What Are Stimulants and What Is Stimulant Withdrawal?

Stimulants are a drug that speeds up activity in your body.

They can make you feel more awake, alert, and energetic, and some stimulants cause feelings of pleasure and euphoria.

Common stimulants include cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine, and caffeine. There are illicit stimulants, prescription stimulants, and stimulants in everyday consumables like coffee and cigarettes.

Stimulants can be both psychologically and physically addictive. Research by SAMHSA found that in 2018, around 561,000 people had a  stimulant use disorder in the past year.

Repeatedly taking stimulants over time may lead to dependence, addiction, and long-term health problems. These may include heart disease, seizures, and exhaustion.

Stimulant addiction can be devastating to your health, your work life, and your relationships with others. However, addiction is treatable, and recovery is possible for anyone. It is never too late to get help.

Recovery from stimulant addiction typically involves a rehabilitation program, and detox is often the first step in this process.

Detox is the process of removing all toxins and traces of the stimulant from your body. Stimulant withdrawal can cause you to experience a range of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep problems, and depression.

While not usually life-threatening, they can be very uncomfortable. 24-hour supervised medical detox is essential in many instances, and you should never withdraw from a stimulant without professional medical advice.

How do Stimulants Affect the Brain?

How do Stimulants Affect the Brain?

Stimulants work by increasing the amount of the chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.

This may increase concentration, alertness, and cognitive function and produce pleasure and feelings of euphoria. These chemicals also activate the reward pathways of the brain. The reward system is a natural part of how your brain functions. When you exercise or eat something sweet, your brain releases a small amount of dopamine, which makes you experience the activity pleasurable, and makes you want to do it again.

Taking stimulants can flood your brain with far higher levels of dopamine than is normal, causing your brain to produce urges to use a substance that is very strong and difficult to resist. With repeated use, this may lead to addiction.

Repeated use of stimulants may also lead to physical dependence as your brain reacts to the increased chemicals by decreasing the amount it produces to try and create balance. You begin to build up a tolerance to the drug, requiring higher and higher doses to achieve the same effect, and with time, you can become dependent on the drug just to feel normal.

What Are Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms?

What Are Stimulant Withdrawal Symptoms?

When you develop a physical dependence on a stimulant, your body begins to need the drug to function normally.

When you stop taking it, you may experience a series of withdrawal symptoms as your body adjusts to its absence. Most stimulant withdrawal symptoms are psychological rather than physical.

Each person has a different experience of withdrawal. Your withdrawal symptoms will depend on the kind of stimulant, your tolerance, your metabolism, and the history of your drug use.

If you have co-occurring mental disorders, you may experience more severe symptoms and a long withdrawal process.

Stimulant withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Slowed speech
  • Loss of interest
  • Slowed movements
  • Slow heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Body aches
  • Drug cravings
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Depression

These symptoms are not life-threatening for most people, but for some, they can be very severe. This is especially true for amphetamine withdrawal.

Severe symptoms most often involve suicidal thoughts and behaviors and include paranoia, violent outbursts, aggression, or panic. These symptoms tend to occur at the start of withdrawal and can last around a week.

Managing severe symptoms safely requires medical detox with 24-hour support. Without professional medical help, these symptoms can lead to overdose and other forms of self-harm.

What Is the Duration of Stimulant Withdrawal?

What Is the Duration of Stimulant Withdrawal?

You usually start to feel symptoms from within a few hours to several days after ceasing using a stimulant.

Symptoms are generally at the most severe about a week into treatment. Within two weeks, most symptoms should have faded. Symptoms that you still experience after two weeks are called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). These could include insomnia, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. PAWS can last for over a year after treatment, though they are mild and ease with time in most cases.

Stimulant Withdrawal Timeline

Stimulant Withdrawal Timeline

Most people experience an initial crash as soon as the effects of the drug wear off, which can include feelings of depression, anxiety, and annoyance.

You may start feeling mentally and physically exhausted, and you could experience jerky movements, extreme annoyance, and depression. Severe symptoms such as paranoia, delusions, and suicidal thoughts usually develop at this time.

From about 24 to 36 hours after the initial crash, you may feel a strong urge to sleep. Sleeping, however, can be difficult, and you may be extremely low on energy, both physically and mentally.

After around 36 hours, sleeping tends to become easier. You may feel very tired during the day and sleep for a long time at night, and when you wake up, you might be very hungry.

Withdrawal symptoms usually last around one week. Towards the end of this week, they should begin to fade. Any symptoms that remain after this time are post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Stimulant Addiction Detox

Stimulant Addiction Detox

Withdrawing from stimulants can be difficult and, in severe cases, put you at risk of self-harm, so care and support during this time can be invaluable.

At Cirque Lodge, our medical detox program takes place in luxury facilities under the 24-hour supervision of medical professionals. Trained medical staff will be by your side at all times to make the process as comfortable as possible. If needed, they may prescribe you medicines to ease some symptoms.

Stimulant Addiction Treatment

Stimulant Addiction Treatment

Recovery from addiction requires more than detoxification.

Addiction is an illness that makes you compulsively seek and use a substance. Overcoming this involves identifying the causes of your addiction and developing skills to overcome them.

The causes of addiction are often deep-rooted and specific to your circumstances. Effective treatment programs need to recognize this.

At Cirque Lodge, our personalized treatment program treats you as a whole person. We focus on any underlying mental health conditions or co-occurring disorders you may be struggling with alongside your addiction and provide a holistic healing program that helps you reconnect with your mind, body, and soul.

You will find our state-of-the-art treatment facilities in the remote Rocky Mountains, where we offer a variety of treatment approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, experiential therapy, family therapy, and support groups. Our program involves therapy sessions alongside enriching outdoor activities to help you develop new skills and rediscover life free from addiction.

Stimulant Withdrawal cta

Recovery Is Possible

About Cirque Lodge
Cirque Lodge is a recovery retreat providing cognitive and experiential therapies, in the pristine natural beauty of Utah’s Rocky Mountains.

Cirque Lodge is considered among our colleagues, as one of, if not the premium drug and alcohol rehab facility in the country.
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