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According to estimates, one in every ten Americans has used a substance for recreational purposes at least once over the last 30 days. This might seem like an overstatement, but with such a diverse array of mind-altering substances available, the misuse of these chemical intoxicants has become a plague on our society. These dangerous substances represent several different types of drugs, one of which includes stimulants such as cocaine, crystal meth, bath salts, amphetamines, and stimulant pharmaceuticals. As their name suggests, stimulants are substances that act on the central nervous system, stimulating the body by amplifying one’s energy level and speeding up bodily processes and functions. With there being such dire repercussions of stimulant addiction, it’s more important than ever to have high-quality stimulant detox treatments available to those in need.
In particular, the risks that are associated with stimulant abuse include seizures, heart attacks, respiratory failure, stroke, aneurysms, and other such effects that can quickly become fatal. Unfortunately, there are many people who continue to abuse stimulants in spite of the risks that this type of substance poses to their health and their lives. Therefore, we’re going to have a discussion about stimulants and, specifically, stimulants detox treatment.
Most of the mind-altering substances abused today exist on a spectrum. Each substance’s location on the spectrum depends on what types of effects the substance exhibits after a person ingests or imbibes it. For instance, heroin—an extremely powerful, semisynthetic derivative of morphine, which itself is extracted from the opium poppy—is a painkiller due to the way it bonds with the opiate receptors in the brain, alleviating pain and causing a euphoria that often coincides with pronounced drowsiness; therefore, heroin would be considered a depressant. Other depressants include alcohol, benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants, and a number of other pharmaceutical substances. In short, depressants act on the body by depressing bodily processes, making them much slower and less efficient. On the other end of the spectrum is a class of drugs called stimulants.
Stimulants are oftentimes colloquially referred to as “uppers”, which refers to the tendency for stimulant drugs to exhibit effects that include increased alertness, a higher energy level, an increase in body temperature and blood pressure, significantly improved responsiveness, and many other related symptoms. Additionally, stimulants are sometimes known by the more technical term “psychostimulants”, indicating their effects on the brain and a person’s cognitions. And sure enough, one of the most common uses for and types of stimulants are the medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Historically, there have been other uses for stimulants as well, including as a means of helping those who were obese to lose weight, to counteract severe lethargy, as a treatment for narcolepsy and for people who found themselves sleeping too much, as an early form of treatment for clinical depression, and even to help pilots and soldiers stay awake during periods of active combat. However, not all stimulants are pharmaceutical medications.
Cocaine, crack cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine are examples of some of the stimulant street drugs that are commonly abused today. In fact, a recent survey estimated that more than 1.2 million Americans over the age of 12 were abusing pharmaceutical stimulants recreationally, and that figure didn’t include the number of people abusing illicit stimulant drugs. If you consider both street drugs and the numerous pharmaceutical stimulants that are prone to abuse, this estimate could very easily double or triple.
The reason that so many people become addicted to stimulants is, in short, because they enjoy the feelings that come with stimulant intoxication. While taking large quantities of stimulants is known to increase energy and alertness, there’s also a level of euphoria that comes with it. Stimulant euphoria is a bit different from depressant euphoria with stimulants mostly affecting the central nervous system by interfering with natural levels of two neurotransmitters in particular: dopamine and norepinephrine. After a large dose, the stimulant causes a spike in these neurochemicals while also effectively forming a “dam” in the brain, resulting in a significant buildup of dopamine. With continued abuse of stimulants over time, the brain comes to rely on the stimulants as a source of dopamine, which means that anytime the stimulant addict is without his or her substance of choice, he or she will be severely deficient in dopamine and norepinephrine and, therefore experience withdrawal symptoms. That’s where a stimulant detoxification comes in.
