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Stimulants, such as cocaine and amphetamine, are some of the most commonly used drugs worldwide. They create a feeling of euphoria and have high potential for dependence and addiction. Some prescription stimulants, such as Ritalin and Adderall, are commonly used to treat conditions such as ADHD. When misused, stimulants may have side effects and health complications.


Signs and symptoms of intoxication


The immediate symptoms of cocaine include feelings of euphoria, behavioural and mood changes e.g., increased confidence, cognitive changes e.g., increased energy and attention, as well as increased libido and loss of appetite. Physical signs include increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. However, at higher doses, a person may feel nauseated, anxious, irritable and restless, and may even experience panic attacks or hallucinations. The heart rate and blood pressure will continue to rise at dangerous levels, and at this point, the person may also experience nosebleeds, tremors and increased sweating (diaphoresis).


The symptoms are similar for amphetamine but body temperature may also be elevated which may result in fainting.


This is dangerous as it is not only an uncomfortable experience for the person, it may also lead to an overdose, which has life-threatening complications.




A person becomes addicted to stimulants when he/she/they are dependent on stimulants to the point that it results in an impairment to functional daily living or when it leads to potentially dangerous situations. They are also more likely to be associated with legal issues as well as social problems.


Signs and symptoms of withdrawal include strong cravings for the drug, feelings of tiredness, drowsiness, and depression.


Health complications associated with stimulant abuse


The most common complications include heart and brain problems, stroke, and even death. Other conditions that may arise from stimulant abuse include kidney failure and problems with pregnancy and delivery. Stimulant abuse may also indirectly lead to the transmission of blood-borne viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) due to high risk activities. People who are dependent on stimulants are also more likely to have other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and other substance abuse disorders.




Treatment for stimulant abuse is mainly through behavioural and psychosocial therapy as well as symptomatic management.


Prevention strategies


Much more needs to be done to prevent stimulant abuse. Improved governmental policies and stricter healthcare guidelines could drastically improve the current situation. doctors should counsel patients when prescribing medications for ADHD with regular follow-ups and ensure that there is good psychosocial support. At an individual level, if you notice your friends or family with symptoms as described above, reach out to them and encourage them to consult a doctor. If you struggle with stimulant addiction, know that it is never too late to seek help.


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