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Stimulant Withdrawal

Opioid addiction has dominated the headlines in the past several years, but we have been overlooking the prominent role of stimulant drugs in our society. Crystal meth and other stimulant drugs have flooded our communities almost under the radar as the focus has been on opioids, but that is slowly starting to change. Meth is produced cheaply south of the border and then is smuggled north, causing another ripple in our society.

Methamphetamine is slowly infiltrating the country and killing people along the way. Although treatment is available with methods that have improved over the years, stopping a stimulant addiction can be tough. While the withdrawal process is not deadly, it can cause intense side effects and bring someone on the brink of relapse.

Stimulant drugs are considered dopamine reuptake inhibitor (DRI) drugs, and they block the action of dopamine transporters. It results in higher levels of dopamine in our brains. If someone tries to slow down or stop using on their own, they will feel emotionally drained and experience a deep depression.

Crippling depression may not be the only withdrawal symptoms of stimulants, but it can also lead to uncontrollable anxiety or thoughts that someone cannot move forward. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the effects that stimulant drugs can have during withdrawal.

Types of Stimulant Drugs

There are varying degrees of stimulant drugs available both legally and in the illicit market. The different types of substances can affect our bodies mildly or significantly, which can result in unpleasant side effects.

Some of the stimulant drugs can be used in moderation effectively and aid in weight loss or increase alertness. Doctors routinely prescribe Ritalin or Adderall to treat the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention-deficit disorder (ADD).

More often than not, they result in positive effects when the individual follows doctor’s orders, but more potent drugs can cause unfortunate outcomes, such as theft or addiction.

The most common stimulant drugs you will find include:

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

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What Are Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms?

While the drugs may vary in strength, the general withdrawal timeline is similar. The symptoms are going to differ from one person to another based on many factors. Some of which include when the last dose was consumed, how long their drug of choice was used, if it was legal or illegal if other drugs were used in conjunction, as well as their age and weight.

Stimulants are different than depressants because they can cause someone to “crash.” It is a scenario that involves unpleasant withdrawal symptoms like depression, being sluggish for extended periods, or an inability to fall asleep.

When our brains acclimate to a drug that produces excessive dopamine, it stops producing the chemical. When someone ceases the use of stimulants, their body will have a hard time creating it on its own. The person will start feeling uncomfortable and begin to crash as a result.

The most common symptoms you can expect during a stimulant crash include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of focus
  • Hyperactivity

Someone that has developed a stimulant addiction will likely start to abuse it in high doses. When this occurs, the side effects will be much more severe. As a result, a person will begin to experience a reverse effect of stimulants, which includes:

  • Dizziness
  • Increased appetite
  • Depression
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Severe headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart rate

The physical symptoms of stimulants are viewed as minor when they are compared to benzodiazepines or alcohol. With that said, they can still be downright uncomfortable. The psychological effects can be torturous. 

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What Are the Stages of Stimulant Withdrawal Timeline?

When stimulants are compared to other drugs, they are not life-threatening during this withdrawal phase. The symptoms are going to be dependent on the severity of your addiction, frequency of use, and the type of drugs involved. 

The most common side effect is depression, and it can occur an hour after you last consumed the drug. Someone who stops stimulants will sleep and eat in excess to compensate for their time spent lacking food or rest. Other symptoms you should expect:

  • Paranoia
  • Interrupted focus
  • Insomnia
  • Disrupted cognitive performance
  • Hallucinations
  • Bizarre dreams
  • Hypersomnia
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation

Cocaine is metabolized quickly in our bodies and boasts a half-life of 40 to 60 minutes. When a substance processes through the body, the effects will continue to decrease. Methamphetamine, however, may take up to 12 hours to achieve the same process. The effects of meth will be experienced longer and at a much more severe rate. 

Should I Detox?

The psychological withdrawal symptoms can prove too difficult to handle for some. The effects can cause draining depression, and someone attempting to forego this alone can experience suicidal thoughts. Likely, they will not be able to overcome this on their own, but they could entertain the idea of suicide. It can make detox a delicate process. The most effective way to help your precious life is to enter into NCBI. Addiction specialists will oversee your process and ensure your safety and comfort.

Cocaine on a black surface

In an effort to stabilize your body and mind, the doctors can prescribe and put you on rounds of antidepressant medications. They will also administer sleep aids to overcome your insomnia. Detox is the first and most intensive step in what is known as the continuum of care.

What Is the Next Treatment Step?

Detox is crucial in overcoming your stimulant withdrawal, but it will not be enough to overcome addiction. Once you complete detox, you must participate in treatment as your clinicians see fit. Each case will be treated in a delicate manner that it deserves. If you do not attend the following levels of care, you can set yourself up for failure after the difficult time you spent detoxing. You must understand what led to these destructive behaviors.

The types of treatment you should expect include:

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

Sources

The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64119/

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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