Stimulant drugs are put a lot of stress on the body, so abusing this type of substance for an extended period of time is incredibly dangerous for a number of reasons. As mentioned above, the habitual abuse of stimulants forces the body to accommodate the effects of stimulant drugs, which includes the triggering of a neurochemical surge. The dramatic increase in dopamine and norepinephrine wouldn’t cause any lasting changes if the event was an isolated incident, but when a person continues to abuse a stimulant drug, the body adapts to the stimulant abuse by significantly decreasing the production of neurochemicals. Instead, the body—and particularly the brain—begins to rely on the stimulant drugs as the primary means through which the brain avoids a neurochemical deficit. However, when a stimulant addict is unable to obtain the drug to which he or she is addicted, he or she will inevitably experience withdrawal symptoms.
The purpose of stimulant detoxification treatment is to help a person who has become physiologically addicted to stimulant substances, or “uppers”, break his or her physical dependence on the stimulant to which the individual is addicted; this stimulant detoxification is an essential first step in the stimulant addiction recovery process because it addresses physical dependence before beginning the mental and emotional treatment phase of recovery.
A stimulant detoxification program begins with a patient’s intake, which refers to the initial consultation during which the incoming patient’s physical health and the severity of his or her addiction is gauged. The information obtained through this initial assessment is used to determine a rough outline for the patient’s stimulant detox program, including the specific treatments he or she might need, the length of time necessary to complete the detoxification, and other such details. While the goal of detoxification is to break physical dependence on stimulants, there’s another major benefit of detoxification treatment, which is to cleanse the body and restore a patient to a state of physical wellness. Overall, an inpatient medical detox program for stimulant addiction breaks a person’s physical dependence on stimulant drugs while ridding his or her body of any other chemicals and toxins.
Many people begin experimenting with stimulants because they find the prospect of an on-demand source of energy and alertness to be seductive and alluring. Much like drinking an extra cup or two of coffee, they often begin by using stimulants in a pseudo-practical manner, but once they become addicted there’s a persistent desperation that underscores their use of stimulant drugs. Continuing to abuse stimulants becomes imperative if they want to keep withdrawal symptoms at bay. These symptoms occur largely as a result of being deficient in certain neurotransmitters; lacking dopamine and norepinephrine, they begin to experience symptoms like anxiety, pronounced discomfort, and a number of other symptoms.
However, there are many more potential withdrawal symptoms that a person addicted to stimulants might experience. It’s important to be aware that withdrawal symptoms are the brain’s way of essentially struggling to “remember” how to function normally. People often associate withdrawal symptoms with physical discomfort, but there are actually many symptoms of stimulant withdrawal that are actually mental or emotional. For instance, people who are experiencing stimulant withdrawal symptoms will often exhibit aggression, sudden unprovoked mood changes, frequent dysphoric or depressive moods, paranoia, hallucinations, impaired memory, severe insomnia, vivid dreams, and other mood-related systems. As far as physical stimulant withdrawal symptoms, people often report experiencing tremors and jitters, intermittent hot flashes and cold chills, slowed heart rate and blood pressure, body fatigue, and dulled senses.
Fear of detox is one of the most prohibitive factors of the recovery process. Addicts tend to assume that recovery from the drugs to which they’re addicted requires them to invite withdrawal symptoms and fight their way through them. The main reason addicts assume that unpleasant withdrawal symptoms are a non-negotiable, inevitable part of the recovery process is due to the fact that they’ve only ever experienced withdrawal symptoms in between “fixes”, which are periods when they’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms at their full, untreated intensity. It’s understandable that addicts would be so fearful of withdrawal if they believe that severe withdrawal is an unavoidable first step of the recovery process; unfortunately, many addicts—approximately nine in every ten addicts—who avoid recovery for this reason aren’t aware that the recovery process doesn’t have to be so unpleasant. By detoxing in an inpatient, medical detox program, one can receive treatments, therapies, professional care, and even medications if necessary, all of which are used to make the detoxification process more comfortable for patients.
