Stimulant medications – also known as “uppers” – include amphetamines (e.g., Adderall) and methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta). Prescription stimulant medications are classified as Schedule II drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They are commonly prescribed to treat people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and obesity. Other stimulant drugs include nicotine, caffeine, pseudoephedrine (found in allergy medicine), cocaine and methamphetamine.

Short-term Effects

Stimulants work by increasing the release of chemicals called monoamines in the brain. These include dopamine, which produces euphoria, and norepinephrine, which heightens physiological responses. Stimulants affect the central and peripheral nervous systems, temporarily enhancing and speeding up the processes of the mind and body. Teens often abuse stimulant drugs to boost their performance in school.

The abuse of stimulant drugs can produce effects such as:

  • Alertness
  • Feelings of increased energy and attention
  • Euphoria
  • Increased respiration
  • Fast and/or irregular heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Constriction of blood vessels
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep difficulties (e.g., insomnia)
  • Lack of appetite

Dangers Of Stimulant Abuse

The widespread abuse of stimulant medications by teens and young adults is largely due to the acceptance of taking common stimulant drugs like Adderall that have been prescribed for children and adolescents with ADHD to help them maintain focus while they study.

Teens and young adults who take larger doses than prescribed and who take stimulants without a prescription for the purpose of enhancing academic performance, to feel “high,” to stay up for long periods of time, or to lose weight are at risk of developing an addiction to stimulants and for experiencing serious psychological and cardiovascular consequences.

Taken in excess, stimulant drug use can have serious consequences such as:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Hypertension
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Seizures
  • Heart failure
  • Excessive sweating
  • Inability to regulate body temperature
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Stroke
  • Paranoia
  • Hostility
  • Physical and psychological dependence
  • Addiction

Due to the suppressant effect of stimulants on appetite, people who abuse these drugs can also experience malnutrition. Heavy stimulant users will often continue to take high doses until they run out of their supply. Tolerance to stimulant drugs can quickly develop, and people who develop addiction can sometimes take large doses, which increases their risk for adverse effects and death.

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Stimulant Dependence And Withdrawal

Stimulant overdoses can lead to potentially fatal symptoms such as high body temperature, seizures, agitation, hallucinations and death. The chronic abuse of stimulant drugs can also increase the risk of developing stimulant dependence and/or addiction. Unpleasant withdrawal symptoms can occur when people who develop physical dependence or addiction attempt to reduce their dosage or try to stop completely. Some of the withdrawal symptoms of stimulant drugs include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression

Stimulant Addiction Treatment At Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego

Rancho San Diego treats adolescents who are addicted to stimulants in addition to other substance use disorders, eating disorders, mental disorders and co-occurring conditions. Adolescents who have an addiction to stimulants receive comprehensive behavioral health treatment services that include evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Our amphetamine dependence treatment programs at Sovereign Health also help patients who are addicted to stimulants to improve their mood and cognitive functioning, and lessen the withdrawal effects of the drugs.

Our mental health professionals work hard each day, diagnosing and treating these problems for the benefit of our young patients and their families. Teens who have an addiction to stimulants receive thorough medical and biopsychosocial assessments as part of the admissions process to ensure that the primary condition and any co-occurring conditions are diagnosed and treated adequately. These thorough assessments are also useful for creating individualized treatment programs for teens.

Stimulant abuse can cause many physical and mental difficulties, necessitating treatment. Here at Sovereign Health, our treatment programs combat the psychological aspects of substance abuse and addiction, utilizing cognitive behavioral therapies as well as educating patients on handling and avoiding situations that trigger use.

All patients receive traditional treatments such as cognitive behavioral and group therapies along with adjunct treatments such as equine therapy, exercise, yoga and more. We go the extra mile with a variety of modalities so patients experience a full, long-lasting recovery.

For more information about Rancho San Diego’s adolescent stimulant treatment program, call our 24/7 helpline to speak to a member of our admissions team.

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