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Stimulant Addiction and Abuse

Stimulants—including cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulants (e.g., Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine)—are drugs that speed up and stimulate the body’s central nervous system.1 They were originally used to treat respiratory problems (like asthma), neurological disorders, obesity, and other conditions.2 Currently, stimulants are only prescribed to treat a limited number of health conditions, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy because stimulants have a large potential for abuse and addiction so they are prescribed less often.2

This page will provide more insight into stimulants, if they are addictive, their effects, signs of stimulant abuse, how stimulant addiction is treated, and whether you can use your insurance plan to obtain stimulant addiction treatment and rehab.


Are Stimulants Addictive?

Yes, stimulants are addictive. People who use stimulants—including amphetamine, methamphetamine, and methylphenidate—may become dependent on or addicted to them.2 Stimulants are classified as a Schedule II drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning they have a high potential for abuse that may lead to psychological or physical dependence.3,4

The abuse of illicit stimulants or the misuse of prescription stimulants may lead to a substance use disorder (SUD), which may take the form of addiction.5 In addition, individuals who engage in long-term use of stimulants, including those that have been prescribed by a doctor, run the risk of developing a tolerance to those stimulants, meaning they need more frequent and/or higher doses of the drug to experience the same effect as previously.5


Checking Your Insurance Benefits

If you are looking for stimulant addiction treatment, it can feel overwhelming. As you consider your options, knowing exactly what your insurance plan covers can give you peace of mind while you or your loved one is in rehab. You can do the work of getting and staying sober without worrying about unexpected costs or financial struggles. For more information on what your insurance plan covers, call AAC at , click here, or fill out the form below.


What are Stimulants?

Stimulants, which include both prescription and illicit drugs, speed up the body’s systems. They increase energy, attention, and alertness, as well as elevating blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration.2,4

Stimulants include both prescription stimulants and illicit stimulants. Prescription stimulants are typically used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy and include:4,5

  • Amphetamine (Adderall®).
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®).
  • Dextroamphetamine/amphetamine combination product (Adderall®)
  • Methamphetamine (Desoxyn®).
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®).

Illicitly used stimulants include:1

  • Cocaine.
  • Methcathinone.
  • Synthetic cathinones (commonly called bath salts).

Common street names of stimulants include:1,5

  • Bennies.
  • Black Beauties.
  • Coke.
  • Crank.
  • Crystal.
  • Diet Coke.
  • Flake.
  • Ice
  • R-Ball.
  • Snow.
  • Speed.
  • Study Buddies.
  • Uppers.
  • Vitamin R.

Misused stimulants can enhance self-esteem, improve physical and mental performance, reduce appetite, increase activity, produce a sense of exhilaration.1


What is Stimulant Addiction?

Stimulant addiction is the continued, compulsive use of stimulants, despite serious negative consequences, such as health, work, school, and relationship problems.6, Addiction is a treatable medical illness that affects the brain and changes behaviors such as self-control.6

Stimulant use in the United States is a public health issue. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 4.9 million people in the United States aged 12 or older misused stimulants in the past year.7

Stimulant abuse can lead to addiction, a condition that involves changes in the brain, an inability to control drug use, and significant negative consequences as a result of drug use.8 People who abuse or are addicted to stimulants may exhibit specific physical, psychological, and behavioral signs such as:8

  • Appearing high, or under the influence of stimulants. People high on stimulants may appear to be unusually happy and drowsy and will likely have constricted pupils and be breathing slower than normal.
  • Changes in mood, such as switching between seeming euphoric and irritable or anxious.
  • Changes in sleep, appetite, interest in activities, and friends.
  • Stealing money or selling items to pay for drugs.
  • Making many doctors’ appointments at separate practices to acquire multiple prescriptions.
  • Possessing drug-related paraphernalia, such as prescription bottles, straws, razors, and/or needles.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction?