Stimulants like cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and the numerous pharmaceutical stimulants keep a person’s energy level at an unnecessarily and unnaturally high level. After an extended period of time in such a state as this, it can be extremely difficult to adjust to being without stimulants. In effect, the stimulants become the source of neurotransmitters that provoked the energizing effect, and in their absence the body must start producing those neurochemicals on its own again; however, that process doesn’t happen overnight. Moreover, the initial cessation of stimulant use is accompanied by a number of withdrawal symptoms, but the benefit of stimulant detox treatment is that these symptoms are largely mitigated or alleviated altogether.
In a stimulant detox treatment program, there’s typically an emphasis on diet, nutrition, and hydration. Ensuring adequate hydration helps with the body’s elimination of stimulant drugs and other toxins while eating a balanced, nutritious diet helps with restoring the body to a state of overall wellness while restoring many of its natural functions, particular those in the brain. Beyond nutrition and hydration, patients are provided with accommodations where they can relax and focus on the recovery process. Similarly, another major benefit of inpatient medical detox for stimulant addiction is the separation that detox programs offer patients who would otherwise be attempting to get sober in their home environments where they likely became addicted in the first place. In other words, the separation offered by inpatient detoxification programs ensure that patients are separated with the people, places, things, and circumstances that contributed to their becoming addicted to stimulants.
With stimulants being a drug that energizes and increases alertness, the abuse of stimulant drugs over an extended period of time can cause persistent tension as well as insomnia. It’s important for patients to be able to get adequate sleep while in a rehabilitation program, which is why many detox programs will offer patients one or more so-called “comfort medications”, which are pharmaceutical medications—typically mild benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants, hypnotics, and similar medications—that are meant to help patients relax or sleep better when they find themselves unable to do so on their own while in detoxification treatment. However, since stimulants have such a prominent effect of one’s neurochemistry and mood, stimulant addicts in recovery are often put on psychotropic medications—particularly antidepressants like SSRIs or SDRIs—that help to stabilize the brain’s neurochemistry while the individuals proceed in their recoveries.
Although there are many reasons why mind-altering substances like stimulants are dangerous, one of the causes of much of that danger is the effects that illicit drugs have on the brain. By causing these powerful changes in the brain, stimulants offer certain effects that users find desirable in some way, resulting in their continuing to use and abuse their substances of choice. However, the continued abuse of these substances can lead to major changes in the brain’s natural functioning and neurochemical levels. In addition to offering effects that could be considered part of stimulant intoxication, there are a number of damaging and dangerous effects as well as these substances affect things like motor control, cognitive processes, memory and learning, and so on.
When a person addicted to stimulants decides to detox at home, he or she is essentially embarking on a process for which he or she is completely unprepared. The individual can’t be sure of what to expect during the stimulant detoxification process and, therefore, aren’t aware of the dangers or risks that unsupervised detoxification can pose. For this reason, anyone suffering from stimulant addiction—or addiction to some other substance—is encouraged to detox only in an inpatient medical detox program in which there is continuous supervision and professional care. It’s only by detoxing in a medical detox program for stimulant addiction that recovering addicts can be assured of their safety throughout the stimulant detoxification process. What’s more, those who detox in actual detox programs rather than on their own at home have much higher chances of seeing the detox through and even have higher chances of achieving sustainable sobriety.
One of the central reasons why there is such a diverse range of therapies and treatment programs available for those suffering from chemical addiction is because the needs of an addict vary from person to person. The treatments and methods effective for one person may not be effective for others. Similarly, it’s difficult to say exactly how long it takes for a person to detox from stimulants since everyone detoxes at his or her own rate. However, stimulant detoxification generally takes about a week; in instances of more severe or long-term stimulant addiction, it’s possible for detoxification to take up to a week. However, detoxification treatment programs are tailored to each patient’s unique needs. There’s no specific deadline by which a person must have completed detoxification. Instead, these programs aim to ensure that these individuals have overcome physical addiction and become ready to begin the actual treatment phase of the recovery process.