“Mother’s little helper” has been around for decades. In 1966, The Rolling Stones released a hit song about the abuse of drugs, like Valium, by mothers looking to take the edge off a busy day. Now, some moms are using different substances to get through the day: prescription stimulants. Although they can provide a boost of much-desired energy, many women develop a drug addiction to these commonly prescribed “legitimate” medications.
Prescription stimulants are normally used to treat a range of medical conditions, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and depression. Common stimulant medications include Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine), Ritalin (methylphenidate), and Concerta (methylphenidate).
Legitimate Stimulant Use
Chemically, these drugs are similar to natural neurotransmitters within the brain, including norepinephrine and dopamine. When taken to treat a genuine medical condition, a physician will prescribe the medication at a low level and gradually increase it until the drug produces the desired effects. In addition, the stimulant typically comes in a capsule or tablet form that allows for the slow release of the medication into the body. This slow, steady rise in dopamine mimics the body’s natural production. When used as directed by a physician, ADHD medications and other prescription stimulants are not addictive and produce no high.
Stimulant Abuse And Emergency Room Visits
The effect is different when stimulants are abused, however. Instead of capsules or tablets generating a slow, steady rise of dopamine over time, the pills are crushed before being snorted or they are dissolved in water and then injected. This causes a dopamine rise so rapid that it disrupts the brain and produces feelings of euphoria.
Evidence suggests that drug addiction to stimulants is on the rise. For example, emergency room visits involving stimulant abuse skyrocketed between 2005 and 2010. Visits more than tripled for people over age 26 .
Why Mom’s Are Abusing Stimulants
The demands placed on mothers in this culture can feel overwhelming. From single moms to homeschooling moms to moms who work outside the home, many feel the pressure of being the master multitasker. Some mothers turn to stimulants in the belief they will help them focus better on their responsibilities or help them make it through a hectic day. It’s important to note that while these prescriptions can increase concentration in those with a medical need for them, there is no clinical evidence that abusing these drugs sharpens focus.
Women also frequently use stimulants to lose weight. For example, Adderall can speed up metabolism and lower appetite, resulting in weight loss. However, it’s not a healthy or permanent weight loss solution. When a woman stops taking the drug, she typically gains the weight back – and sometimes even more.
Dangers Of Stimulant Abuse
Abusing any drug can have a serious impact on a mother’s emotional and physical well-being; however, stimulant abuse is particularly dangerous. When abused, these medications can trigger irregular heartbeat, heart failure, seizures, and dangerously high body temperatures. As mentioned earlier, stimulants also cause decreased appetite, which, in serious cases, can cause malnutrition. In addition, women addicted to high doses often experience episodes of paranoia or hostility. Instead of helping a mother meet the demands of a busy lifestyle, stimulants make it harder to handle normal responsibilities, including caring for children.
There is also added danger in the method some addicts use to get high. When the drug is dissolved in water, some insoluble fillers in the pill may not break down completely. While these solid pieces are small enough to be injected, they are also large enough to block small blood vessels, creating the risk for serious health complications.
Stimulants are also dangerous because they don’t mix well with other substances. The ER study mentioned above showed that 63% of visits involving stimulants included the use of alcohol, painkillers, sleep aids, or anti-anxiety medications . The use of other drugs adds an additional layer of risk to stimulant drug addiction.
Stimulant Drug Addiction Treatment
If you’re addicted to or abusing stimulant prescription drugs, you need drug rehab treatment. Addicts experience psychological withdrawal from chronic stimulant abuse, so the first step will likely be a medically-monitored detox to wean your body from the drugs.
After detoxification, therapy begins. There are several therapies used to treat this addiction, and your rehab team will recommend one or more based on your situation. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to examine the negative thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and emotions that contribute to addiction. Once you better understand how those contribute to your drug addiction, you’ll learn how to positively change those thinking patterns in order to cope in a healthier way. Although considered a short-term type of therapy, CBT involves a gradual process that takes time and effort in order to be effective.
Contingency management is another treatment that may be used for abuse of Adderall and other prescription stimulants. Sometimes called voucher-based reinforcement (VBR), the program provides tangible rewards for positive behaviors and staying drug free. For example, an addict who stays clean for a specified period of time, as verified through urine samples, may earn a voucher for food, movie tickets, or other goods and services that promote drug-free behavior. The value of the voucher starts low and increases the longer the addict stays clean.
Studies of contingency management show that it can reduce stimulant abuse when used as part of a comprehensive treatment strategy . Additionally, one study suggests that, on its own, contingency management may be more effective at treating stimulant use than CBT alone .
Treatment for stimulant drug addiction will also likely include support groups. Often based on the 12-step program first developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), self-help groups provide guidance and assistance to recovering addicts. You’ll be able to connect with others going through the same struggles, which may help reduce feelings of hopelessness or isolation. Meetings are free, and you can attend them for as long as needed to help you stay abstinent.
Drug addiction in mothers can lead to serious consequences for herself and her children. Contact a drug rehab treatment facility about getting help for stimulant abuse or addiction. With treatment, it’s possible to stop abusing drugs and start learning healthier ways to live life, no matter how hectic your life may be.