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Can You Overdose on Stimulants?

Various prescription and non prescription stimulants sitting on a black counter  

Stimulants are a class of drugs that speed up the body’s systems and are commonly used by teens as an “academic performance enhancer” and to get high. However, stimulants can be addictive and may lead to an eventual overdose. Currently, stimulant overdoses are increasing in the United States, especially among teens. It is important to know the different types of stimulants that are commonly used, what an overdose looks like and where to seek help.

What Are Stimulants?

Specifically, stimulants are drugs that target the central nervous system and affect how the brain functions by altering cellular communication. Stimulants help speed up the central nervous system and increase energy, attention, and alertness. Furthermore, they also increase heart rate, breathing and raise blood pressure. Legal stimulants are prescription drugs used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and narcolepsy.

Common Stimulants Used Among Teens

There are three common legal stimulants abused by teens, including Adderall, Dexedrine, and Ritalin. These are commonly taken in pill form, typically to increase academic productivity, such as when studying for an exam. The pills can also be crushed to be snorted or injected. These methods can be extremely dangerous, as the ingredients in the pills can damage blood vessels and lead to heart and organ damage.

Illegal stimulants used by teens include cocaine and methamphetamine. Of surveyed 8th, 10th and 12th graders, 1.40% to 3.90% used cocaine in their lifetime. Teen meth use is much lower, with less than 1% of teens have tried the drug.

What Happens When You Overdose on Stimulants?

There are many physical and psychological symptoms to be aware of when a person has overdosed on stimulants. It is important to immediately call 911 and get medical attention when a stimulant overdose is suspected.

Signs of Stimulant Overdose

Symptoms of a stimulant overdose include tremors (shaking), restlessness, overactive reflexes, muscle pain, weakness, and abnormally high body temperature. Additionally, confusion, hallucinations, aggression and panic attacks are all signs of a potential stimulant overdose. It is also possible that individuals will exhibit psychosis from a stimulant overdose.

Other signs of a stimulant overdose include stomach problems such as cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Heart problems such as an irregular heartbeat can occur, which may lead to a heart attack. Since stimulants act on the brain and central nervous system, they can raise blood pressure to a dangerous level, decrease proper blood flow in the body and can eventually cause seizures.

If not addressed immediately, stimulant overdose can result in uncontrollable muscle movements known as convulsions, coma, and poisoning resulting in death.

What to Do If Someone Is Overdosing on Stimulants

Stimulant drug abuse in teens is an emerging, serious issue. If someone has overdosed on stimulants, the most important thing to do is call 911 immediately. While there are currently no available treatments for stimulant overdose, medically-monitored detox is the safest method.

If your teen has a substace use disorder, we can help. Contact Next Generation Village to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can address a substance use disorder and any co-occurring mental health conditions. Take the first step toward a healthier future, call today.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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