Updated on February 6, 2024
6 min read

Are You Addicted to Stimulants? Signs & Symptoms

What are Stimulants?

Stimulants are a class of prescription medications that enhance activity, alertness, interest, and enthusiasm. They achieve this effect by amplifying central nervous system (CNS) activity. 

Many stimulants have addictive properties and the potential to pose severe health risks when misused. While these substances are intended to treat specific symptoms of mental disorders, stimulant abuse can lead to severe consequences.

What Are Stimulants For?

People with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including those with a subtype called ADD, often rely on prescription stimulants to enhance focus. Some common ADHD and ADD prescription stimulants include Ritalin and Adderall.

Although effective for certain conditions like ADHD, many engage in substance abuse using stimulants for recreational purposes. While they are safe when used as directed, prescription stimulants are some of the most widely misused drugs in the United States.

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What Are The Most Commonly Abused Stimulants?

People who abuse prescription and illegal stimulants for treatment or recreationally are at risk of developing an addiction. Different addiction signs and side effects will appear depending on the stimulants used.

Some of the most commonly misused and abused stimulants include:


Adderall, a brand name for a combination of levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine, is a stimulant medication used to treat ADHD. It enhances the focus, attention, and alertness of people with ADHD or narcolepsy.

Adderall addiction symptoms may include:

  • Increasing doses
  • Inability to reduce or stop using
  • Using the drug regardless of negative consequences
  • Relying on Adderall to perform tasks
  • Spending a lot of time and money getting and using Adderall
  • Neglecting previous hobbies in favor of using
  • Inability to meet social, work, or educational responsibilities


Ritalin, known as methylphenidate, is prescribed to treat ADHD in children and adolescents. It also treats narcolepsy, a sleep disorder affecting children and adults.

Ritalin is sometimes misused due to its stimulant effects, similar to methamphetamine. College students commonly abuse it, believing it enhances their study performance and memory.

Taking Ritalin as prescribed and at the correct dosage doesn’t cause tolerance. However, people who use the drug long-term can develop an addiction.


Vyvanse is an FDA-approved stimulant that treats ADHD and binge eating disorder.

Recreational users may experience euphoria, hyperfocus, and extreme bursts of energy. This is why Vyvanse has a high risk for misuse and abuse.

Symptoms of Vyvanse addiction include:

  • Increasing doses
  • Failed attempts to reduce or quit using Vyvanse
  • More time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from Vyvanse
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Neglecting social, educational, or work responsibilities
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies


Dexedrine is a prescription stimulant that treats narcolepsy. It helps people with sleep disorders feel wakeful and energetic.

Dexedrine carries a high risk for addiction when misused over an extended period. Symptoms of Dexedrine addiction include:

  • Excessive use
  • Relationship issues
  • Neglecting social, educational, or work responsibilities
  • Failed attempts to stop using the drug
  • Psychological issues
  • Giving up activities that you once enjoyed
  • Drug cravings


Focalin, also called dexmethylphenidate, is a medication that treats ADHD. Although generally safe to use, serious side effects can occur when you take it in high doses. These include irregular heartbeat, panic, psychosis, delirium, and heart failure.

Signs of Focalin addiction and abuse include:

  • Unusual increase in self-confidence and sociability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Euphoria
  • Reduced appetite

Crystal Meth

Crystal meth is a widely-used term for ‘methamphetamine’ or ‘meth,’ a potent illicit stimulant. The drug has similar effects as prescription amphetamines that treat ADHD and sleep disorders.

The most apparent sign of crystal meth addiction is the inability to stop use, even if the user wants to. A person struggling with meth addiction may also develop drug tolerance when the body demands a higher dose to achieve the same high.


Cocaine, commonly called coke, is an illegal stimulant with extremely addictive properties. Using coke results in alertness, heightened energy, intense happiness, and anxiety.

Cocaine is a Schedule II drug, which implies it has a high potential for abuse. The symptoms of cocaine addiction are often difficult to recognize. Since many people abuse the drug at parties or social events, they may not even know they are addicted.


Crack is the freebase form of cocaine. Cocaine is a white crystal powder that users generally snort, dissolve, and inject.

