Addiction is nothing new. It has been around as long as there have been humans. Only the things to which we become addicted have changed. Some of those remain the same, as well. Alcohol addiction has been present as long as humans have made and consumed alcoholic beverages. Opioid addiction has been present since humans discovered the uses of the poppy. However, new addictions do arise over time, and stimulant addiction is a relatively modern thing.
What Is Stimulant Addiction?
When we think of addiction, we generally think of those addicted to alcohol, or those addicted to illicit drugs like heroin. We may even think about being addicted to prescription painkillers, or synthetic opioids. All of these substances are technically depressants. They relax the user, inducing a calm euphoria, while easing or erasing pain. However, there are other drugs out there that have the opposite effect. Rather than being soporifics (depressive), they stimulate users.
Stimulant addiction has not been documented as thoroughly as other types of addiction for a few reasons. One of those is that it is relatively new. Throughout human history, there have been more cases of addiction to depressive/soporific substances than to stimulants. Access to naturally occurring stimulants has also been limited, while the means to concentrate those sources to create greater stimulating effects only debuted within the last century or so.
Today, we are dealing with an explosion of stimulant addiction. This is the use and abuse of any sort of substance that makes the user more alert, less drowsy, and more productive. Stimulants do exactly what it sounds like – they stimulate the body. Using these substances gives users more energy, and may even create a sense of euphoria. Users are more wakeful, more talkative, and generally eat less, which is why these substances are often used in "diet pill" formulations.
What Types of Stimulants Are Being Used?
You will find a very wide range of stimulants in use today. Many of them are considered benign, and some of them are even manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and prescribed by doctors for their patients. However, others are manufactured in criminal at-home laboratories and a single dose can be lethal.
Stimulants that play a role in addiction include everything from caffeine, particularly in highly-concentrated forms, such as caffeine pills, to meth. A partial list includes the following:
- Medications for severe ADHD, such as Adderall or Ritalin
- Cocaine and crack cocaine
- Methamphetamine (meth/crystal meth, speed, ice, crank, etc.)
- Bath salts
What Are the Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction?
The primary signs and symptoms of stimulant addiction are the same as any other type of addiction. That is, the user moves from enjoying the effect the substance creates to feeling that they need it. From there, it progresses to doing anything to get more of their substance of choice, using substances in dangerous or risky situations, and continuing to use substances even in situations where that use is destroying their personal and professional lives.
If a user stops taking stimulants, it can lead to a number of potential effects. These can include sleep disturbances, as well as pronounced fatigue and depression. Anxiety and restlessness are also reported. Ultimately, prolonged use can actually result in serious psychosis, including paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.
How Is Stimulant Addiction Treated?
Stimulant addiction is treated much the same way that opioid addiction or alcohol addiction are treated. That is, users usually go through a detoxification process, followed by a 12-step program. However, unlike many other types of addictions, there is currently no FDA-approved medication for those struggling with stimulant addiction. There are some medications prescribed for treating other types of addiction that might be helpful in treating stimulant addiction, but this is considered "off label" use. Baclofen, topiramate, modafinil, and N-acetylcysteine are some of these.
The primary treatment method will be some form of behavioral therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management, or by following what is called the "Matrix Model."
Because of this lack of viable treatments, the rate of relapse for those struggling with stimulant addiction is very high. However, stem cell therapy may be an effective treatment for stimulant addiction.
How May Stem Cell Therapy Offer Hope to Addicts and Their Families?
Currently, there are numerous studies attempting to determine the effect of stem cells on the human brain, particularly in pursuit of new addiction treatment options. Alcohol and opioid addiction studies are currently underway. There are also studies attempting to determine the efficacy of stem cell treatment for stimulant addiction.
Stem cell treatment in this case involves using stem cells to repair blocked neural pathways within the brain, and is based on not only emerging stem cell research, but also groundbreaking research into the effects of stimulants on an individual's brain.
Understanding the Types of Stem Cells
It is important to understand that more than one type of stem cell is being used in modern research. In fact, many studies and clinical trials use what are called autologous stem cells, which are harvested from a patient’s own body. These cells are as old as the body, and have accumulated significant amounts of damage that limit their ability to repair damage and replicate. They can also evoke a negative immune system response.
The second option is to use allogeneic stem cells, which are harvested not from the patient, but from umbilical cord blood and tissue. These cells are young and highly energetic, capable of dividing and healing for decades to come. They are also completely invisible to the immune system.
To date, the FDA has not approved any type of stem cell treatment for use on humans. However, ongoing research is very promising. Until official approval is given, all stem cell treatments should be considered experimental. It is also likely that allogeneic stem cells are more effective in addiction treatment, rather than autologous stem cells.
Source:Stem Cell Study of Genetics and Drug Addiction
Opiates, psychostimulants, and adult hippocampal neurogenesis: Insights for addiction and stem cell biology
Stem cells treatment for cocaine addiction
Researchers discover how cocaine, amphetamines disrupt the brain's normal functioning
Overcoming cocaine or stimulant addiction