There are “good” stimulants and there are “bad” stimulants. There are those that are prescribed to treat specific medical conditions and improve the lives of people, and those that have little or no medical or social value and plague the world.
Both kinds of stimulants can cause serious addiction problems for individuals like you or a loved one. When they do, treatment centers like Harmony Place in Los Angeles are here to compassionately and expertly serve the needs of those caught in the web of stimulant addictions.
Generally speaking, all stimulants work by sending dopamine into the brain. This hormone and neurotransmitter delivers a sense of pleasure when it hits the proper receptors. Prescription stimulants release less dopamine than such illegal substances as cocaine, but it’s that dopamine rush that explains why all stimulants can be abused to one extent or another.
Let’s look at the kinds of stimulants, their useful purposes and how those fighting stimulant addiction can receive the help they deserve.
What Are Stimulants?
Stimulants, in general, sometimes get referred to as “uppers.” That’s as good enough a definition as any, in that stimulants literally stimulate brain activity. They cause a rush of energy. They can be a godsend if you or a loved one are having problems focusing. Individuals experiencing this inability to focus or maintain attention for any length of time are often treated by psychiatrists who prescribed stimulants with brand names such as Adderall or Ritalin. These drugs help keep attention from wandering. They can improve behavior and classroom or work performance.
However, this same drug category also contains such dangerous street drugs as cocaine and methamphetamine. These drugs serve no useful purpose and are often abused for the rush of euphoria they can deliver. They’re highly addictive substances that often cause multiple damage to the body and the psyche.
Let’s first take a closer look at the legally prescribed and beneficial drugs in this category.
Prescription Central Nervous System (CNS) Stimulants
Those who suffer from a condition known as attention deficit hypertension disorder, or ADHD, are often prescribed stimulants.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ADHD is one of the more common childhood neurodevelopmental disorders. Though often associated with younger people, the effects of ADHD can last well into adulthood. Those with the disorder “may have trouble paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (may act without thinking about what the result will be), or be overly active,” according to the CDC1.
Drugs prescribed to treat ADHD include stimulants with such brand names as Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta. These meds are rarely abused by those to whom they’re prescribed, and they serve a beneficial purpose. They work by speeding up mental and physical processes for short-term periods. This is how focus is sharpened and those with ADHD can accomplish more and stay on track rather than perhaps letting their minds and activities go off into less productive places.
But as these drugs enter the central nervous system, they increase dopamine levels in the brain, which can have pleasurable effects. This is why this drug category is sometimes abused and can form addictions. In addition, these pills are sometimes sold on the street to college students who feel the need for energy and focus for studying. For some, this can be habit-forming and lead to addiction.
Let’s go into a little more detail about some of the leading products in this category of stimulants.
Adderall — In addition to treating ADHD, Adderall, which is made from a blend of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine2, is also sometimes used as a treatment for narcolepsy. This is a disorder in which victims can fall asleep suddenly and uncontrollably. Those who abuse Adderall might do it by consuming more than the recommended dosage or even crushing the pills and snorting them for a stronger high.
Ritalin — This drug contains methylphenidate3. In addition to being used to treat both ADHD and narcolepsy, Ritalin can also offer relief for those suffering from mild depression. It can be abused in much the same way as Adderall.
Concerta — This stimulate also contains methylphenidate and is used primarily to control ADHD.
Other legally prescribed stimulants include Dexedrine and Vyvanse.
Dangerous and Illegal Stimulants
This is the category of stimulants that causes the most tragedy to individuals and society. Drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine are consumed for the high, and frequently lead to addiction, reckless lifestyle changes and grave mental, emotional and physical health risk. Furthermore, when addiction occurs, financial problems, job loss, broken relationships and other hardships are too often the unfortunate result.
These stimulants have little or no benefit, though cocaine was once used as an anesthesia and that drug and its derivatives are still used to some degree as a local anesthesia for surgery to the ears, nose and throat4.
Here are a couple of the more notorious illicit drugs in this category of stimulants
Cocaine — Made from the coca plant of South America, cocaine has been used and abused for centuries and is the second-most illegally trafficked drug in the world today5. Its usual form is a white powder that’s snorted, though it’s also smoked in a crystallized rock formulation popularly called crack. It’s also sometimes injected intravenously or combined with heroin and smoked in a dangerous process called “freebasing.”
