Stimulant Medication Abuse

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Stimulant medications can be very helpful in treating certain medical conditions. Besides ADHD, these medications may be prescribed to treat narcolepsy and, if other medications have not been effective, depression. In the past, stimulant medications were also used to treat asthma, respiratory disorders and abuse. However, since the potential for abuse with stimulants is high, use of these medications has been limited to ADHD, narcolepsy and possibly depression.


    Studies have shown that stimulant medications are not addictive when used as prescribed. However, the potential for abuse of stimulant medications is high. When stimulant medication is used in different forms or is otherwise misused, they can be addictive.

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    There are a few ways in which prescription medications can be abused: 

    • Taking more medication than was prescribed
    • Taking the medication in a different form
    • Giving medication to someone else 

    Dangers of Stimulant Abuse


    Stimulant medications increase dopamine within the brain and may give a euphoric feeling. This helps to explain why some people choose to abuse this type of medication. However, there are also a number of dangerous symptoms that can occur when stimulant medication is abused: 

    • Increase in blood pressure
    • Increase in heart rate
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Constricted blood vessels
    • High body temperature
    • Slow respiration rates
    • Aggression or paranoia 

    More serious problems, resulting from these symptoms can include cardiovascular failure, stroke and seizures.


    Signs of Stimulant Abuse


    Although everyone reacts differently to medications, there are a number of common signs of stimulant medication abuse. The National Library of Medicine lists the following symptoms: 

    • Physical and mental exhaustion
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Weight loss
    • Anemia
    • Skin problems: infections, hives, lesions, itching
    • Hair loss
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Hair loss
    • Muscle pain or tenderness
    • Involuntary movements
    • Impaired sexual performance
    • Cerebral hemorrhages
    • Stomach and gastrointestinal problems
    • Paranoia, delusions or hallucinations
    • Anxiousness or hopelessness
    • Depression, possible suicidal thoughts
    • Eating disorders
    • Anxiety attacks 

    This list is not inclusive and some people may exhibit additional symptoms, however, these are some of the more common symptoms.




    Because the use of stimulant medication in higher doses or in different forms (crushed and snorted or smoked) can lead to addiction, treatment would include detoxification. In addition, many times stimulant medication abuse may be in addition to abuse of other substances such as alcohol or other illegal drugs. In this case, treatment needs to encompass a total approach to substance abuse.


    When stimulant medication has been taken in high doses, it should not be suddenly stopped or withdrawal symptoms may develop. Stopping stimulant medication under these circumstances should be done under the supervision of a doctor or other medical professional.


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    Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been shown to help in overcoming addiction to stimulant medication.


    For parents, it is important to pay attention to the use of stimulant medications by your child. Parents should be aware of when a prescription was filled, how many pills should be left in the prescription bottle and monitor their child's behavior. If your child's behavior is indicative of not taking medication but yet the pills continue to disappear, parents need to be aware of the possibility of selling or giving the medication to a friend or schoolmate.


    Monitoring the use of medication, the child's behavior and being aware of the warning signs of abuse can help parents be aware and hopefully prevent any abuse of stimulant medications.






    "Prescription Medication Abuse", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Sobriety Works


    ‘Common Symptoms of Chronic Stimulant Abuse/Dependence", Date Unknown, Author Unknown, National Library of Medicine








Published On: May 16, 2009