Stimulant Withdrawal and Detox
Stimulants are substances that boost the activity of many neurotransmitters in the brain and invokes a state of increased energy and alertness. Also, they may heighten physical processes such as blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate. Stimulant withdrawal is the physical and mental process that occurs following a period of cessation from drugs or alcohol..
Commonly used stimulants include:
- Medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (amphetamines such as Adderall and Ritalin)
- Cocaine/crack cocaine
- Forms of methamphetamines
Signs/Symptoms of Stimulant Withdrawal
Withdrawal from stimulants is rarely life-threatening, but it can be extremely challenging to cope with psychologically, emotionally, and physically. For this reason, withdrawal symptoms are often the catalyst for relapse.
Cessation from stimulants often results in the opposite effects of the drug(s) itself. Moreover, while stimulants usually increase energy and elevate mood, withdrawals are often characterized by depression, decreased energy, and fatigue.
Symptoms can begin shortly following the last use, and some long-term symptoms can last up to five months later – one reason why professional help can provide critical support during the recovery process.
The Typical Stimulant Withdrawal Process
Cessation from chronic stimulant use is commonly followed by anxiety, agitation, and intense cravings. Following this phase, the user will often begin to feel lethargic (physical and mental exhaustion), experience insomnia and suffer from increasing depression.
About 12 hours from the initial phase the user may feel an increase in the severity of symptoms and they may persist from 4 days to many weeks – in addition to cravings for their drug(s) of choice.
The duration of effects will be largely dependent upon the drug being abused. For example, the depressive symptoms of cessation of cocaine use often decrease within just a few hours, while methamphetamine users can experience depression for a significantly longer period.
The depressive symptoms associated with stimulant withdrawal can induce suicidal ideations – fortunately, being under the care of professional health providers can help ease these thoughts in persons who are struggling.
The Stimulant Withdrawals Detox Process
To begin the detox program, the patient will meet with a physician or other qualified addiction treatment provider to identify the most appropriate course of action. Detox, which rids the body and brain of all substances, is almost always the first step in the recovery process,
Stimulants are cleared from the body expeditiously compared to some other drugs, usually with 2-3 days. As a stimulant drug leaves a user’s system, the withdrawal period begins and can persist up to several weeks, and symptoms usually continue to taper off over this period.
Monitoring by qualified health/addiction professionals fosters a safe and successful detox and prevents an immediate relapse because the patient does not have easy access to drug(s) or alcohol.
Antidepressants may be prescribed long-term as a means to help patients who experience chronic, clinical depression and antianxiety medication such as Ativan may be prescribed short-term to assist patients who are experiencing anxiety following cessation of stimulant use.
For the manifestation of psychosis, antipsychotic medications may be used to alleviate psychotic symptoms during the period of detox and recovery.
Why Seek Admission to a Stimulant Detox Program?
As noted, life-threatening complications resulting from detox of stimulants are rare. Symptoms are usually limited to agitation, fatigue, and decreased energy, none of which are physically harmful. If the stimulant is used in combination with other drugs such as heroin (speedball) however, symptoms may be more severe but rarely fatal.
Moreover, symptoms may be highly pleasant and disturbing, but are fleeting and are unlikely to pose significant health risks. Mood changes may be more dangerous and may result in severe depression and suicidal thoughts, particularly in patients who suffer from a mood disorder in addition to a substance abuse disorder.
Each treatment program, including detox, is customized to the individual patient, and often includes simultaneous treatment for co-occurring disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder. Therefore, it is crucial that professional treatment fits the unique needs of each patient.
Finding a Detox Program
There are several aspects of a detox program to consider as you decide on a treatment program for stimulant abuse. Answer of yourself the following questions:
1. Which is the best fit for you – Residential/Inpatient treatment or Intensive Outpatient Treatment? Or a combination of both? Detox is typically followed by some form of long-term treatment including counseling and therapy that teach patients how to cope with cravings, triggers, and avoid relapse.
Inpatient programs require a residential stay in a qualified facility, often 30 days or longer. For those who cannot engage in inpatient treatment due to family/work/school obligations, and an intensive outpatient program can be just as effective, and typically meets two or three days a week. The difference is that patients have access to drugs and may be forced to engage with others who enable or be exposed to areas that trigger drug use.
Before making a decision, assessment by a doctor or addiction specialist may be helpful as they can make a recommendation based on the patient’s individual situation.
2. Do you wish to remain close to home and loved ones or get away from the area entirely? Some find that a long-term break from where they lived and used offers them the ideal mental space to deal with their substance abuse, while others would rather stay close to home, allowing loved ones to visit and support the patient.
3. Does the treatment program offer specialized stimulation abuse treatment? Programs, health providers and addition profession that have experience in assisting and treating people who are abused or addicted to stimulants have dealt with issues resulting from stimulant detox and withdrawal previously and are, therefore, better equipped to help patients.
Get Help Today
If you or someone you love is abusing substances, please seek treatment as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you or your loved one.
Please call us today at 877-497-6180 for a free consultation.
~ Natalee G. Serrels, M.A., Psychology