Prescription Stimulant Addiction

Basic Facts About Prescription Stimulants

When public health officials use the term prescription stimulants, they’re most commonly referring to the medications used to treat children or adults with ADHD. These medications have well-known brand names that include Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta and Dexedrine. Specific stimulant substances contained in these prescription medications include amphetamine and an amphetamine relative called dextroamphetamine, as well as non-amphetamine-based methylphenidate. Doctors also sometimes prescribe dextroamphetamine-containing Dexedrine to people affected by the daytime sleep disorder narcolepsy. In addition, a prescription form of the highly potent stimulant methamphetamine, called Desoxyn, is sometimes given to people affected by morbid obesity. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration keeps track of the number of U.S. teenagers and adults who abuse prescription stimulants. Figures gathered for 2012 (the last year with fully available statistics) show that about 1.2 million Americans over the age of 11 abuse one of these medications once a month or more. This equates to roughly 0.5 percent of the total population in this age range. Only two classes of prescription medication, opioid painkillers and tranquilizers, are abused more frequently.

Prescription Drug Addiction

The effects of prescription stimulants do not differ from the main effects of the illegal stimulant cocaine or illegally produced forms of methamphetamine. In addition to speeding up the central nervous system, all of these substances trigger a spike in production of the main brain chemical responsible for producing pleasurable sensations. Whether an individual abuses prescription stimulants for purely recreational purposes or as weight-loss aids or academic performance-enhancing “study drugs,” repeated exposure to them can lead to long-term changes in the brain’s pleasure center and physical dependence.

In turn, a person physically dependent on stimulants has a significant risk of developing symptoms of stimulant addiction, which include cravings for stimulant drugs, uncontrolled stimulant use, the need to take more stimulants in order to feel their effects, and problems with withdrawal when stimulant intake drops or completely stops. Doctors can diagnose a condition called stimulant use disorder in anyone affected by prescription stimulant addiction or a non-addicted but clearly damaging pattern of prescription stimulant abuse. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.

Additional Health Concerns

Significant short-term changes in body function that can appear in a person who abuses a prescription stimulant medication include a substantially elevated heart rate, a spike in normal blood pressure levels and an abnormally high body temperature. A prescription stimulant abuser can also develop uncontrolled muscle tremors and seizures.

Potential changes in mental function include the onset of sensory hallucinations and/or delusional thought patterns (known collectively as psychosis) and a disruptive level of anxiousness. Potentially fatal health outcomes in prescription stimulant abusers include heart failure and stroke.

Symptoms of withdrawal that can appear in a person physically dependent on or addicted to prescription stimulants include sleep disturbances, a “down” or depressed mental state and a substantial drop in normal energy levels. The intensity of these symptoms can prompt a return to active stimulant abuse among individuals in recovery. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.