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Signs of Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Stimulants offer much-needed relief while enhancing the quality of life for those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but pose the threat of developing prescription stimulant abuse. Stimulants are Schedule II class medications, per the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), leaving a door open to unintentional misuse followed by abuse and addiction.

Medicines designed to enhance mental focus and allow alertness and attention while increasing energy levels for those whose condition hinders their capabilities can become a disabling problem. Fortunately, help is available through professional levels of detox, treatment, and a plan for independent sober living. Additionally, understanding what will occur during detox can ease anxiety and fear.

Understanding Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Above and beyond relief from a disabling disorder, prescription stimulant use can quickly become prescription stimulant abuse. Specific signs and symptoms of abuse or addiction appear when this unfortunate situation occurs. The shift from treating a disorder to longing for the pleasant effects of the drug is a subtle transition.

Finally, it is vital to understand the physicality of the process; the stimulants increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain to increase the sense of reward and pleasure. 

In the resulting stages of stimulant abuse, the following effects of the drug can occur:

Behavioral signs and symptoms:

  • Previously enjoyed hobbies and activities are no longer a priority
  • Significant changes in social interactions occur
  • Risky activities are acceptable if stimulants can be obtainable
  • Hypervigilant behavior and repetitive movements are uncontrollable
  • Nothing seems fulfilling with work, school, or home life

Physical signs and symptoms:

  • Noticeable weight loss from lack of appetite
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dilated pupils, fluctuations in blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Sweaty chills

Cognitive signs and symptoms:

  • Impairment of judgments
  • Intense cravings for the drugs
  • Confusion and disorientation

Psychosocial signs and symptoms:

  • Psychological distress with brief periods of euphoria
  • Lack of emotional reactivity
  • Anger
  • Anxiety

Most Commonly Abused Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulant abuse begins with misuse. Taking prescription medications in ways other than the prescription directs, getting medicines from other people, using drugs for effect only, or obtaining a high sense of euphoria.

Misuse of medications sometimes involves just taking the pills by mouth, but when the transition into abuse occurs, crushing tablets, opening capsules to dissolve the contents in water, and injecting the liquid into the vein can be ways of ingestion. Ultimately, some people abusing prescription stimulants will snort or smoke the powder. 

Common prescription stimulants people get addicted to include the following:

  • Dextroamphetamine (brand name Dexedrine®): Is available in oral tablet, oral extended-release capsule, or oral solution
  • Dextroamphetamine/amphetamine combination product (brand name Adderall®): Typically available in tablet and capsule forms and is commonly swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected
  • Methylphenidate (brand name Ritalin®, Concerta®): Is available in liquid, tablet, chewable, and capsule form and is swallowed, snorted, smoked, injected, or chewed
  • Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (brand name Vyvanse®): Is available in capsules, tablets, or chewable

Effects of Prescription Stimulant Abuse

When discussing the effects of prescription stimulant abuse, there are specific effects for each type of stimulant, the form, and how the drug administration occurs. Negative consequences arise with substance abuse leaving an individual overly vulnerable. As the risk intensifies from abuse, the danger level rises, including overdose or death. Unfortunately, severe physical conditions can manifest, with some irreversible results, which is worrisome as stimulants are the most widely abused illegal substances in the United States

Intravenous abuse of stimulants can cause severe physical effects, including the following:

  • Infections involving the lungs
  • Puncture marks
  • Tuberculosis

Intranasal abuse of stimulants increases the risk of:

  • Nasal irritations and bleeding
  • Sinusitis
  • Punctured nasal septum

Inhaling stimulants increases the risks of long-term health issues, including:

  • Chronic cough and bronchitis
  • Respiratory distress
  • Pneumonia

How Detox Helps

The National Institute on Health reports that 10 to 15% of those taking stimulants are dependent, with those seeking treatment involving over half. Prescription stimulant abuse can induce severe withdrawal symptoms if usage diminishes just slightly. This is dangerous because users may take more to relieve their discomfort than average, resulting in an overdose. A medically monitored detox in a professional, safe setting is advisable to detox from stimulants. 

As the body and mind begin to feel the absence of stimulants, uncomfortable symptoms will occur. Detox in a medically monitored setting with the possibility of medication-assisted treatment can relieve the intensity of the withdrawal safely. Easing the volatility of detox and making the patient as comfortable as possible can decrease the chance of relapse. 

The following are signs and symptoms of stimulant withdrawal:

  • Vividly disturbing dreams
  • Dysphoric mood
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue and disturbed social interactions
  • Inability to perform occupationally
  • Psychomotor agitation and retardation
  • Various functional dysfunctions

It is essential to receive education about medication-assisted treatment. Some may fear taking medication in detox because there will be additional drugs to withdraw from. MAT is safe and reduces the intensity of withdrawal symptoms. 

Immediately following detox, it is imperative to advance to inpatient residential treatment or a partial hospitalization program to remain sober and learn to cope healthily. Cognitive-behavioral and group therapy are evidence-based but can work well with new holistic programs. 

Find Professional Programs for Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Those in the addiction treatment industry have widely studied prescription stimulant abuse programs to find successful therapies for detox and continued sobriety. Tennessee Valley Recovery provides comprehensive detox and treatment programs with a wide variety of therapies to choose from. Safety and successful recovery is a shared goal with our patients.

Contact us to hear how we can schedule an evaluation for detox as soon as possible. 

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