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How To Overcome The Addiction To Stimulants

How to Overcome an Addiction to Stimulants

Stimulants encompass a wide range of different substances that include legal and illicitly used drugs with a large variety of effects and purposes. While some are mainly used illegally, many are prescribed for legitimate medical purposes. However, misuse of either kind can lead to serious negative consequences and side effects, which can include addiction, overdose, withdrawal symptoms, and potential death. 


For those trying to kick their smoking habit or nicotine addiction, it is crucial to explore the various treatment plans and methods used to break the habit successfully. Because nicotine is both a stimulant and a depressant, it is vital to speak with your GP about tailored treatment plans specific to you, which may include psychological intervention, NRTs, or controlled nicotine prescriptions



What is a Stimulant?

Stimulants increase central nervous system activity by interacting with various neurotransmitter systems, including norepinephrine and dopamine. This ultimately leads to an increase in attention levels, heightened alertness, and a noticeable boost in energy, among other effects. However, the misuse of stimulants is prevalent, which can cause a wide variety of harmful side effects, including psychosis, paranoia, and anger. Furthermore, you have a higher risk of overdose toxicity and other physiological risks, like heart attacks, seizures, and strokes. 


Stimulants are available in multiple forms, including pills or capsules, injectable liquids, and powder, and can be taken orally, smoked, injected, or snorted. Most stimulants are consumed for therapeutic effects. But for those who misuse them, it often enhances their self-esteem, reduces appetites, extends wakefulness, and improves physical and mental performances. 


How do They Work?

To produce their desired effects, stimulant drugs directly impact the central nervous system, or CNS,  by influencing several neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically those responsible for dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. 


Norepinephrine is involved with CNS-regulated physiological functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. Dopamine influences the reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Due to their impact on our body and brain, stimulants have a far higher potential for misuse. 


Types of Stimulants

The stimulant market comprises a broad collection of legal and illicitly used substances. It is important to remember that even legally prescribed stimulants, like amphetamines, can be illicitly diverted and misused for non-medical purposes. A study conducted in 2019 revealed that 45.2% of young adults misused their prescribed medication. 


Commonly prescribed stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexedrine, while common illegally-used stimulants include methamphetamine, cocaine, and synthetic cathinone like bath salts. 



Stimulant Misuse

Stimulant misuse occurs in three primary forms, although medication abuse can occur in other ways. Firstly, when a drug is taken purely for its effects and contribution to getting high as opposed to its intended medical purpose.


Secondly, when a substance is taken in ways that are not prescribed or intended, such as in higher or more frequent doses or in unintended consumption methods like crushing and snorting pills. Finally, when medication is used and consumed by someone other than whom it was prescribed. 


Common Effects When Used

The effects of stimulants vary depending on several different factors, like method of consumption, potency, dosage, levels of prior use, and the combination of substances used. Some of the sought-after effects of taking stimulants include enhanced self-esteem, improved mental and physical performance, increased physical activity, and appetite reduction. 


However, there are many negative effects that can occur, particularly when misused. These adverse consequences include dangerously elevated body temperature, accelerated heart rate and increased blood pressure, panic attacks, paranoia, psychosis, violent behavior, and seizures. 


Signs of Addiction

A formal diagnosis of stimulant addiction can only be made by a registered healthcare professional. However, it is beneficial to understand the criteria used to make this diagnosis. According to the American Psychiatric Association, a person is diagnosed with stimulant use disorder when their usage leads to significant impairment, typically by exhibiting at least two behaviors from a set criteria list over a 12-month period. 


This list covers using a drug in larger doses or for a longer period of time than prescribed, a persistent desire to use, spending an unnatural amount of time attempting to procure the drug, suffering from cravings and strong urges to use, consistent failure to fulfill obligations at school, home or work, reduced activity levels, continued use despite negative impacts and repeated use in environments that can lead to physical harm. 



Addiction Treatment

Treatment for stimulant addiction is available in various ways, utilized in conjunction with a plethora of different therapies. Most treatments begin with a detox, which often leads to users experiencing withdrawals. The type and severity of symptoms vary from person to person but can contain fatigue, anxiety, paranoia, cravings, and temporary yet severe depression. 


Following detox, a treatment plan is drafted based on the sufferer and their specific needs. Common routes are outpatient treatment, which provides regularly scheduled group and individual counseling sessions that are used independently. Alternatively, inpatient treatment is 24/7 care within a hospital or treatment center, offering a unique combination of therapeutic approaches to assist patients in leading a drug-free lifestyle post-treatment. The environment best suited for a sufferer is primarily decided based on their needs and circumstances. 

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