Stimulant Addiction

Stimulants increase a person's energy level, attention, heart rate and blood pressure. Users often experience a short-term "high" after using a stimulant. However, stimulant abuse has negative consequences, including anxiety, muscle weakness, stroke and heart attacks.

What is a Stimulant?

Stimulants are drugs that excite a person’s central nervous system and vital signs. This leads to an increase in energy level, heightened attention, increased heart rate and elevations in blood pressure.

These drugs are mainly prescribed today for people who have narcolepsy (a sleeping disorder), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD). However, they are also used to treat obesity, asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Drugs listed as stimulants include:

  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Methamphetamines (such as crystal meth)
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Other prescription drugs

Stimulant Addiction Signs & Symptoms

Many stimulants are abused because of the short-term effects they have on the body and brain. People experience increased sexual desire, increased self-esteem and happiness along with higher levels of energy.

Stimulants also have negative short-term effects. Negative short-term side effects include extreme levels of physical and emotional excitement. This leads to increased heart rate, high blood pressure, agitation, high body temperature, strokes, seizures and heart attacks. These effects are things to look out for in an overdose situation.

There are many adverse effects of long-term abuse of stimulants. These effects get worse with each additional use of these types of drugs.

Mental Effects:

  • Delusions
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

Physical Effects:

  • Decreased sexual functioning
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) distress
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heart muscle damage
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Brain hemorrhages
  • Heart attacks

Consequences of Stimulant Addiction

Both tolerance and physical dependence can develop with stimulant abuse. Tolerance involves the need to take in greater amounts of the drug in order to experience the same euphoria and mental stimulation. Tolerance develops as the body becomes accustomed to the drug’s presence.

A dependence sets in when your mind or body aren’t able to function without the drug. Withdrawal symptoms occur when trying to stop or decrease the intake of the drug. Dependence doesn’t always mean an addiction, but the two frequently go hand in hand.

Author:Kent Hoffman
Kent Hoffman

Kent Hoffman, D.O. has been practicing medicine for nearly 30 years. He is board-certified to practice addiction medicine and family medicine. Dr. Hoffman gets to know his patients on a first-name basis to provide compassionate and professional health care.

Last modified: 01/14/2019