Substance Abuse Disorder


What is it?

"Stimulants activate the central nervous system, causing feelings of energy, happiness, and power; a decreased desire for sleep; ad a diminished appetite. Cocaine and amphetamines are the two types of stimulants associated with severe substance use disorders." (Hoeksema, 2013)

What causes someone to abuse stimulants?


  • Genetic- If a parent abuses than chances of their child abusing increases. Similar personality traits inherited from a parent may increase the odds of their child abusing due to similar need for energy or excitement.
  • "Brain Chemistry- In the brain, amphetamines cause the release of chemicals called catecholamines, in particular dopamine. The effects of dopamine are especially strong in areas of the brain responsible for producing pleasure, which is known as the “reward pathway.” The effect produced on this pathway heavily contributes to addicting quality of amphetamines." (Mt. Regis, 2016)
  • Social- Stimulants decrease appetite, which can lead to weight loss. Often people who are looking to lose weight take amphetamines for that reason, then end up addicted. People with social anxiety may take amphetamines to reduce their anxiety and increase energy levels allowing them to interact with others.
  • Stress relief- Stimulants can cause a "high" that allows people to relax, sometimes even "numb". Some may also experience a calming physical feeling.
  • Work or school- Amphetamines are sometimes prescribed for people suffering from ADHD. The effects for people with this disorder can be calming and allow them to better focus. However, they may become addicted over time. People without ADHD may abuse stimulants because it gives them the energy and helps keep them awake to study or work long shifts.

Treatment options

To date the FDA has not approved any medications that can help treat someone with a stimulant disorder. However, other options are available. Trying to control the amount of usage and ween down the amount being used is a good first step. This method would decrease the harsh withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping the stimulants, "cold turkey" or all at once. In addition cognitive therapy as well as group therapies have proven to be effective for those suffering from stimulant abuse disorder. Because relapse is common in people who have stimulant addiction it is important to stay in therapy for an ongoing period of time. Both inpatient and outpatient options are available for those suffering from this.
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Myths & Misconceptions

The following article gives a great description of myths and misconceptions commonly associated with substance abuse disorder-

Overcoming the myths about stimulant abuse is an ongoing struggle. However, raising awareness at a young age may help the prevention of substance abuse beginning. Family and social support is also very important for overcoming the common myths associated with this disorder.. Group therapy often allows addicts and their families to join with others having the same problems. This type support system may help educate those with addiction and may also help them to realize that they are not alone.

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Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2013). Abnormal Psychology. New York: McGraw Hill.

Amphetamine Abuse & Addiction Effects, Signs & Symptoms. (n.d.). Retrieved May 09, 2016, from

Top 10 Myths (and Realities) About Drug Addiction. (2016). Retrieved May 09, 2016, from

Treating addiction to prescription stimulants. (n.d.). Retrieved May 09, 2016, from

NAADAC. (n.d.). Retrieved May 09, 2016, from