stimulant addiction

Know the Signs: 13 Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

Stimulants make you feel good and help you focus, thanks to the blast of feel-good chemicals you get to your central nervous system (CNS). So if you’re thinking you or someone you know has a stimulant addiction, you may be right, and on the way to a problem. Stimulants in all their forms—street drugs like cocaine and “meth” and doctor-prescribed meds for ADHD, depression, and sleeplessness—lure you in and invite abuse which easily leads to very serious stimulant addiction.

But how do you know if you or a loved one is addicted? And what are the signs and symptoms? 

To help you get a good read of the situation, we’ve put together these 13 signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction.

The Basics About Stimulants

Let’s do a quick overview so you understand why things can go wrong with stimulants.

Stimulants increase the level of neurotransmitters in your brain that make you feel good and help keep your attention—dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine. Since you feel good, you’re calmer and can sit still, or fall asleep, and you don’t feel agitated, so you also have increased energy and feel more relaxed.

The drugs don’t all work the same way but their effects are the same. Amphetamines increase dopamine, the feel-good chemical, and epinephrine, which helps you take in outside stimuli faster and sort it. Cocaine, on the other hand, makes it so the dopamine isn’t taken out of the system so the levels rise.

Your body makes these feel-good chemicals naturally, but stimulants give you an abnormal blast of them so although you feel super amazing, you also come down hard when they’re out of your system. Hence people come back for more often, which can lead to abuse. 

Take note that even with prescribed stimulants, your body automatically gets physically dependent. If you try to stop, you could have withdrawals and need help from a professional to come off. 

No One Tries to Get Addicted

Now let’s take a quick look at how people become addicted to stimulants. 

Most people that are drawn to stimulants or prescribed them are vibrant, dynamic, intelligent, industrious people to begin with, and when they take stimulants, these positive qualities are enhanced. Plus, they’re often prescribed to children, which makes them seem safe, so people keep using them. 

Stimulants help you study, work, focus, feel relaxed, be social, and sleep. Once they’re out of your system, however, these simple, everyday activities can seem impossible. So you take more.

Your body becomes dependent. And emotionally, you get hooked as well. The emotional dependence is when the addiction kicks in. You try to get more and more of the drug and start to chase the high. Note that you can be physically dependent without being addicted.

Now, let’s look at the signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction.

The Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

When people start to become physically and emotionally dependent on a stimulant, they start to experience symptoms that aren’t obvious to those around them at first. And then they develop signs that are more obvious.

#1 You Think You Need It to Function

Someone abusing a stimulant starts to think thoughts like this:

  • I need this boost if I want to create another stellar pitch and win this client over
  • I need to work all weekend to do this project and that extra boost will make sure it’s a done deal 
  • My plate is way too full at work and I need it to get it all done
  • People love me when I’m on it and I just love to talk to everyone
  • If I want to feel rested, it’s a must
  • All my clothes fit and I just love that

Any of these sound familiar? It’s hard to know if you’re worried about a friend or loved one, but these thoughts are usually accompanied with an air of confidence and lots of social interaction. Look for those.

#2 It Makes You Feel Amazing

Again, it’s hard to see these from the outside, but someone addicted to stimulants or abusing them is probably feeling quite wonderful. Stimulants make you feel invincible, strong, and as if everything is going to be fine no matter what. It’s a boost of overall well-being.

#3 It Makes You Feel Energized

If you’re abusing stimulants, you’re probably feeling a boost of extra energy that you want to have all the time. You love that you’re now super productive and well-rested. Work suddenly is something you can’t get enough of. The same goes for talking to people about anything and everything.

#4 It Makes You Seek Truth and Analyze Everything

A sign of stimulant abuse and addiction is when you start to feel like you understand the amazing and big-picture truths and questions of life and want more. You probably also want to overthink and analyze everything. This is that focus boost that suddenly you think and feel you can’t live without.

#5 You Feel Impatient and Irritated

The bad side of addiction and abuse shows up when the drug wears off and you build up a tolerance or can’t get enough. This is when people around you can start to notice. You’re always in a bad mood and easily fly off the handle or are irritated by everything. Agitation is your middle name.

#6 Worry, Anxiety, and Paranoia

Fear sets in. The addict is constantly worried and anxious and shows signs of paranoia. Nightmares happen.

#7 Your Body Starts to Break Down

Your body starts to feel the wear and tear. You’re dehydrated. You get headaches. You feel nauseous and throw up. Your mouth is dry. You are constipated and have diarrhea.

 You can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. Your interest in sex is all over the place.

#8 You Shake 

When the drug is out of your system, you shake uncontrollably. Often it’s focused in one part of your body, like your hands.

#9 You Can’t Do Anything

You have zero energy. You can’t do the basics of life, let alone work. 

#10 Your Body Really Breaks Down

When serious abuse and addiction sets in, your body completely goes haywire and everyone can tell. 

Here are things that might happen:

  • Fast beating heart
  • Sight gets blurry
  • Numbness in extremities
  • Keen pain around the chest
  • Vertigo and fainting
  • Garbled and sluggish speech
  • A hard time breathing and swallowing
  • Jerked movements muscle movements/tics
  • High fever and seizures
  • Skin breakouts
  • Swelling in the face, eyes, and throat
  • Lower-back and side discomfort and pain
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Nasal cavity damage from snorting the drug
  • Stroke and cardiac arrest from shooting up the drug

If these signs are happening, it’s time to get help.

#11 Spending It All to Get More

Once addiction is in full swing, the behavioral signs show up in spades. One of the obvious signs is spending everything available and going into debt to get more of the drug. Cars and houses are sold. College tuition funds, bank accounts, and pensions are cashed in. Wages go straight to more of the drug.

#12 Poor Grooming and Social Withdrawal

All the addict cares about is the drug. You think you can’t live without it. You stop socializing with friends and even spending time with family. You stop taking care of yourself physically.

You’re embarrassed and in denial and keep your drug-related actions secret so no one finds out. Shame is your middle name at this stage.

#13 Balls-Out You Don’t Care

In the end, the addict doesn’t care anymore what others think. No more hiding. It’s balls-out and you want more and more because you can’t get enough and are only chasing that high that never seems to come. 

Often addicts start shooting up or snorting drugs at this stage to get the blast faster. 

Ask for Help and Find Hope and Recovery

Are you familiar with any of these signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction in yourself or a friend or loved one? You are not alone! And there is hope, and it’s just a phone call away through detox, a professional recovery program, and ongoing sobriety support.

People are standing by to help and bring you relief. Contact us today to ask questions and get started on the road to recovery and an amazing life.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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