Side effects of stimulant use may include:1

  • Tremors.
  • Dizziness.
  • Chest pain with palpitations.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal cramps.
  • Excessive sweating.

Short-term effects may include:4,5

  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Decreased blood flow.
  • Increased blood sugar.
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • Increased wakefulness.
  • Narrowed blood vessels.
  • High body temperature.
  • Seizures.

What are the Health Risks of Stimulant Abuse?

Stimulant abuse and addiction can pose various health risks. Long-term effects of stimulant abuse may include:4,5

  • Confusion.
  • Anxiety.
  • Mood issues.
  • Insomnia.
  • Violent behavior.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Paranoia.
  • Anger.
  • Delusion.
  • Heart problems.

Additional health issues may include an increased risk of HIV and hepatitis (depending on the abused stimulant and how it is being used). Abuse of stimulants during pregnancy may lead to premature delivery, separation of the placenta from the uterus, low birth weight, heart and brain problems, and lethargy.5


How Do I Get Help for Stimulant Addiction?

Effective treatment and support exist for stimulant addiction and SUD. Treatment may be delivered by private rehab, via state or local treatment programs in either an inpatient or outpatient setting, through support groups, or in various other ways.

While it can be difficult to overcome an addiction to stimulants, it can be effectively managed.9,10 There is not one type of facility or program that is suitable for everyone.9 Addiction treatment should address both your substance abuse and the various ways it has negatively impacted your life, including physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally.9,10

There are various types of treatment options available to address the wide range of needs that people experience. Programs typically provide an individualized treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs. They often use a combination of different techniques to address your addiction and how it has affected you.11

These can include:9-11

  • Residential treatment, where you live at a facility, and receive care and/or support around the clock. This is a structured setting with counseling, support, and a strong emphasis on peer and social interactions.
  • Inpatient treatment typically involves a shorter stay at a facility—often around 4 weeks —with around-the-clock monitoring and care, intense group therapy, and individual counseling.
  • Outpatient treatment offers less intensive group and individual counseling while you live at home. This type of care allows you to work, attend school, and participate in daily life while learning how to adjust to stressors and receiving the support of peers and staff.
  • Behavioral therapy in a group, individual, and/or family settings is highly effective for treating addiction to hallucinogens, dissociative drugs, and other substances. These techniques can help you learn how to stay sober, improve your relationships with others, cope with stress in healthy ways, and participate in positive activities.
  • Treatment for co-occurring disorders, which addresses mental health disorders at the same time as a substance use disorder, is generally more effective than treating these issues separately. Therapy, medications, and other supportive services are commonly utilized in this type of treatment.

If you are seeking stimulant treatment in the United States, you have a wide array of options including private rehab facilities, state-run treatment facilities, and local treatment programs.

There are also support groups that can help you as you work toward becoming sober and maintaining that sobriety. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) is a mutual help support group that offers people the opportunity to use peer bonds, sponsor relationships, and self-expression to work toward sobriety. There are also non-12-step programs available that offer alternatives to NA.


Where Can I Learn More About Treating Addiction to Stimulants?

For more information about stimulant abuse and addiction treatment, you may want to reach out to your doctor. Or you can contact one of our admissions navigators at for the information and support you are looking for as you look for stimulant abuse treatment.

There are various treatment programs and strategies available for stimulant addiction, so don’t give up if the first program you check out doesn’t meet your individual needs.


Sources

  1. Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration. (2020). Drug Fact Sheet: Stimulants.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Misuse of Prescription Drugs Research Report: What classes of prescription drugs are commonly misplaced: Stimulants.
  3. U.S. Department of Justice: Drug Enforcement Administration, Diversion Control Division. (2021). List of controlled substances.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Commonly Used Drug Charts: Prescription Stimulants.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts.
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction DrugFacts.
  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health(HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  8. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction DrugFacts.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Principles of Effective Treatment.
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Types of Treatment Programs.

More resources about Stimulant Addiction and Abuse: