Key takeaways:

  • While there commonly aren’t any life-threatening effects of stimulant withdrawal and detox, it may still be preferable to get professional help to stop abusing
  • After prolonged stimulant abuse, the brain will build up a tolerance to dopamine production, meaning the normal senses of gratification achieved without the drug are reduced and the user will often feel like they require cocaine to feel a sense of normality
  • Stimulant withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as the drug wears off and mostly affects people who are regular, frequent, or heavy users. The most severe symptoms of withdrawal wear off in a few days to a week

Stimulant drugs include powerful drugs like cocaine, methamphetamines, and prescribed ADHD medications that are highly addictive in nature. When a person takes these drugs regularly and in high doses, they may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

What causes stimulant withdrawal?

Using stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamines increases the levels of dopamine, a biochemical that is associated with the pleasure and reward centers in the brain, creating a sense of euphoria. Dopamine is largely responsible for the energetic, happy, “high” feeling people get when they abuse a stimulant drug.

After prolonged stimulant abuse, the brain will build up a tolerance to dopamine production, meaning the normal senses of gratification achieved without the drug are reduced and the user will often feel like they require stimulants to feel a sense of normality. This is what leads to withdrawal symptoms when someone with a stimulant use disorder tries to stop using.

Get help during covid-19

Get help during Covid-19

At Recovered, we recognize the impact COVID-19 has had and the continued challenges it poses to getting advice and treatment for substance use disorders. SAMHSA has a wealth of information and resources to assist providers, individuals, communities, and states during this difficult time and is ready to help in any way possible.

Speak to SAMSHA

Stimulant withdrawal symptoms

People deciding to quit stimulant abuse may experience different withdrawal symptoms depending on the type of stimulant abused, the length of abuse, and the existence of any other substance abuse such as alcohol

For most, stimulant abuse is characterized by feeling unhappy, having restless or changing behavior, and mental health issues such as anxiety or suicidal thoughts.

Common stimulant withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Severe depression
  • Agitation
  • Restless behavior
  • Nightmares/unpleasant dreams
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Jittery reactions
  • Anxiety
  • Chills
  • Dehydration
  • Dulled senses
  • Slow heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Increased appetite
  • Impaired memory
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Drug cravings

Stimulant withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as the drug wears off and mostly affects people who are regular, frequent, or heavy users. The most severe symptoms of withdrawal wear off in a few days to a week. [1, 2] The intensity and duration of withdrawal depend on the frequency and volume of stimulant abuse, which stimulants have been abused, and any frequent polydrug abuse.

Stimulant detox and treatment

Withdrawing from stimulants is relatively safe, but users may still prefer to detox in a structured inpatient setting such as inpatient treatment or a detox facility. Some treatment programs offer medication to ease symptoms, reduce cravings, and help those quitting, though this is not always necessary. Also, depending on the stimulant being abused, some medical professionals may recommend tapering off the drug to ease withdrawal symptoms or may offer medication. [3]

Similarly, someone with a stimulant use disorder may not need inpatient treatment but may not be able to detox safely alone. For those, there are outpatient stimulant detox programs that offer similar benefits without being overly time-consuming. Treatment improves the likelihood of achieving long-term sobriety and is recommended for people trying to overcome an addiction.

Get help with stimulant addiction today

While there commonly aren’t any life-threatening effects of stimulant withdrawal and detox, it may still be preferable to get professional help to stop abusing. Those who attend rehab and addiction treatment centers are 20% less likely to relapse (after a year of sobriety) and can begin to live a normal life after addiction. [4] 

Though, for most, it will require continuous monitoring and additional support to stay clean, such as from therapy to find the underlying cause of addiction or 12-step programs for group support. If you or someone you care about is abusing stimulants or has formed a dependence or addiction, speak to a treatment center today.