because they are psychoactive in nature, they are also highly addictive.
In times past, stimulants were prescribed to treat a full range of health conditions including obesity, asthma, and certain kinds of neurological problems. They were brought under control once the medical community began to better understand their side effects and potential for abuse.
Today, prescription stimulants are not used nearly as widely as in the past. They are mainly prescribed for the treatment of depression, narcolepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obesity – as a short-term appetite suppressant. The most common stimulants prescribed today include Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Dexedrine and Provigil.
Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction
Most people in the throes of prescription stimulant addiction started taking the drugs for legitimate medical purposes. There are those who buy the drugs on the street without ever having an original prescription, but such cases are the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, the high potential for addiction associated with stimulants makes it very easy to become dependent on the drugs, regardless of the purpose for taking them.
Below are the most common signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction:
- An unnatural absence of normal fatigue
- Increasing hostility, aggressiveness and paranoia
- Gradually developing irregular heartbeat
- Regular bouts of nausea and vomiting
- Altered sexual behaviour
- A reduction of social inhibitions
- Gradually developing malnutrition due to loss of appetite
- Gradually developing skin disorders
- Frequent episodes of buying medications online
- A tendency to ‘doctor shop’ for new prescriptions
- Increased incidence of hallucinations and convulsions
- Gradually unrealistic perceptions of personal ability and power.
Prescription stimulant addiction does have physical effects that include things like blurred vision and chest pains. But often, these physical symptoms are confused with other disorders. It is more appropriate to look to the behavioural and psychological changes to confirm someone is abusing prescription stimulants.
The challenge with prescription stimulants is tolerance. In other words, the body gets used to the drug the longer it is taken. This requires the user to take more in order to reap the same benefits. Tolerance is an immediate precursor to addiction.
Risks of Stimulant Addiction
Long-term use of prescription stimulants carries with it some very serious consequences. One of the most profound and severe is permanent damage to blood vessels in the brain and heart. It is not uncommon for long-term abusers to face an increased risk of death by heart attack or stroke as a result of their drug use.
Other risks of prescription stimulant addiction include:
- damage to the liver, kidney and lungs
- severe malnutrition and weight loss
- long-term cognitive impairment
- long-term (and sometimes permanent) psychosis
- damage to the brain resulting in epilepsy or other seizure disorders.
It should be understood that just because a doctor prescribes a stimulant for legitimate health reasons does not make that drug safe to use long-term. Unfortunately, far too many people who use prescription drugs do so under the false assumption that they are harmless. They are not. Prescription drugs are available only by prescription because they are dangerous. Like all other prescription medications, stimulants must be taken exactly as directed by a doctor in order to mitigate potential risks.
Treatment for Stimulant Addiction
Convincing someone addicted to prescription stimulants to get help is not always the easiest thing to do. Users do not realise they are addicted in most cases, so they may be offended by any suggestion that they seek help from a counsellor or therapist. Be that as it may, professional treatment is usually the only way to overcome an addiction to prescription stimulants.
Withdrawal from stimulants include some uncomfortable side effects that can prove serious. Sudden withdrawal can lead to depression, fatigue, irregular sleep patterns and other problems. Therefore, detox should only be carried out under the supervision of medical professionals at a residential treatment centre or through a home detox programme. Treatment is most effective when detox is combined with psychotherapeutic treatments and group support.
Addiction Helper works with a variety of treatment providers and support groups to help addicts and their families. We can assess your circumstances to determine whether addiction is present. If so, we can also walk you through the treatment options available to you. Finally, we can refer you to the treatment clinic of your choosing.
If prescription stimulants are a problem for you or someone you love, there is no need to wait to begin recovery. We can get you started the moment you contact us on our 24-hour helpline.