Stimulants drugs are those which increase levels of energy and excitement in the body, and affect a person’s physiological and psychological processes. Commonly known as ‘uppers’, stimulants include both legal and illegal drugs, like cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamines such as Adderall and Ritalin. Stimulants are a popular choice as a ‘party drug’, as they cause increased energy, focus, happiness, and even feelings of euphoria. They do so by acting on the brain’s dopamine reward system. Dopamine released as a biological reward, and the same release happens, just to a lesser degree, in response to normal pleasurable activities like eating, exercising, socialising, being productive, and being intimate. Stimulants have such an appeal to users because they’re effects are almost immediate, and exponentially more intense than when dopamine is released naturally, without the use of drugs.
The appealing effects can be achieved in the short term, but are followed by their opposites once the drug begins to wear off. Happiness, excitement, and euphoria subside, and in their place users are met with feelings of depression or emptiness, fatigue, and feelings of irritability and confusion. Very often these drugs are binged in order to prolong the positive effects, but this only serves to prolong the come down.
Tolerance to stimulants, or the body’s ability to handle the drug, increases with frequent use, meaning that users will have to use even more frequently to achieve the desired results, like the intensity of the first time they used it. This is dangerous behavior, as tolerance and the attempt to recall that first high can create a physical and psychological dependence to the drug, whereby normal physical and psychological functioning becomes more difficult without it. Dependence is almost always a prerequisite for addiction, at which point professional treatment must be sought as soon as possible, because addiction is a progressive condition with physical, psychological, social, financial, and potentially fatal consequences.
Treatment for stimulant addiction often requires a medical detox followed by supervised withdrawal management in participation in individual and group substance use disorder therapies. At Brazos Recovery Services, we offer a full health assessment for potential patients, by which we can determine the severity of a person’s condition and identify the presence of any underlying, possibly undiagnosed pre-existing physical, mental, or emotional health conditions and disorders which may be influencing one’s addictive behaviour and tendencies. We believe that identifying the presence of an underlying condition and even just getting to know patients on a personal level is a vitally important aspect of treatment, because we are aware that every individual is unique and will require a customised treatment program for real, effective results.
Who gets addicted to stimulants?
Although the short term effects of stimulants are desirable and may even serve some functional purpose, the long term effects by far outweigh any potential benefits. Many are unfortunately poorly educated on the harmful effects of stimulants in the long term. It may be common knowledge that drug abuse is an inherently destructive behaviour, but is it easy to ignore that and think ‘Well, it won’t be me!’. It’s important to remember that stimulants are inherently addictive, and because tolerance builds quickly, dependence is highly likely, and can, in fact, happen to anyone.
However, some are more prone than others in developing an addiction. There are genetic and environmental factors that influence how we think and behave, so what may lead to a severe addiction in one person may not lead to such a severe condition in another. But over time and with frequent use, a drug dependence can develop in even the healthiest of people.
Those with a family history of addiction are more likely to develop one than those without. Similarly, a person who grew up in an environment in which stimulants were used regularly or in response to tension and stress will have a distorted view on the normality of this behavior. Furthermore, socialising with a peer group in which stimulant use occurs serves to normalise it, increasing risk of dependence and addiction.
Placing patients at the centre of focus is integral part of our treatment approach at Brazos Recovery Services. We aim to identify the root causes of patients’ addiction, be they genetic, environmental, or as a result of pre-existing health conditions. Such an approach allows our professional psychologist, therapist, counsellors and medical staff to provide individually tailored treatment, giving patients the best chance of successful recovery.
The Dangers of Stimulants
As mentioned earlier, tolerance to stimulant drugs builds quickly, meaning that dependence is highly likely. Those who abuse stimulants are subject to a wide range of adverse effects in the days following use, which can create a vicious cycle of use as a means of avoiding the effects. During the come down, a person is likely to experience erratic mood changes and a sense of frustration or irritability, reduced patience, feelings of anxiety and panic, and difficulty sleeping, even insomnia.
Prolonged use and abuse of stimulants can result in the onset of significant psychological conditions and disorders. Such conditions include paranoia, panic disorder characterised by unbearable episodes of panic and anxiety, major depression, and hallucinations.
Professional Treatment for Stimulant Addiction
At Brazos Recovery Services our highly skilled staff are available to provide patients with a full treatment program and equip them with the skills necessary to manage and overcome their addiction. The effects of addiction can be devastating on individuals and their loved ones, which is why we aim to be as compassionate and diligent as possible in helping patients return to sobriety and improve their overall quality of life.
Following an initial assessment to determine the right approach to treatment, patients can receive a full medically supervised detox to rid the body of the substance, and will be safely guided through the withdrawal so that symptoms don’t become too overwhelming and provoke a relapse.
Both outpatient and residential treatment for stimulant addiction are available at Brazos Recovery Services, and which type of treatment a patient will require will depend on their individual needs.
Throughout the program, patients will participate in one-to-one and group therapy, to deal with underlying conditions and the behavioural and psychological factors that have led to their addiction.
We implement the traditional, evidence-based 12-step program used in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to give patients the best chance at achieving a successful recovery. A residential treatment may be extended depending on the patient’s need, but it needs to understood that recovery is a long process and requires effective skills and tools to manage in the long term. We offer education on these essential skills to return a sense of autonomy to patients and improve their overall quality of life.