The name says it all. Stimulants are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system. Not all stimulants are created equal; the way they interact with the body, the effects produced, the duration of the effects, and the symptoms of withdrawal or detox will be different for each drug. It’s worth noting that not all stimulants are illicit (illegal), and legal status, availability, or type of use does not diminish the risk. Stimulants can be broken down into 3 major categories:
---Cocaine: Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which is native to South America. The plant itself can be used for its stimulating effects but is often processed into the powdery drug cocaine. Cocaine can be further processed into a higher potency free base form called crack.
---Amphetamines: Amphetamines are synthetic drugs that come in a variety of forms. Drugs like Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Methamphetamine, and MDMA all fall under this category. Because these drugs are synthetic (man-made), they are often ongoing constant alterations, with drug chemists working to improve potency and effectiveness. This can also lead to even more unscrupulous efforts to maximize profits by adding, or “cutting”, in additional chemicals.
---Cathinones: Cathinone is a naturally-occurring alkaloid found in the plant, Khat. Khat itself can be used for its stimulating effects, but cathinone can also be synthesized in labs, making it a popular ingredient in many so-called designer drugs.
Stimulants are known for their ability to produce euphoria, a heightened state of awareness, and a “rush”. Stimulants can be habit-forming in any dose, and it can be easy to build a tolerance to them, which means the body requires more and more of the drug to produce the original effect. This can have dangerous consequences as it can push someone to consume higher doses than what they are perhaps accustomed to, which can lead to an overdose. Overdose death from stimulant use is possible and is typically the result of cardiac arrest or stroke.
Here we’ll look at the different stimulants that are frequently encountered in detox centers:
These are commonly available in pill or capsule form, however, it is not uncommon for amphetamine to be crushed and snorted, smoked, or injected. Amphetamines have clinical use and can be prescribed for ADHD, weight loss, and narcolepsy. Amphetamines you may have heard of include Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse. Amphetamines are often used as “study drugs” because users are able to stay up for long hours and work with an intense focus. The side effects of amphetamine use are dangerous and include hallucinations, delirium, psychosis, and risk of heart attack and stroke. Physical dependence on amphetamines isn’t common, but psychological addiction is possible even in small doses. Symptoms of detox or withdrawal include insomnia, shaking, hallucinations, appetite changes, and drug cravings.
These stimulants include the plant, Khat, but also many synthetic versions that are constantly changing in efforts to evade regulation from governments around the world. The evolution of these drugs has made it difficult to perform long-term studies on their dangers. Although little is known about the long-term effects, it is abundantly clear that these stimulants are dangerous and unpredictable. Many designer drugs are cathinone-based including methylone, mephedrone, alpha-PVP, and bath salts. These drugs will typically produce euphoria, increased energy, focus, and alertness. The use of these drugs can lead to psychological problems like paranoia, anxiety, depression, and extreme psychotic episodes that resemble delirium or schizophrenia. Withdrawal from these drugs can include the aforementioned psychological symptoms as well as insomnia, irritability, mood instability, and very strong cravings for the drug.
This remains one of the most commonly used drugs of all types, not just among stimulants. Cocaine is reported to be the second most accessible drug, after marijuana. Cocaine typically comes in white powder form, and it can be snorted, smoked, or injected. At one time, cocaine was used widely in medical settings (it still is today, though rarely), but due to it’s extremely addictive qualities, high potential for abuse, and overdose risks, cocaine has been pushed to the fringes with other dangerous drugs. Cocaine use can be deadly, heart attack, and stroke are possible. Cocaine use causes euphoria, elevated mood, and a burst of energy. The ‘high’ from cocaine is short-lived, lasting only 15-30 minutes on average, leaving users craving for more and more, potentiating intense psychological addiction. Cocaine detox symptoms are confusion, depression, insomnia, psychosis, and fatigue. Intense cravings for cocaine are also likely during detox.
Crack cocaine, or crack, is a form of cocaine that is often smoked. Crack cocaine produces a much more intense, although shorter-lived high making it very addictive. The potency of crack cocaine can make it extremely dangerous, both because of the risk of overdose, and the risk of addiction. Crack cocaine has been known to produce very strong cravings, and quitting can be very challenging. The effects of crack cocaine use are similar to cocaine; euphoria, excitement, and an intoxicating rush of energy. Crack use has a long list of dangerous side effects including cardiovascular problems, paranoia, panic attacks, and agitation. Detox symptoms from crack would include anxiety, panic attacks, elevated blood pressure, and insomnia.
MDMA, aka ‘Molly’, is a psychedelic amphetamine that is commonly the primary ingredient in ecstasy. MDMA is very popular among younger people and is frequently used at parties, raves, and music festivals. MDMA releases a flood of serotonin in the brain that can produce intense euphoria, the ‘rush’ associated with amphetamines. People taking MDMA also have mild hallucinations. IN addition to being an amphetamine, MDMA falls under a drug classification called “empathogens”, which lead to feelings of connectedness, oneness, and compassion. There can be complications when taking MDMA. First, MDMA is often consumed in pill form, and drug chemists will often mix different compounds and other drugs such as methamphetamine into the pill. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for users of MDMA to knowingly combine MDMA with other drugs like alcohol. Mixing MDMA with other drugs can create harmful side effects. Users are not likely to become physically addicted to MDMA, but there can be intense cravings for the drug, especially when someone is coming down. Symptoms of MDMA detox would include anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, feelings of isolation, and increased sleep.
Crystal meth is one of the most dangerous drugs used today. Meth use produces a long-lasting (up to 12 hours) high that is accompanied by euphoria, a rush of energy, and the illusion of supreme strength or confidence. These pleasurable effects are not without an abundance of risk. Meth is extremely addictive, and users will often forsake everything in their life in pursuit of the drug. The long-acting nature of meth will often cause people to stay up for days. Meth-induced lack of sleep will cause psychosis and hallucinations which will drastically alter one’s personality. On top of all those risks, meth users will often use other drugs to come down, which can cause dangerous interactions and other drug addiction. Long-term meth use will result in a long list of psychological symptoms. These will be present while using the drug even well into detoxification. The symptoms include deep depression, anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings, and an inability to find joy or happiness in life. Worse, these symptoms can persist for weeks and months after meth has left the system.
This is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world. Nicotine doesn’t produce strong psychotropic side effects, but it is not without dangerous consequences. Nicotine is a known carcinogen that can be physically and mentally addictive. Nicotine is typically consumed by smoking tobacco, however, vaping nicotine is becoming more popular - especially among younger people. The Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2018 1 in 5 high school students were vaping. Withdrawal symptoms are not considered deadly, nor as serious as that of other stimulants, but it is still uncomfortable, and many people find it exceedingly difficult to quit for good. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include intense cravings for nicotine, headaches, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.
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 cognition. 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.
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 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.
If you are seeking drug and alcohol related addiction rehab for yourself or a loved one, the sponsored hotline is a confidential and convenient solution.
Calls to any sponsored hotline (non-facility) will be answered by:
If you wish to contact a specific medical detox center then find a specific detox center using our detox locator tool.
Alternatives to finding addiction treatment or learning about substance abuse:
To learn more about how Detox Local operates, please contact us.