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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Stimulant addiction or abuse

Waranga, whakamanioro rānei a te whakaihiihi

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Stimulant drugs turn the brain on, giving the user a good feeling and intense energy.

A person using stimulants may feel sexier, stronger, more courageous and more capable. They may need less food or sleep.

A person using stimulants may be frenetically active for days on end. They may do far more than they're normally capable of doing.

When a drug experience goes bad, a person using stimulants may collapse in exhaustion. They may also become aggressive, agitated or even psychotic.


It's easy to take too much of a stimulant, and overdoses are common. Overdoses can result in heart pain or palpitations, seizures, psychosis or death.

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed, call an ambulance on 111.

Common stimulants are those based on amphetamines like methamphetamine (ice, crystal meth, P). These are very different from the prescribed amphetamine Ritalin, which doctors use to treat ADHD.

Other stimulants that people can abuse are cocaine and ecstasy (MDMA). These work differently from amphetamines.

Stimulant drugs come in many different forms and people can take them in different ways. They can be swallowed as tablets, sniffed as powder (snorted), injected or smoked in a pipe. Most stimulants are highly addictive.

People who are addicted to stimulants may lose their jobs or lose their families. They can damage their health and reputation. They may start doing crime to get access to more drugs.

Driving while high is dangerous and illegal. If a police officer pulls you over while driving and you're high on a stimulant, you may lose your licence or face a criminal conviction.

Like other addictive drugs, there are effective treatments for people who use stimulant drugs and would like to withdraw and become drug free. Your general practice team can help by referring you to specialist withdrawal services or you can contact the services below yourself.

Support services

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed June 2023.


Page reference: 520831

Review key: HIADG-47857