As a society, we’ve become so inundated with hearing about the opioid crisis that we forget other drugs exist. Unfortunately, by ignoring the issue and focusing our attention elsewhere, we’re witnessing the explosion of stimulant use and its prevalence nationwide. Although stimulants like meth were synonymous with the midwest, they’re currently devastating all states that border Mexico as the country continues producing pure cheap meth in clandestine labs. These meth superlabs in Mexico are destroying the United States with no end in sight. 

Although meth and the potential meth crisis is the most talked-about behind opioids, the use of other stimulant drugs like cocaine, prescription drugs like Adderall, and of course, crystal meth, usage rates continue to surge to unprecedented levels each year. Authorities continue monitoring the situation, but it’s a task like none other. Those protecting our border describe it as playing “whack a mole,” and when they’re able to nab one trafficker, five others pop up. It’s becoming nearly impossible to control. 

While abusing stimulant drugs is dangerous enough by itself, those who use other drugs like opioids in conjunction with stimulants are flirting with death. The combination is ideal because opioids make you sleepy while stimulants make you alert, so using both of these drugs allows a person to stay awake and function while experiencing the euphoria from both substances. 

Although users report these drugs feel great when they use them, it’s not entirely the euphoria that keeps them searching for more – it’s the devastating stimulant withdrawal symptoms they’re afraid of encountering. Although stimulant withdrawal isn’t necessarily dangerous, it can produce psychosis and extremely uncomfortable symptoms that lead to suicidal thoughts. It must be taken seriously, and you should consider professional addiction treatment. 

Understanding Stimulant Drugs

Stimulants are sprinkled into our society. Some are legal and widely accepted, like caffeine in coffee. Others like the prescription stimulant drug Adderall or Ritalin are also useful in treating common disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Still, when you go a little deeper, you’ll find methamphetamine, cocaine, and the party drug MDMA. Despite drugs like Adderall getting prescribed by doctors, nearly 40 percent of college students admitted to misusing the medications. In fact, stimulants are the second most commonly used drug only behind marijuana. 

A majority of stimulant drugs are considered Schedule II by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means that despite having medical benefits, the potential for abuse and psychological or physiological dependence is high. Stimulant abuse is characterized as outside the parameters of what your doctor prescribes and using them recreationally to get high. 

Abusing stimulants comes in many forms, meaning they can be smoked, used in higher doses than prescribed, taking them without a prescription, using them in conjunction with other illicit drugs or alcohol, using them in a manner they’re not prescribed for, like weight loss, or using it intravenously. 

The most common prescription stimulants sought out by individuals for their energizing and euphoric effects include the following:

  • Dexedrine
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Adderall

Amphetamines and cocaine are the most commonly abused illicit stimulants. Researchers conducted a study with these drugs on animals and found that the animals will continue using these drugs, even if the consequence is death

What makes stimulants so appealing, and how exactly do they work? When a person consumes a stimulant drug, whether orally, snorted, or injected, a chemical process in your brain begins, and your brain dumps a significant amount of dopamine, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter. Dopamine is also responsible for the following functions:

  • Cognition
  • Motivation
  • Reward
  • Euphoria
  • Movement
  • Satisfaction

Prolonged use and abuse of stimulants will lead to you becoming tolerant to their effects. Eventually, you won’t experience the rush of euphoria and sensations you once did, likely causing you to increase the dose or use it more frequently. By doing this, not only will you become physiologically dependent on these drugs, you’ll likely become addicted. 

Physiological dependence is a strong indicator that you’ve become addicted to a drug. Once you’re physically dependent, the body requires time to readjust and reset without them, meaning you’ll experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms if you lower the dose or stop. By experiencing withdrawal symptoms, you’ll know you’ve become dependent on the drug. If you start acting out of character by stealing to support your habit, you’ll know you’ve become addicted. 

Understanding Stimulant Withdrawal

The act of stimulant abuse involved a pattern of binging followed by intense cravings accompanied by withdrawal. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) characterizes stimulant withdrawal as causing dysphoric mood along with two or more symptoms that we’ll list below. 

  • Unpleasant dreams
  • An increase in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Challenges falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • Psychomotor retardation or agitation

You might also encounter withdrawal-related depression that causes suicidal thoughts. In many cases, this is severe and requires immediate medical attention in a facility equipped to handle stimulant withdrawal symptoms. Other signs to look for if you’re concerned about stimulant withdrawal include the following:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Weight loss
  • Impaired memory
  • Intense drug cravings
  • Irritability
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of interest in activities you once found joy in, known as anhedonia
  • Losing interest in social interactions and ignoring requests to go out
  • Dulled senses
  • Suicidal thoughts

How Long is the Stimulant Withdrawal Timeline?

As is the case with all drugs, the stimulant withdrawal timeline will vary from one person to the next. This is based on several factors that include the substances’ half-life, how long you’ve abused the drug, how it was administered, the size of your last dose, weight, age, and if you consumed other drugs in conjunction with stimulants. One example is that cocaine has a much shorter half-life than methamphetamine, so cocaine withdrawal will be faster than meth. 

If you’re seeking a generalized stimulant withdrawal timeline, we’ll provide that for you below.

Early Crash Phase

Once you start your journey toward ending stimulant use, especially after a prolonged binge, your body will encounter a crash. It will lead to feelings of anxiety, sadness, and extreme exhaustion. When you move past the early crash phase, you’ll endure mental and physical fatigue, causing you to want more stimulants to overcome this sensation. You’ll feel depressed and have scattered thoughts. If you’re unable to sleep, you’ll feel “tweaked out” due to a lack of sleep. Feeling “tweaked” means you’re paranoid, delusional, and extremely irritable. 

Middle Crash Phase

The middle crash phase lasts around 24 to 36 hours after the early crash, and this is when you’ll feel an intense urge to do nothing more than sleep. At this point, no matter how exhausted you feel, falling asleep will be impossible. In most cases, this is when a person might take a benzodiazepine, opioid, or drink alcohol in a desperate attempt to fall asleep. This can be dangerous.

Late Crash Phase

Once you pass the initial crash phase and the drugs have exited your system, you’ll experience excessive sleepiness throughout the day and extended nighttime sleep. When you wake up, you won’t have control over how much you eat due to intense hunger. This is your body attempting to retrieve normalcy.

Protracted Withdrawal

Once you make it past the initial withdrawal symptoms, you’ll likely continue experiencing them weeks or months after cessation. Unfortunately, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a phenomenon where you continue dealing with depression, loss of energy, and a decreased interest in activities even after you stop taking the drug. For this reason, professional addiction treatment is necessary to help you cope with your new normal. 

Treatment for Stimulant Withdrawal

Although you won’t encounter immediate deadly symptoms from stimulant withdrawal as you would with alcohol or benzodiazepines, it can bring about psychosis and severe depression that causes suicidal thoughts. For this reason, seeking out immediate medical attention for stimulant detox is vital to your long-term success. 

During detox, addiction experts will monitor you 24-hours a day for a period of up to seven days, depending on the severity of the symptoms and the type of drug you were using. They will also provide medications like antidepressants to help you cope with the roller coaster of emotions you might encounter. Once you’re deemed medically stable, you’ll discuss the next steps, which could be an inpatient residential treatment facility to understand the core of your addiction. 

No matter where you end up, you’ll be in good hands and around people cheering for your success. If you’re interested in learning more about addiction treatment, pick up the phone today and reach out to see your options.

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