Crack resembles tan or white pellets that users usually smoke. It can be mixed with another substance and converted into a “rock” form.

Common signs of crack abuse and addiction include:

  • Uncontrollable, persistent cravings for the drug
  • Participating in risky sexual behaviors, violence, and breaking the law
  • Financial problems or stealing money to obtain more crack
  • Neglecting relationships, work, and other vital aspects of life due to drug use
  • Ignoring the consequences and potential risk factors (overdosing and death)
  • Aggression, hostility, and severe mood swings
  • Hypertension
  • Getting less sleep than normal
  • Twitching muscles
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent nosebleeds


Kratom is a plant that boosts mood, increases physical endurance, eases anxiety, and treats pain. It has a history of traditional medicinal use in Southeast Asia and Africa. Recreational use of kratom has also been increasing in the United States.

Although it isn’t on the list of controlled substances, kratom can cause dependence, addiction, and life-threatening side effects.

Symptoms of kratom abuse include:

  • Feeling an intense need to use the drug regularly
  • Gradually needing to take higher doses to achieve the same effects
  • Trouble concentrating on daily tasks
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Resorting to dangerous behaviors to obtain the drug, such as stealing
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping or limiting use
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Social isolation
  • Poor hygiene

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What Are The Side Effects of Stimulants?

Stimulants increase the release and inhibit the reuptake of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. This enhances focus, alertness, and activity levels.

However, stimulants can have numerous adverse side effects when consumed in higher doses than physicians prescribed. These include:

  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Mental health disorders
  • Psychosis
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased risk of seizures
  • Reduced appetite and rapid weight loss
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Permanent brain damage

Symptoms of depression can occur after the effects of the stimulant wear off. Additionally, Long-term use leads to adaptations in the brain’s receptors and neurotransmitter levels, causing tolerance and dependence. This can lead to drug cravings.

Prescription vs. Illegal Stimulants

Users with stimulant use disorder commonly abuse several categories of stimulants. These categories include prescription stimulants, which primarily treat ADHD, and illicit stimulants, which are illegal drugs.

Prescription stimulants are occasionally helpful for medical reasons. Illicit stimulants, like crystal meth and cocaine, are illegal and have no recognized therapeutic use.

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How Do You Treat Stimulant Addiction?

Professional detoxification at an inpatient or outpatient treatment center is a crucial initial step for those who abuse stimulants.

Several other treatment programs are available to help support the recovery process. These include:

Besides choosing among the treatment programs above, implementing a tapering schedule under the guidance of a doctor can also be highly effective. This method involves gradually reducing the amount of the drug a person uses, ensuring safety, minimizing seizure risk, and enhancing long-term sobriety success.


Stimulants are substances that increase alertness, energy, and physical performance. They are effective treatments for sleep disorders, narcolepsy, and ADHD.

Despite being prescription medications, these substances can become addictive, especially when abused recreationally. Look out for the addiction signs listed above, and seek help if you or someone close to you exhibits any of these symptoms.

Treating stimulant use disorder often involves professional detoxification, psychotherapies, and a tapering schedule under the supervision of a doctor. These treatment approaches have been proven to overcome stimulant addiction.

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Updated on February 6, 2024
13 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Cocaine DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2021.

  2. Kampman, K.M. “New Medications for the Treatment of Cocaine Dependence.” Psychiatry (Edgmont.), 2005.

  3. Methamphetamine DrugFacts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019.

  4. Petit et al. “Methamphetamine Addiction: A Review of the Literature.”Journal of Addiction and Research Therapy, 2012.

  5. Radfar, S.R., and Rawson, R.A. “Current Research on Methamphetamine: Epidemiology, Medical and Psychiatric Effects, Treatment, and Harm Reduction Efforts.” Addiction and Health, 2014.

  6. Kratom.” Drug Enforcement Administration.

  7. Kratom.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2022.

  8. FDA and Kratom.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2023.

  9. Drug Scheduling.” Drug Enforcement Administration.

  10. Focalin.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  11. Focalin XR.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2017.

  12. CDC Survey Finds That 1 in 5 U.S. High School Students Have Abused Prescription Drugs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010.

  13. U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Methamphetamine.” Medline Plus.

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