Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms: What Is Detox Like?

Stimulants include substances like caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, steroids, and MDMA. They may be used legally with a prescription or illicitly. Stimulants can make people feel more awake, energetic, and focused. But in large doses, these drugs have adverse side effects like anxiety, paranoia, and aggression.

Chronic stimulant use can result in addiction. If you struggle with stimulant addiction, you may have concerns about quitting. Will you have intense cravings? What will withdrawal feel like? Can you learn new ways to cope without drugs? These concerns are normal. Let’s explore what you need to know to prepare yourself.

Understanding Stimulant Addiction

In general, stimulant use is fairly common. Eighty-five percent of the U.S. population consumes at least one caffeinated drink a day. Additionally, prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are fairly common. Almost 7% of adults use prescription stimulants. Among college students, up to 20% abuse these substances.

Stimulant use doesn’t always lead to addiction, but these drugs have a high risk of abuse and dependence. Misusing them increases your chance for addiction.

What Causes Stimulant Withdrawal?

Stimulants impact your central nervous system. After continuous use, your brain essentially relies on these substances to function. Therefore, chronic stimulant use can result in dependence. Dependence means that your body becomes physically used to taking the drug.

When you stop using a stimulant drug, you will experience some withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be both psychological and physical, and they vary in severity, depending on:

  • How long you’ve been taking stimulants
  • How frequently and intensely you use stimulants
  • Other drugs you use at the same time
  • Your mental and physical health

Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

Everyone experiences stimulant withdrawal symptoms differently, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Increased depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Slowed bodily movements
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Distressing dreams and problems sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Cravings to use stimulants

In some cases, people experience more severe symptoms, like:

  • Psychosis (hallucinations or delusions)
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Impaired memory
  • Severe dehydration

The impact of stimulant withdrawal varies, and when you start to feel withdrawal symptoms depends on the type of substance you used and how frequently you used it.

Stimulant withdrawal can be categorized by the following phases:

Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

This phase is often known as the “crash.” Many people binge on stimulants, so when coming off them, they may stay awake for several days in a row. During this time, they often forgo eating and other basic needs. As a result, the body essentially crashes.

You may feel physically and emotionally exhausted. You may also feel depressed. Finally, you may start “tweaking.” Tweaking refers to a cluster of symptoms related to awkward movements, agitation, and paranoid thinking. This phase can last for about a day.

Middle-Stage Withdrawal Symptoms

This phase usually lasts for about 24 to 36 hours. Many people feel exhausted during this time, but you may still have sleep problems despite feeling very tired. Because this stage can feel uncomfortable, many people relapse on stimulants. They may also use other drugs, like opioids, alcohol, or sedatives to help with sleep.

Later-Stage Withdrawal Symptoms

This phase usually lasts about three to five days. People still tend to be sleepy and sluggish. Cravings may still be prevalent. It’s also typical to feel more hungry than usual.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

Many people experience lingering withdrawal symptoms for several weeks or months after they stop using stimulants. PAWS symptoms vary. They may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Concentration issues
  • Problems with social relationships

Why Medical Detox Is Important

Withdrawal can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Maybe you’ve had previous recovery attempts. Perhaps you continue to struggle with relapse.

A medical detox program provides the optimal chance for a safe withdrawal. Although stimulant withdrawal isn’t necessarily life-threatening, some complications can cause serious problems. These problems include:

  • Psychosis, which can lead to self-harming or suicidal thoughts or behavior
  • Seizures, which can happen if you were abusing other drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines
  • Overdose, which can occur if you relapse during withdrawal

Medical detox offers the highest form of structure and support because you’re under the care of medical experts. Stimulants are powerful, addictive substances. Many people find it difficult to stop using them on their own. Even if they want to stop, it may not feel possible.

What Happens in Medically Supervised Detox?

All clients start detox with a thorough assessment. You’ll discuss your substance use history and answer questions related to your medical and psychiatric health. These answers will help determine your treatment needs.

Many clients spend the majority of detox resting and relaxing. This restoration time is important. Your body has been through a lot! You must give it the care and compassion it deserves.

During detox, you may meet with a case manager or therapist. Your team will support you in learning about relapse prevention. They can also teach you productive coping skills for managing stress and cravings.

Detox length varies, but a typical episode lasts between three days and one week. After detox, your team will offer you aftercare treatment referrals. Continuing with treatment is crucial. Detox helps stabilize your mind and body; an addiction treatment program helps you learn how to adjust to a new life without stimulants.

Can Medicine Help with Withdrawal?

The FDA has not approved any medicines for stimulant withdrawal, but some medications can help with related symptoms:

Antidepressants (SSRIs) – Almost 38% of people with substance use disorders also have a mental illness like depression or anxiety. SSRIs can help people struggling with depression or anxiety. They release serotonin, which stabilizes mood.

Modafinil – Modafinil is a stimulant, but it’s not as potent as amphetamines. It can help block cravings and improve emotional regulation.

Sleep medication – Rest is an integral part of stimulant detox, yet many people encounter sleep problems. Medication can help with symptoms related to insomnia or disturbing dreams.

What Happens After Detoxing from Stimulants?

Your treatment team will give you a plan for the next step of your recovery, which may include a partial care program or outpatient care. In any case, you’ll get support from one-on-one and group therapy, and you’ll learn how to cope with life and responsibilities without stimulants.

Although it can be scary, stimulant withdrawal is a short-lived discomfort. Most addiction is progressive, and that’s why getting treatment is key. Detox is the first step of successful stimulant treatment. Contact us to get the help you need today.

References

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691513007175#:~:text=Results%20showed%20that%2085%25%20of,%C2%B1%202%20mg%2Fday).
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2018/04/five-million-american-adults-misusing-prescription-stimulants#:~:text=Looking%20at%20annual%20averages%2C%20approximately,%25%20(or%200.4%20million)%20had
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312145/
  4. https://www.semel.ucla.edu/dual-diagnosis-program/News_and_Resources/PAWS
  5. https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/comorbidity-substance-use-other-mental-disorders
  6. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uebikDxzMSGKkXQHh4XVtYISqNswEfqlbLw_toN9UiU/edit#heading=h.lkejt2hekq8b

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