Stimulant Abuse, Addiction, and Dependence

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Rising steadily throughout the past few years, substance use remains a public health concern. Within the United States, approximately 61.2 million individuals, ages 12 years or older, reported that they engaged in some form of substance use during the year 2021. (1) Additionally in 2021, approximately 46.3 million individuals, 12 years of age or older, were diagnosed with a substance use disorder. (2) Stimulants appear to be one of the substances that is often misused. In the United States, approximately 3.7 million individuals reported that they engaged in the misuse of a prescription stimulant in 2021. (3) That same year, approximately 1.5 million individuals met the diagnostic criteria and were diagnosed with a prescription stimulant use disorder. (4) With high prevalence rates, evidence-based treatment for stimulant addiction is imperative in order to reduce the amount of individuals experiencing substance use.

At Guardian Recovery Network, we offer comprehensive treatment for those experiencing stimulant and other prescription medication misuse. With stimulant specific detoxification services, we can help individuals begin the substance removal process in a safe environment. Offering various levels of care, such as residential inpatientpartial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient, we ensure that each option meets the individuals specific treatment needs. Recovery is possible with the right tools. Contact us today to learn more and to get started.

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What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants are a class of drugs that speed up the central nervous system and body. Stimulants increase the speed that messages travel between the brain and body. (5) Stimulants can be found in the form of rocks, pills, powders, and liquids that can be injected intravenously. Prescription stimulants are used to help treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and obesity. Prescription stimulants help increase alertness, attention, concentration, and energy.

Substances included in the stimulant drug class include: (6)

  • Prescription Amphetamines (Adderall & Dexedrine)
  • Prescription Methylphenidate (Concerta & Ritalin)
  • Diet Aids (Didrex, Bontril, Preludin, Fastin, Adipex P, Ionomin, & Meridia)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Methcathinone
  • Synthetic cathinones (Bath salts)

Common street names used for stimulants include: (7)

  • Bennies
  • Black Beauties
  • Cat
  • Coke
  • Crank
  • Crystal
  • Flake
  • Ice
  • Pellets
  • R-Ball
  • Skippy
  • Sno
  • Speed
  • Upers

Can Using Stimulants as Prescribed Cause Dependence?

Even if an individual is taking their medication as prescribed, dependence can develop. Dependence to a drug occurs when an individual develops a physical dependence. Dependence is characterized by experiencing withdrawal symptoms and tolerance.

What Are the Addiction Rates from Stimulant Use?

Addiction rates differ depending on the stimulant.

Common stimulants and their addiction rates in 2020:

  • Cocaine – 1.4 million individuals were diagnosed with cocaine use disorder. (8)
  • Methamphetamine – 1.6 million individuals were diagnosed with methamphetamine use disorder. (9)

Prescription Stimulants – 1.5 million individuals were diagnosed with prescription stimulant use disorder. (10)

Causes & Risk Factors for Stimulant Abuse & Addiction Development

Risk factors are factors that make individuals more susceptible to developing stimulant abuse and addiction.

Common risk factors for developing a stimulant addiction include: (11)

  • Having a family history of substance use.
  • Having a personal and family history of mental health conditions.
  • Having a personal history of addiction to other substances.
  • Being continuously subjected to high levels of distress and stress.
  • Being exposed to violence or crime.
  • Being exposed to stimulant substances when in utero.
  • Having easy accessibility to obtain stimulants.

Stimulant Use & Its Effect on Mental Health

Using stimulants can have negative effects on the body and one’s mental health. Continuous and repeated use can lead to hostility, panic, and aggression. (12) Stimulant use can also lead to the development of suicidal and homicidal ideation.

What Demographics Are Most at Risk of Stimulant Abuse?

Certain demographics are more at risk of developing a stimulant addiction when compared to others. Research has found that individuals who began using stimulants at a younger age, are male, younger than 25, and a part of a low socioeconomic status are more at risk to developing a stimulant use disorder. (13)

Visible Signs Someone May Be Addicted to Stimulants

There are signs that can be visually detected that may indicate a stimulant addiction. Being able to identify the signs and symptoms of addiction can help determine if you or someone you love are experiencing a stimulant use disorder.

Signs and symptoms of a stimulant addiction may include:

  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop using stimulants.
  • Continuing to engage in stimulant use despite experiencing personal, occupational, relational, or other negative consequences.
  • Engaging in drug-seeking behavior, such as stealing from loved ones.
  • Socially isolating oneself from friends and family.
  • Experiencing a decrease in school or work performance.
  • Experiencing an increase in risk-taking behavior, such as driving while under the influence.
  • Developing a physical tolerance, or the need to ingest large amounts of a stimulant in order to reach the desired effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when the stimulant is cut back or stopped.

Common Symptoms & Side Effects of Stimulant Dependence

There are both physical and psychological symptoms and side effects that are associated with stimulant addiction and dependence.


Physical symptoms and side effects associated with stimulant dependence include: (14)

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Pain in the chest
  • Dental problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke


Psychological symptoms associated with stimulant dependence include: (15)

  • Violent behavior
  • Psychosis
  • Loss of productivity
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms

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What to Do if Someone Overdoses on Stimulants

If an individual overdoses on a stimulant, it is important to seek emergency medical care as an overdose can lead to premature death.

Signs of a stimulant overdose include: (16)

  • Dilated pupils
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fast breathing and heart rate
  • Excessive sweating
  • High blood pressure
  • Panic and anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis

Stimulant Overdose Statistics

In 2021, approximately 32,537 individuals died due to experiencing a fatal overdose involving psychostimulants, which included substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine. (17)

Treatment Options Available for Those Who Suffer From Stimulant Addiction

At Guardian Recovery Network, we offer various treatment options for those experiencing stimulant use disorder and addiction.


At Guardian Recovery Network, we offer therapeutic interventions for those experiencing stimulant addiction. Utilizing therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive-Behavioral TherapyDialectical Behavioral TherapyMotivational InterviewingHolistic Therapies, and Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, our licensed clinicians can help you or a loved one get to the root of a substance use disorder.

Our therapeutic interventions include:


The combination of therapy and medication management have been proven to be effective in the treatment of substance use disorders. At Guardian Recovery Network, we offer Medication Assisted Treatment to help those experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

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If you suspect that you or someone you love are experiencing a stimulant use disorder, treatment is the best way to develop the necessary tools and psychoeducation needed to overcome it. Contact us today to speak with one of our Treatment Advisors who will help guide you through our simple admissions process. A free, no obligation insurance benefit check can be provided upon your request to help determine which of our treatment options is covered through your health insurance plan. Start your recovery journey today at Guardian Recovery Network.


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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.


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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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