Everything You Need To Know About Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Everything You Need to Know About Prescription Stimulant Abuse

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Prescription stimulant abuse is any prescription medication consumption outside the prescribed method of use or purpose. Even a medication prescribed for you can be misused in several ways.

This could include taking prescriptions that aren’t yours, taking more than the prescribed dose, taking the drug too frequently, taking the medicine in any way other than specified, or mixing medications. There are many concerning effects and warning signs of stimulant abuse.

When taken as prescribed, stimulant medications are a highly effective treatment for some diagnoses, including ADHD, obesity, and sleep disorders. But they can also lead to dependence and addiction if misused.

Stimulant Drug Facts

Stimulant drugs increase dopamine levels in the brain associated with our natural reward center and norepinephrine levels, which affect the heart rate. Usually prescribed to treat ADHD, obesity, and sleep disorders, a physician can only legally obtain these psychoactive medications.

The purpose of stimulant medications is to provide a temporary increase in energy and focus and to promote concentration and even weight loss. With improvements in mental functioning often come improvements in mood and activity.

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Prescription stimulants are primarily amphetamines, dextroamphetamine, methylphenidates, or a combination of two, including Adderall®, Ritalin®, Dexedrine® Vyvanse®, and Concerta®. These medications are classified as Schedule II controlled substances, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).[1]

All Schedule II controlled substances are classified as dangerous drugs with a high potential for abuse that can potentially lead to psychological or physical dependence. Other stimulants include cocaine, caffeine, crack, and khat.

Effects Of Stimulant Use

Even when taken as prescribed, prescription stimulants are associated with several side effects. Some short-term side-effects include:[2]

  • A spike in blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Low blood flow
  • A boost in blood sugar

Most Abused Prescription Stimulants

Prescription drug addiction covers many medically prescribed substances, including stimulants and amphetamines. According to a recent report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CNS depressants, opioids, and stimulants are the top three prescription medications with the highest misuse rate in the U.S.[3]

While intended to help you or your loved one overcome physical, mental, or neurological concerns, prescription stimulant medications have a known cost to your health and well-being. Your physician may recommend them as a temporary solution or to support you as you develop other, more holistic coping skills. Still, they’re not intended to be a life-long solution. 

Warning Signs Of Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Recognizing stimulant abuse can be challenging, especially for yourself or someone close to you. However, prescription stimulant abuse can be characterized by several concerning symptoms, including psychosis, anger, and paranoia.[4]

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Other warning signs include a preoccupation with stimulant use, hiding misuse, lying about medication habits, and continuing to take them despite adverse consequences. You may also notice an unapproved increase in dosage to continue to feel the drug’s positive effects. This often happens when your body tolerates the medication; more is needed to feel it is working.

If ethical or legal issues arise in life, at work, or in school, it could be related to out-of-control stimulant addiction. A significant change in mental or physical health could also indicate stimulant abuse. If you or someone you love is experiencing chronic irritation or increased panic and anxiety, this could signal a dependence or addiction to stimulant medications.

Other physical symptoms of prescription stimulant abuse include:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • New sleep changes
  • Intense cravings

Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms

If you stop taking stimulants suddenly, you could experience uncomfortable and distracting withdrawal symptoms. Common stimulant withdrawal symptoms include:[5]

  • Exhaustion
  • Sleep issues or excessive sleep
  • Blunting or inability to experience pleasure
  • Chronic irritation
  • Unexplained agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in appetite and eating habits
  • Cravings for the prescription medication

Treatment For Prescription Drug Addiction

Several treatment options are available for those suffering from prescription drug addiction, including stimulants, antidepressants, opioids, painkillers, and other prescription medications. In these early stages of attempted recovery, seeking professional help and support is vital.

Medically Assisted Detox

 A detox program will help you safely wean off harmful or toxic substances while managing withdrawal symptoms. This is often the first step in recovery.  Depending on the severity of your addiction and withdrawal symptoms, detox may not be required for stimulant prescription medication abuse.

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Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)

An intensive outpatient program provides the same comprehensive, holistic care as a residential facility without living requirements. Over several hours a day for several days a week, you can focus on your recovery while being fully supported in your journey toward a healthier lifestyle.

While attending an IOP, you or your loved one will receive holistic medication support,  evidence-based therapeutic interventions, 12-step program guidance, community support, and relapse prevention training.

Long-Term Holistic Treatment

If all you treat are the external symptoms of your stimulant medication dependence, the chances of relapse are much higher. It’s essential to focus on healing as a whole person, from the inside out, to achieve lifelong success. If you address physiological, emotional, and spiritual needs and dependence-related issues, you can navigate future triggers or temptations to relapse. During holistic treatment interventions, you will learn valuable coping skills and participate in cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, mindfulness practices, and medication support.

Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Stimulants

What is the most commonly prescribed stimulant?

The most commonly prescribed stimulant medication is Adderall®. Followed by Ritalin®, Dexedrine®, and Concerta,® all prescribed for treating ADHD.

Does ADHD medication lead to substance abuse?

In some cases, yes. Taking stimulant medications for ADHD for an extended period or outside their prescribed use can lead to dependents and addiction. It’s essential to work closely with your prescribing physician to manage tolerance and potential signs of dependence or to pursue other options for treatment.

What happens when you drink on Adderall®?

As an amphetamine or stimulant medication, Adderall® increases your natural heart rate. One of the common side effects of drinking alcohol is a decreased heart rate. Together, this can cause your heart to work harder and could result in developing heart trouble,  chest pains, or in severe cases, heart attacks. Never mix stimulant medications with other substances, including alcohol, without consulting your prescribing physician.

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What happens if you drink an energy drink while on Adderall®?

This will have the opposite effect of alcohol and Adderall® or any stimulant prescription. Caffeine is also considered a stimulant and can increase heart rate, similar to Adderall® or Ritalin®.  Taking them together can lead to developing heart problems and physical tremors.

Holistic Treatment For Prescription Stimulant Abuse

If you or a loved one are struggling with stimulant misuse,  you will find compassionate support and healing at Desert Cove Recovery. Our experienced and qualified teams of clinicians and providers are ready to help you navigate your first or next step in recovery. Call today to learn more.



[1] https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling

[2] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants

[3] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/misuse-prescription-drugs/what-classes-prescription-drugs-are-commonly-misused

[4] https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64323/