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Signs & Symptoms

There are both short- and long-term dangers associated with cocaine and methamphetamine use, ranging from overdose to organ failure. Knowing the signs and symptoms can help you identify misuse and avoid long-term health problems.

Doctors sometimes prescribe stimulants for medical conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Narcolepsy. People who have severe depression may be prescribed a stimulant as part of their treatment. Stimulants can be used safely for these conditions when taken as prescribed and working closely with a doctor. Scroll down for helpful safety guidelines if you or someone you know is prescribed a stimulant.

Short-term signs & symptoms of stimulant use

Short-term signs & symptoms of cocaine Cocaine symptoms last about 30 minutes when taken in smaller doses. Signs of use include:
  • Happiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased sociability
  • Greater ability to focus
  • Long periods of wakefulness
  • Loss of appetite
  • More confidence
  • More reactive or excitable
  • Paranoia
  • Runny nose, sniffling, or white powder on nostrils
Short-term signs & symptoms of methamphetamines Methamphetamines are a powerful stimulant, even in small doses, which can cause a variety of cardiovascular problems. Effects of the drug can last six to 12 hours. Signs of use include:
  • More wakefulness and physical activity
  • Less appetite
  • Faster breathing
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Higher blood pressure and body temperature

Long-term signs & symptoms of stimulant use

Long-term effects of cocaine use Larger amounts of cocaine and long-term use can be quite dangerous. Side effects depend on frequency and amount used over time and may include:
  • Irritability, mood swings, or depression
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating or chills
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Legal issues
  • Missing or being late to work
  • Financial problems
Long-term effects of methamphetamine use Long-term methamphetamine use can lead to negative consequences like addiction and significant changes in the brain. Side effects include:
  • Impaired judgment and riskier behavior
  • Increased risk of HIV and hepatitis B and C through shared needles or syringes
  • Reduced coordination
  • Cognitive difficulty, confusion, and memory loss
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Severe tooth decay or “meth mouth”
  • Intense itching and skin sores
  • Anxiety and emotional difficulty
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Violent behavior
Safety guidelines Safety guidelines if you are prescribed stimulants

Do not take more medication than prescribed. Anyone who takes more than what was prescribed or more than the body can safely handle risks an overdose—with illegal drugs or a prescribed medication.

Be honest with your doctor. Your doctor should know about any alcohol or medications you are consuming. They should also know when you started to use them, and how much you take.

Learn about other treatment options. Ask your doctor about other potentially less-addictive options.

Don’t share medications with anyone. Sharing drugs can be dangerous. Something in another person’s drug, or their dosage, might cause a reaction in you. And, you don’t know if someone else might have a negative reaction to your medications.

Take your stimulants as prescribed. You don’t need to “finish off” your stimulant prescription the way you do with medications like antibiotics. Talk to your doctor about how long to take prescription medications. Some treatment plans call for daily use, others only on school or employment days. Take as directed.

Turn in your old drugs. Once you’ve stopped taking a prescription stimulant, remove it from your home. But, don’t just throw it away—there is a safer way.

Learn More About Stimulants
Treatment & Resources Learn more
About Stimulants Learn more
Facts & Risk Factors Learn more

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