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A Loved One Is Being Cold to Me: Could It Be Stimulant Abuse?

Relationships can wax and wane, so it isn’t uncommon for misunderstandings and hostilities to cool the affection people have for one another. But sometimes, tender feelings seem to disappear for no reason at all. It’s possible that this shift isn’t caused by an argument but by an addiction. 

If you suspect that someone you love is treating you coldly because of an underlying stimulant addiction, know this: You could be part of the solution. Stimulant addictions can be treated, and people struggling with these addictions can get better. Often, they need their families to help them start on the road to recovery. 

Here’s what you need to know about stimulant addiction symptoms and the emotional distress stimulants can cause.
 

How Stimulants Work in the Brain 

The stimulant drug classification includes a variety of substances. Among them are:

  • Methamphetamine 
  • Amphetamine 
  • Cocaine 
  • Prescription drugs, such as Ritalin

Drugs within the stimulant classification may have a slightly different chemical structure, but they all work to alter chemical and electrical signals within the brain. Some drugs are more potent than others. 

For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that both cocaine and methamphetamine can cause euphoria, alertness, and a reduced need to eat or sleep. But methamphetamine lasts much longer in the body than cocaine does. As a result, people who take meth can experience a longer and more intense form of withdrawal when they stop taking the drug. 

woman on the floor

Prescription stimulants can also cause euphoria and a sense of alertness, but the amount of sensation they can deliver varies depending on the type of drug taken. According to the Massachusetts Medical Society, stimulants that are designed for immediate impact (rather than extended release) tend to have a higher risk of addiction and dependence. The sensations they deliver can be intense almost immediately. 

People who take stimulant medications may do so to feel euphoria and focus. They may feel like they drop back down into sobriety relatively quickly, but the drugs leave damage behind.

That damage can cause drug cravings, paired with an inability to control impulses. Drug dependence can soon follow. In fact, according to Psychology Today, stimulant disorders can develop in as little as a week. 

According to the SAMHSA, symptoms of stimulant dependence include moody or anxious behavior, combined with the reduced ability to work or tackle tasks at home. These are symptoms you could interpret as emotional distancing. Someone who is moody and unable to go to work may seem distant or cold to you, and you may wonder what’s caused that shift in behavior. 

Stimulant abuse can cause a variety of other symptoms that you might also attribute to a shift in emotional availability.

Stimulant Disorder Symptoms to Look For

People who abuse stimulants may manifest a variety of symptoms in the aftermath of taking a hit. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, those symptoms can include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • High body temperature
  • Euphoria or feelings of elation
  • Enhanced feeling of energy

Someone high on stimulants might seem extremely happy and energetic, and this person may be unable to sit still or participate in a conversation. Their words may seem to tumble out of their mouth, and big and wild gestures may accompany those words. 

Prescription stimulants may cause a different type of response that is just as upsetting. According to ADDitude, high doses of prescription stimulants can cause a form of emotional blunting, in which the person seems irritable or tearful with no known cause. High doses of these medications can also cause people to seem distracted or spacey. 

Someone in the midst of a euphoric episode should, in theory, be ready to connect with others in a happy and joyful way. But the way stimulants work on the brain can bring about the opposite reaction.

According to research cited in the journal Primary Care, between 25 to 50 percent of those who use stimulants on a chronic basis experience psychosis. For some, that psychosis can last for years after the last hit. 

Someone in the midst of a psychotic episode may seem angry, upset, or even violent. They may have trouble describing what they see, and they may not trust those they speak with enough to try to describe the episode clearly. 

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Other Addiction Signs You May Notice 

It’s clear that stimulant use and abuse can cause symptoms that make it difficult for the person you love to relate to you on an emotional level. The chemical changes happening within the brain caused by drug use can put a block between you. 

Addictions to any substance can cause another set of behavioral changes that can further drive a wedge between you and the person you love. According to the Mayo Clinic, addictions to any substance can cause people to:

  • Cut back on social obligations to use drugs
  • Steal money to buy drugs
  • Experience intense drug cravings that block out all other thoughts
  • Spend the majority of their time using the drug or recovering from drug use
  • Engage in risky behaviors while under the influence

People with a drug habit may also feel compelled to hide that drug use from the people they love, and that can lead to behaviors that can cause emotional distancing. They may demand a great deal of privacy, and you may get into long arguments about how much space they might need.

They may also choose to spend most of their time with others who take drugs. That can leave little time for your relationship.

What Should You Do?

If you think stimulant abuse is at the root of your relationship issue, it’s time to act. Your loved one needs your help to leave the addiction behind and make a fresh start. 

If you’re certain that stimulants are in play, you could start a conversation with the person you love. You could point out the addiction signs you’ve seen, and you could encourage the person to explore treatment options with your support and help. That small conversation could convince them to get help that could turn their life around. 

If you’re not certain or you’re not comfortable with holding that conversation, an interventionist may help. These addiction professionals specialize in helping families have honest discussions about addiction, and they can stay with you when you have the first talk about addiction. 

SOURCES

(March 2016). Stimulants. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.samhsa.gov/atod/stimulants 

Risks of Stimulant Misuse. Massachusetts Medical Society. Retrieved January 2019 from http://www.massmed.org/Physician_Health_Services/Education_and_Resources/Risks_of_Stimulant_Misuse/#.XDOdefxJmi4

(September 2017). Stimulant-Related Disorders. Psychology Today. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/stimulant-related-disorders

(1999). Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64328/.

 (June 2018). Drug Facts: Prescription Stimulants. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants

ADHD Medication Side Effects That No One Should Tolerate. ADDitude. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-medication-side-effects-that-no-one-should-tolerate/.

March 2011). Stimulant Abuse: Pharmacology, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Treatment, Attempts at Pharmacotherapy. Primary Care. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056348/

(October 2017). Drug Addiction (Substance Use Disorder). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 2019 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112

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