Stimulant Addiction Causes & Effects

The Rose provides stimulant addiction treatment for women rooted in a science-based, research-supported clinical model to ensure a healthier life. Our treatment experience was designed by women for women, so you or your loved one receive a tailored experience.

Understanding Stimulant Addiction

Learn about stimulant addiction and substance abuse

Stimulants are a group of substances that include cocaine, amphetamines, or methamphetamine (“meth”). According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), stimulants are classified as Schedule II substances, meaning that they have a high likelihood of abuse.

Prescription amphetamines and other similar stimulants can be exceptionally beneficial in helping to improve the quality of life for those who grapple with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other such conditions. Medications like Ritalin or Adderall can enhance an individual’s ability to focus her attention and yield success as a result. For those who do not have ADHD, when these substances are abused, they experience increased alertness and attention, and a dramatic surge in energy. Methamphetamine and cocaine, which are also stimulants, can produce similar effects, but also supply a sense of self-confidence and increased euphoria. Stimulants can also curb one’s appetite, which make these medications appealing to those who desire to control and/or lose weight.

When individuals abuse a stimulant to the point where it starts hindering their ability to function in a healthy manner on a regular basis, it is most likely that they have developed stimulant use disorder. As soon as an addiction like this has occurred, it can be tremendously challenging to defeat without the help of professionals. Luckily, there are treatment options available for stimulant use.


Stimulant addiction statistics

Sadly, stimulant abuse is something that impacts many people throughout the United States. Over 1.2 million people are said to abuse methamphetamine nationwide, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that cocaine abuse impacts almost 3.6 million people. Regarding prescription stimulants, approximately 13 million people abuse substances in this category for purposes unintended.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for stimulant addiction

Possible causes and risk factors that can lend themselves to the development of stimulant abuse and addiction can be found within the following:

Environmental: The environment in which one lives can significantly increase a person’s vulnerability to abusing stimulants and developing stimulant use disorder. For stimulants like cocaine, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that being exposed to cocaine prenatally or having parents who consume this substance during one’s childhood years can increase an individual’s likelihood of also abusing cocaine at some point in life. In addition, witnessing community violence or the abuse of other drugs or alcohol can also lend a hand in an individual’s likelihood of abusing these types of substances.

Risk Factors:

  • Being impulsive
  • Abusing other types of substances
  • Growing up in an unstable home environment
  • Being exposed to violence during childhood
  • Suffering from other mental health illnesses, including bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or schizophrenia

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction

When individuals are struggling with stimulant abuse, the symptoms and signs linked to that use will vary based on a number of things, such as the type of stimulant that is being abused, the frequency that it is being abused, and the duration of the abuse. Some of the many symptoms of stimulant abuse can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Changes in social interactions
  • No longer participating in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Repetitive movements
  • Engaging in risky activities in order to obtain the stimulant(s) of choice
  • Hypervigilance
  • No longer fulfilling obligations at work or home

Physical symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Perspiration or chills
  • Lowered or elevated blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Noticeable weight loss
  • Muscle weakness

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Impaired judgment
  • Having intense cravings for stimulants

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Brief periods of euphoria
  • Psychological distress
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of emotional reactivity
  • Anger


Effects of stimulant addiction

When stimulant abuse is present within an individual’s life, she becomes more likely to experience numerous consequences. The effects that develop for the individual will be based on the type of stimulant she abuses, the way in which the stimulant is consumed, the frequency of use, and the period of time that the individual has been using for. The following are some common effects of stimulant abuse:

Intravenous abuse of stimulants can put users at risk for the following physical side effects:

  • Contracting tuberculosis
  • Lung infections
  • Becoming infected with hepatitis or HIV/AIDS
  • Puncture marks

Intranasal stimulant abuse can place users at risk for the below listed health effects:

  • Sinusitis
  • Nasal irritation
  • Punctured nasal septum
  • Nasal bleeding

Inhaling stimulants can make users vulnerable to the following physical health risks:

  • Pneumonitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Respiratory distress
  • Coughing

When stimulants are abused in any manner, individuals can suffer the following effects:

  • Job loss
  • Chest pains
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Deteriorated relationships
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Malnutrition

Co-Occurring Disorders

Stimulant addiction and co-occurring disorders

When individuals are faced with the challenges of having stimulant use disorder, they often battle with additional mental health concerns at the same time. In addition, these individuals are at a higher risk of abusing other forms of substances. The APA states that the most common substances abused by those who are addicted to stimulants are substances that have sedative properties, as sedative substances have the ability to help ease some of the uncomfortable side effects that can develop through stimulant use.

The following are examples of the many disorders that can occur alongside stimulant use disorder:

  • Gambling disorder
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder

Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of stimulant withdrawal & overdose

Effects of stimulant withdrawal: When individuals stop their stimulant abuse or begin to dramatically decrease the amount they are abusing, they will likely go through a period of withdrawal as their bodies work to become adjusted to the lack of the stimulant in their systems. Below are some examples of stimulant withdrawal symptoms:

  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Dysphoric mood
  • Increase in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams
  • Other types of functional impairment
  • Disturbed social interactions
  • Impaired ability to perform at work
  • Psychomotor retardation

Effects of stimulant overdose: Sadly, the risk of overdose is very real when individuals are stuck in the dangerous cycle of stimulant abuse. An overdose happens when an individual consumes more of a substance that her body is capable of metabolizing. As the person continues to increase her doses or the frequency in which she uses, that individual is placing herself at a heightened risk for overdose. If an overdose occurs, it should be treated as an emergency and medical attention should be sought immediately. Below are signs and symptoms that can signify a stimulant overdose:

  • Stroke
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Seizures
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Irregular breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Feelings of panic
  • Hypertension
  • Heart palpitations

Take A Free Online Assessment:
As Seen On
Dr. Phil
The Doctors
A&E Intervention

I would steal stimulants from my friends who had legitimate prescriptions to get high. After an intervention, I realized that I needed treatment and achieved sobriety at The Rose.

– Former Patient
Marks of Quality care
Our accreditations show our focus on quality care.
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)