August 23, 2017

Stimulant Treatment

[frame align=”right”]Stimulant Treatment[/frame]The use of stimulants to treat a variety of ailments was once prevalent until the seriousness of the resulting addiction and withdrawal difficulties were discovered and documented. Today, these medications are used to treat only a small number of conditions and their use is carefully monitored by doctors. The drugs are not addictive in the truest sense of the word but they can be abused and learning to live without them can be difficult if abuse has occurred.

What are Stimulants?

Stimulants are a class of drugs that, as the name implies, improve brain activity. Alertness, attention, and energy are all enhanced along with increased blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. Initially used to treat things like obesity, asthma and depression, these drugs have chemical structures similar to the brain neurotransmitters called monoamines naturally present. Among these is dopamine, the chemical responsible for the euphoric feeling many people experience.

Stimulant Addiction and Its Risks

Stimulants become addictive in the sense that the user wants more and more to trigger the release of the dopamine and gain its euphoric effect. By taking higher doses over a shorter period of time, the user can begin to feel hostile and paranoid. Physical indications can be a dangerously high body temperature and irregular heartbeat. The abuse of stimulants can also lead to cardiac failure or fatal seizures.

Treatments for Stimulant Addiction


Stimulant abuse can create withdrawal issues that result in a myriad of side effects. The safest way to detoxify the body from stimulants is through a supervised step down approach. Smaller doses are given in a gradual progression and over time, the doses are spaced further and further apart. This allows the body to become less dependent on the drugs. However, once detox is completed, the mind still needs to be treated and taught how to combat cravings and how to cope in the world without stimulant use.


Currently there are no FDA approved drugs on the market for treating stimulant addiction. Several show potential for treating stimulant addiction to cocaine – including disulfiram, the drug used to treat alcoholism – but further study is needed to gage its successfulness. Other drugs being looked at for specific use treating cocaine addiction are baclofen, topiramate and modafinil. These need extensive research and are years away from being approved, if ever.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered the most effective way to treat methamphetamine and cocaine addiction, two of the most common stimulant addictions. Depending on the therapy provider, the treatment can include elements of recovery skills groups, individual counseling, family counseling, drug testing and participation in an appropriate 12-step program.

Contingency management uses a system of rewards and to a lesser extent, punishments, to elicit the desired behavior from patients. The program seeks to teach better behaviors and life skills to help patients avoid relapse. It is considered highly effective and in many case more effective than CBT.

The “Matrix Model” is a combined element approach to stimulant treatment. Components of the treatment include individual counseling, recovery group skills, relapse prevention skills, family counseling, 12 step meetings, drug testing, relapse analysis and social support. It is more comprehensive than CBT.