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Prescription Stimulants Detox Guide: Timeline, Symptoms & Effects

What are Stimulants?

Mans brain showing neuro activity from taking stimulants

Stimulants stimulate the central nervous system — providing a temporary, pleasurable boost to various mental processes and imparting a sense of increased energy and alertness, while simultaneously affecting the reward centers of the brain. This stimulation of the reward centers of the brain keeps users coming back for more and more of the euphoric feeling associated with stimulants1.

Methamphetamine (meth) or amphetamines (such as those used to treat ADHD, e.g., Adderall) are in the stimulant class of drugs and can be very addictive. Stimulant withdrawal symptoms are rarely physically dangerous but the psychological symptoms can be extremely distressing. Formal detox and addiction treatment programs can usher you through the withdrawal process, managing the more severe symptoms to ensure your safety and lower the risk of relapse. 

Effects and Symptoms of Stimulants Withdrawal

Stimulants such as adderall typically stay in the system only for a short period of time. In dependent individuals, should attempts be made to quit using or if the drug merely hasn’t been used recently, the intense cravings for stimulants can become very strong. Stimulant withdrawal syndromes vary across different individuals, but some of the more common stimulant withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cravings.
  • Insomnia.
  • Somnolence, or extreme sleepiness.
  • Mental and physical fatigue.
  • Extreme lethargy.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Irritability.
  • Anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Depression.

One of the more challenging, and potentially urgent side effects of stimulant withdrawal is an extreme depression that may occur. People have been known to attempt suicide during withdrawal in association with this extreme depression 2.

Detox Timeline and Protocol

Therapist showing emotional support toward man about his cocaine addictionAlthough there are rarely serious medical complications from stimulant withdrawal, the psychological symptoms often need supportive management. Programs that provide solely emotional support for withdrawal are referred to as “social detox.” Social (clinical, but non-medical management) detox treatment is geared toward providing a supportive and monitored environment. It typically includes behavioral therapy as a way to help control the psychological symptoms that arise from stimulant withdrawal and assist the patient in learning to handle intense cravings (one of the more persistent and distressing symptoms of withdrawal).

Medically Assisted Detox

Some detox programs will provide medications as necessary for the management of symptoms. While there are no approved medications for stimulant addiction treatment, medically assisted detox programs may provide certain medications to alleviate the discomfort of withdrawal. For example, Benadryl or trazodone may be used to relieve insomnia. Anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications may be used to address some of the more severe psychological symptoms.

Do I Need Detox Treatment?

Stimulant abuse puts your body under extreme duress. If you’ve become unable to control your use, a detox treatment program can help you take the first step toward recovery and health.

It can be difficult to know if you have a problem with substance abuse. You may be addicted to methamphetamine or amphetamines and need the assistance of a formal treatment program if you meet 2 or more of the criteria for a stimulant use disorder, as outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) 4:

  • Taking more than you intended to take or for longer than intended.
  • Failing at attempts to stop using.
  • Spending a lot of time using or obtaining stimulants.
  • Experiencing cravings for the drug.
  • Neglecting personal responsibilities in favor of stimulant use.
  • Prioritizing drug use over personal and social obligations.
  • Stimulant use in situations where doing so can cause a physical hazard, such as while driving.
  • Continuing to use stimulants even when it’s causing negative physical or psychological consequences.
  • Developing a tolerance (needing more and more to achieve the same effects).
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms arise when unable to take the drug.

How Does Stimulants Withdrawal Treatment Help?

Supervised detox can provide an opportunity for someone experiencing stimulant withdrawal symptoms with a supportive environment in which to do so. Cravings stimulants can be incredibly strong. Controlling these cravings can be an extreme struggle for those attempting to detox alone, and relapse is very common.

A supervised program can help provide emotional support for someone in withdrawal from stimulants. Furthermore, these programs will be able to provide various behavioral and pharmaceutical interventions to manage any insomnia, agitation, depression, and other such withdrawal symptoms that may arise. Finding a supervised detox program to guide you through withdrawal with medical and psychological support may be a more effective option than suffering through stimulant withdrawal on your own.

It is also important to note that stimulant use may be associated with cardiac problems. Methamphetamine use, for example, is linked to an increase in catecholamine, which can lead to cardiotoxicity and symptoms like rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and death of the heart muscle. In severe cases, methamphetamine use can result in a heart attack or sudden cardiac death. Cardiac issues often go unrecognized by the patient until they cause dangerous symptoms, so getting a professional evaluation is critical to your health. Medical staff in inpatient treatment programs can assess you for any underlying conditions that may need to be addressed or which may complicate the withdrawal process 5.

Furthermore, when detoxing from stimulants, people can sometimes go into severe depression and even become suicidal. There is no real way to predict if this will occur, and consequently, it is better to detox under supervision to ensure that any mental health issues that may emerge can be handled appropriately and safely.

Finding a Stimulant Detox Program

Resort Setting for Stimulant Addiction TreatmentThere are hundreds of detox and rehab programs available for a person seeking to detox from stimulants. Programs vary tremendously in terms of setting and treatment approaches. At one end of the range of settings are those that resemble a private home or resort. These programs are usually expensive, but they do make detox and rehab as comfortable as possible. Theses luxury programs may offer chefs who cook meals to order, massage therapy, private rooms and other amenities that give the appearance of a spa. However, many people find these programs prohibitively expensive. There are many more affordable programs that offer quality treatment and supportive care to get you safely started on your path to sobriety.

Regardless of the level of luxury, detox and rehab programs provide similar types of stimulant addiction treatment. Detox is usually short-term, lasting only a few days. Rehab programs are for those needing longer treatment, and rehab typically lasts a few days up to a few months. Programs typically involve supervision of medical conditions by nurses and doctors.

Successful treatment usually incorporates care that extends beyond the brief detox period. Ongoing addiction treatment will involve counseling and therapy for patients. The counseling provided gives those recovering an opportunity to learn skills to keep from relapsing after leaving treatment. Some programs also use family therapy as a way to help the family provide support during recovery from drug addiction. Family therapy can also facilitate the process of healing from the problems that were created by the drug addiction.

Not everyone needs inpatient detox or rehab and some people seeking to detox from stimulants can enter an outpatient treatment program. Outpatient treatment programs also use the same type of group and individual counseling as inpatient treatment. Depending on an individual’s needs, the outpatient treatment program may meet from a few hours per week up to several hours, 3 or more days per week. Outpatient treatment is not right for everyone seeking to detox from stimulants, but it can be an option for some people and allow them to continue living at home and attending to their daily responsibilities.

A person seeking rehab or detox from stimulants can find a suitable program to meets their needs and their budget by doing some research into what programs are available. In some communities, there may also be low-cost or free programs run by community centers or government agencies that provide detox from stimulants. Insurance will also cover many people’s detox and stimulant addiction treatment.

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