Cocaine is consumed for the intense euphoric feeling and because it energizes and increases focus and attention. For that reason, some people have used cocaine during the business day, feeling that it helps them increase performance and productivity.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), almost 41.5 million Americans ages 12 and older have at least tried cocaine once, as of 2019 statistics5. This is bad news since the drug is so addictive and comes with so many health risks.
Those who start using cocaine at a younger age, even as minors, are more susceptible to addiction. This is due to the fact that the brains of younger people are still developing and addiction can be “hard-wired” into the brain. Users of all ages slowly build tolerance for the drug, which means that they need larger and larger quantities of cocaine to gain the same results.
Cocaine users also tend to combine the drug with other controlled substances including alcohol and heroin. This dramatically increases the health dangers and the risk of overdose.
In addition to providing feelings of intense pleasure, cocaine can also trigger sudden anger and a sense of paranoia in users.
The list of health risks is extensive6. It includes heart disease, heart attacks and strokes; lung damage; and nose bleeds, headaches, appetite loss, mood swings and a multitude of other physical and emotional health problems.
Methamphetamine — Often simply called meth, this harmful street drug causes intense highs that take place quickly and dissipate just as fast. The user feels euphoric during that high, but the crash can bring on feelings of anger, panic or depression.
Meth can be smoked or injected intravenously. Users are often identified by their weight loss and broken or blackened teeth due to the poor nutrition of addicts whose attention goes primarily to obtaining and using the drug.
Long-term use of meth can also result in loss of cognitive abilities. Overdose is also a common feature, and that can often lead to death.
How Stimulant Addiction is Treated
The first point we’d like to make is that you or your loved one never needs to be alone while trying to kick a stimulant addiction. Whether your problem is with abuse of a prescription medication or of a street drug, you can receive the help and support you need at a qualified treatment center such as Harmony Place in Los Angeles.
At Harmony Place, you’re in the care of a compassionate and highly qualified medical and counseling staff who’ve treated many with challenges just like what you’re facing. We know what you’re going through and how to help you every step of the way.
That first step is always detoxification, You can’t get anywhere in treatment without first completely ridding your system of the drugs holding you down and distracting your new goal. This is done through a medical detoxification process that can include medication to help ease your withdrawal symptoms.
For many users, it’s that fear of experiencing the intense physical feelings of withdrawal that keep them from seeking long-term help. But in a clinical setting like Harmony Place, your medical team will help you get through it as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Once your system is clean of the stimulant drug, you can begin the real job of teaming up with your counselors to delve into the reasons you misused the drug and became addicted in the first place.
In both one-on-one and group therapy sessions, we’ll help you learn more about yourself and give you the tools to recognize and avoid the triggers that might tempt you to use again in the future. You’ll be given coping skill and, perhaps for the first time, begin to see a new direction. New and previously unexplored possibilities. Or simply a way back to the life you had before.
All of this takes place in a dynamic atmosphere of respect, understanding, concern and caring support from a team as motivated toward achieving your full recovery as you are.
It won’t be fast or easy. It’s a process that will require your hard work and cooperation. Maybe that’s why we say at Harmony Place that we’re “a comfortable place to do difficult work.”
But it’s also a place to overcome past behavior and preconceived notions of failure.
Reach Out to Harmony Place for Your Stimulant Addiction Recovery
Here at Harmony Place in Los Angeles you’ll receive a continuum of care from medical detox to residential treatment, outpatient support and transitional living. We don’t minimize the difficulty of your journey, but every step of the way you’ll find compassionate and highly skilled team members who are sincerely dedicated to your success.
Please consider putting us on your recovery team. Contact Harmony Place and explain what you or your loved one are going through. Then rely on our proven track record. We’ll give you the professional but compassionate support, the guidance and the recovery tools you need to regain your life or become the new you that you always wanted to be.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), What is ADHD?
3 Mayo Clinic, Drugs and Supplements: Methylphenidate (Oral Route)
4 National Library of Medicine, A Review of the History, Actions, and Legitimate Uses of Cocaine
5Foundation for a Drug-Free World, The Truth About Ccaine: International Statistics
6 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA), Table 1.1A – Types of Illicit Drug Use in Lifetime, Past Year, and Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older: Numbers in Thousands, 2018 and 2019’
7WebMD, What is Cocaine