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Signs of Stimulant Abuse and Addiction

Most of the adult population in the United States uses stimulants daily. Stimulants are drugs that increase or stimulate the activity of the central nervous system. The drug generates euphoria and can increase focus, alertness, and energy.


However, continued use of stimulants could lead to addiction. According to the National Library of Medicine, approximately 16 million American adults have used prescription stimulants in the past year, 0.4 million had stimulant use disorder, and 5 million misused prescription stimulants.


As the number of people suffering from stimulant use disorder keeps rising, so does the overdose rate. According to the NIHCM Foundation, stimulant deaths have grown steadily since 2014, reaching an astonishing 30,173 deaths in 2019.


Understanding the signs and symptoms of stimulant abuse can help you or a loved one get help before the adverse effects of stimulants settle in. In this post, we examine everything you should know about stimulant abuse.

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Abuse

Each person abusing stimulants will show different signs and symptoms depending on the type of stimulants they use, the period they use the drug, and personality patterns. However, knowing what to look for in someone abusing stimulants can help determine if someone has a drug problem. Here are some common signs and symptoms of stimulant use disorder:


Behavioral Symptoms

  • Engaging in impulsive or risky behavior.

  • Seeking out multiple prescriptions for stimulants,

  • Secretive behavior, especially regarding whereabouts and activities.

  • Excessive energy.

  • Lying, stealing, or deception.

  • Jitteriness or twitching.


Physical Symptoms

  • Skin problems.

  • Rapid heartbeat.

  • Weight loss.

  • Elevated blood pressure.

  • Disrupted sleeping.

  • Changes in appetite.

  • Hair loss.


Cognitive Symptoms

  • Delusions.

  • Rapid thoughts.

  • Enhanced sensory awareness.

  • Flight of ideas.

  • Confusion.

  • Hyperfocus.

  • Hallucinations.

  • Poor judgment and decision-making.


Psychological Symptoms

  • Depression.

  • Anxiety.

  • Withdrawal from family and friends.

  • Mood swings.

  • Anger or aggressiveness.

  • Increased confidence.


While it can become a challenge to identify when you or someone you love is struggling with stimulant abuse, if any of the signs and symptoms listed above are present, misuse of the drugs could be a factor. First, however, it would be best to get a proper diagnosis from a licensed healthcare practitioner based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Medically Reviewed:


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Expert Contributor

Dr. Williams presently serves on the board of Directors for two non-profit service organizations. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University, Philadelphia, Pa, and a Ph.D. with a concentration in Clinical Psychology from Union Institute and University. In Cincinnati, Ohio. He is licensed to practice addictions counseling in both New Jersey and Connecticut and has a pending application as a practicing Psychologist in New Jersey.

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Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of stimulant use disorder is not known. Still, professionals practicing in the field of mental health and addiction, as well as researchers, agree that several factors increase the chance of developing a stimulant abuse disorder: Here are two of the known leading causes of the condition:

Genetic: People born to family members struggling with different drug addictions are more likely to be entrapped in the cycle of addiction than those who don't share the same genetic background. Research shows that nearly half of an individual's risk of becoming dependent on drugs can be attributed to genetic factors.


Environmental: Several environmental factors increase the probability of developing a stimulant dependency. People who grow up in communities where drug and alcohol abuse is rampant often abuse drugs at some point. Exposure to chronically stressful environments can also lead to stimulant use since most people turn to them for euphoria and productivity.

Risk Factors

Gender - Females are less likely than men to use stimulants and drugs. However, the risk of addiction is the same for both genders once they start using stimulants.

Psychiatric disorders: Individuals struggling with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, attention deficit, etc., are likelier to develop a stimulant use disorder. Other risk factors include:

  • Exposure to crime and violence.

  • Personal or family history of mental health disorders.

  • Constant exposure to highly stressful environments.

  • Easy access to different types of drugs, including stimulants.

  • Exposure to stimulant drugs while in the uterus.

  • Personal history of struggling with other kinds of drugs.

  • Family history of drug abuse.

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Stages of Stimulant Use

There are different stages to drug use, including stimulants that could lead to drug use disorder. Younger people tend to go through the steps quicker than adults. Understanding which phase of service you are in can help you find the treatment that meets your requirements. The stages of stimulant use are:

  • Experimental use: Typically happens around peers and is mainly consumed for recreational purposes. Teenagers/young adults might enjoy defying authority figures or their parents to fit in with their group.

  • Regular use: The individual starts missing work or school more and becomes worried about losing their source of drugs. Typically, the person uses stimulants to release negative feelings. At this stage, they start withdrawing from their family and close friends and might change friends with the people they regularly abuse the drug.

  • Problematic or risky use: The user has lost all motivation and no longer cares about school or work. The user will have evident changes in their behavior as more and more signs and symptoms settle in. There is a high chance that the user might start using other hard drugs to meet their high.

  • Addiction: The user can no longer function without taking stimulants. Even as their physical condition decreases, they will still deny they have a stimulant problem, indicating they are no longer in control. This often leads to suicidal thoughts as financial and legal issues worsen and broken ties with people who could have helped them.  

Regardless of your stage of use, drug education programs are a great source of help for people struggling with addiction to different drugs. Parents can also leverage their strong influence over their children to teach them the negative consequences of consuming drugs, including stimulants.

Get Help for Stimulant Use Disorder at Rolling Hills Recovery Center

In general, drug and alcohol use disorders are severe and often not easy to treat. To get effective treatment, you should go to a licensed healthcare practitioner, who will diagnose the condition and develop a treatment plan that will work best for you.


At Rolling Hills Recovery Center, we offer personalized stimulant addiction treatment through various innovative approaches that generate the best evidence-based practices for treating stimulant use disorder.

Contact us today to receive everything you need to recover from stimulant addiction.

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Risk Factors
Stages of Stimulant Use
Get Help for Stimulant Use Disorder at Rolling Hills Recovery Center
Causes and Risk Factors
Psychological Symptoms
Cognitive Symptoms
Physical Symptoms
Behavioral Symptoms
Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Abuse
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