Stimulant Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Understanding the signs, symptoms, and possible effects of stimulant addiction can be an important first step on the path toward successful long-term recovery. Sierra by the Sea in Newport Beach, California, is proud to be a source of accurate and relevant information about the impact of stimulant addiction.

Understanding Stimulant Addiction

Learn about stimulant addiction

Stimulant addiction is a type of substance use disorder that involves craving for, withdrawal from, and tolerance to stimulants. The clinical term for this condition is stimulant use disorder, more commonly known as stimulant addiction.

Stimulants are a class of drugs that includes both illicit and prescription amphetamines, such as meth, cocaine, ecstasy, Ritalin, and Adderall. Individuals who consistently misuse stimulants will demonstrate a variety of mental, physical, and behavioral symptoms that are characteristic of a stimulant addiction.

It’s important to note that if a doctor prescribes someone medications such as Ritalin or Adderall, they should follow the instructions of their physician. When an individual takes prescription medications as recommended by their physician, they are not at risk for developing an addiction.

A craving for stimulants occurs when an individual has a strong urge to obtain and use stimulants. Individuals with stimulant addiction demonstrate difficulty with daily functioning due to their fixation on the search and need for stimulants.

When an individual becomes dependent on the use of stimulants, they will need more stimulants to reach their desired mental and physical state, also known as a tolerance. When they stop or significantly reduces their stimulant use, the body enters a state of withdrawal. An individual experiencing withdrawal from stimulants will suffer through several uncomfortable behavioral, mental, and physical symptoms.

Any of these symptoms may occur as a result of changes in the amount of stimulants used. Due to the extreme alterations in the body and mind because of withdrawal, these symptoms often require medical supervision. For these reasons, it is important to receive appropriate care for stimulant addiction.


Statistics about stimulant addiction

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the following information on stimulant use in the United States has been reported:

  • In 2018, approximately 5,109,000 individuals used stimulant drugs.
  • Of all adults age 18 and older, 1.9% have an addiction to stimulants.
  • Stimulant addiction is present in 0.1% of adults age 50 and older.

Causes and Risk Factors for Stimulant Addiction

Potential causes of stimulant addiction

Individuals with stimulant addiction may experience several risk factors, both environmental and genetic, which increase their risk for developing an addiction to stimulants. However, having any of these risk factors does not always mean someone will develop a substance use disorder. The following risk factors have been proven to play a role in a person’s chances for developing an addiction to stimulants:

  • The presence of other substance use disorders or mental health conditions
  • Personality traits such as impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors
  • Having a parent with a history of stimulant use
  • Exposure to violent social, home, or community environments
  • Associations with other stimulant users and dealers
  • Being raised in an unstable home environment

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

Symptoms of stimulant addiction

Each person with stimulant addiction will experience different signs and symptoms. However, most symptoms fall into three categories: behavioral, physical, and mental. Any combination of the following symptoms may result from stimulant addiction:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Poor attendance or performance at work
  • Difficulty or inability to care for children or other family members
  • Impaired ability to participate in existing relationships or form new relationships
  • Violence or aggression

Physical symptoms:

  • Heart problems
  • Dental problems
  • Skin changes, such as open sores and wound infections
  • Malnutrition and weight loss

Mental symptoms:

  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Major mood changes

Effects of Stimulant Addiction

The negative impact of stimulant addiction

When someone develops an addiction to stimulants and does not receive proper care, the effects of the addiction they are struggling with has the ability to echo across all areas of their life. Stimulant addiction causes impaired mental processes, physical symptoms, and changes in behavior. These changes and other symptoms can all cause negative effects, which can impact the quality of an individual’s life in the following ways:

  • Increased risk of violence, accidents resulting from intoxication, and public intoxication
  • The development or worsening of certain medical conditions, especially cardiac issues, such as chest pain, heart attack, and heart disease
  • Impaired ability to maintain current social and family relationships
  • Demotion, disciplinary actions, or termination at work
  • Difficulty verbally communicating with others
  • Inability to form new relationships or friendships
  • Inability to fulfill financial, domestic, or community responsibilities within home, community, or family settings
  • Risk of eviction and/or homelessness
  • Poor attendance or performance at work or in school
  • Legal charges that may result from violence, theft, public intoxication, or driving under the influence

Any addiction is a serious condition requiring intervention. If an individual does not seek appropriate care for the substance use disorder they are struggling with, these effects will continue to linger and can become an overwhelming part of their life. However, if an individual makes the commitment to receive care and overcome the stimulant cravings they are experiencing, their life may drastically improve. It is important for all individuals battling stimulant addiction to receive care at a specialized facility to maximize their chances of improved function and quality of life.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who are addicted to stimulants

Individuals struggling with stimulant addiction often suffer from other mental health conditions, known as co-occurring disorders. This can make recovery more difficult, as it is important to address all areas of a person’s health. Individuals dealing with stimulant addiction often struggle with co-occurring conditions such as:

  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Gambling disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Other substance use disorders

Effects of Stimulant Withdrawal and Overdose

Withdrawing from stimulants, and the risk of overdose

Effects of withdrawal: An individual who is displaying withdrawal symptoms from stimulants may experience the following physical and mental symptoms:

  • Seeing, hearing, or feelings sensations that are not real
  • Hand or body tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to sleep
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Sweating

Effects of overdose: An individual who has consumed excessive amounts of stimulants or takes a drug laced with an unknown substance is at an increased risk of an overdose. Experiencing an overdose is extremely dangerous and may lead to death if that person does not receive emergency medical care. Someone who is displaying signs or symptoms of an overdose requires immediate medical attention. Common symptoms of an overdose include:

  • Entering a coma
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Very low levels of oxygen in the blood
  • Slowed breathing, which may cause someone to stop breathing
  • Electrolyte imbalances

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous