Stimulants push the human body beyond its ordinary limits. Dance all night; have marathon sex that lasts for days; lose weight without trying; meet a deadline at work without losing focus or catching any shut-eye – all while feeling invincible and uninhibited. It’s easy to understand the appeal, but like all things that sound too good to be true, these artificial energy boosts come at a significant cost.
What Are Stimulants?
Stimulants are a class of drugs that consists of illegal drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy), as well as legal drugs such as nicotine, caffeine and prescription medications such as Ritalin and Adderall. These drugs increase alertness, energy and attention and boost mood.
What Are the Most Common Stimulant Drugs?
It’s easy to see why people are drawn to the use and abuse of stimulant drugs. These chemicals provide an immediate lift and a way to feel alert and energetic. Also known as uppers, stimulant drugs give users the ability to remain alert in order to meet important deadlines and to keep going beyond their usual physical limits. Besides providing quick energy, stimulants increase the heart rate and dopamine levels in the brain.
Use of stimulants for energy or to get high can quickly lead to dependence. Stimulant drugs can be taken in pill form, or they can be injected, smoked or snorted. A wide variety of drugs falls into this category. Listed below are some of the most common stimulant drugs.
Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that are used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder. In the past, these medications were prescribed to assist with weight loss efforts. Amphetamines are sold under such brand names as Dextrostat, Evekeo, Adzenys XR-ODT and Dyanavel XR.
Cocaine and Crack Cocaine
Cocaine is a very addictive stimulant sold illegally on the street. It gives the user an immediate but short-lived high. In powdered form, it is injected or snorted. As a water-insoluble base (freebase), it is heated to produce a smokable substance known as crack cocaine.
Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant also known as meth. It is often made in labs throughout the United States. Compared to amphetamine, greater amounts of methamphetamine can get into the brain in similar doses, which makes it a very potent and addictive substance.
Adderall and Other ADHD Drugs
Stimulant drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin are often used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or narcolepsy. These drugs are very addictive and can be dangerous when abused.
Regular misuse or abuse of stimulants can lead to paranoia, hostility, psychosis, dependence or addiction. Trying to discontinue use may cause extreme fatigue and irritability.
While stimulants used to be prescribed for a number of health conditions, their adverse effects have limited their legal use to a few disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. Stimulants can be injected or snorted for a rapid high, or smoked or swallowed for longer lasting but less intense effects.
Are Stimulants Addictive?
Stimulants are highly addictive, sometimes with as little as one use. Over time, users can build a tolerance, requiring more of the drug to feel “high” and eventually just to feel normal. Once addicted, going without the drug can bring on withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and intense drug cravings. Some users find that they’re unable to feel pleasure from ordinarily enjoyable activities such as eating or sex. To avoid these feelings, people use stimulants again and again, thereby perpetuating the addictive cycle.
How Do Stimulants Affect the Brain and Body?
Stimulants excite the central nervous system, rapidly increasing the feel-good chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and disrupting normal communication between cells in the brain. As a result, the user may experience euphoria, along with a long list of adverse effects including:
- Increased blood pressure
- Irregular heart rate
- Dangerously high body temperature
- Chronic insomnia
- Nutritional deficiencies
Especially when used repeatedly or in high doses, stimulants can also cause heart failure, seizures, paranoia, aggression and psychosis. The effects are amplified if stimulants are used with alcohol or other depressants or certain over-the-counter medications.
Stimulant abusers often underestimate the addictive potential of these drugs; in part, because denial makes it difficult to recognize the warning signs of addiction, but also because stimulants impair the brain’s ability to make timely and accurate judgments and decisions. They also affect users’ ability to learn and control their impulses, both of which make it more difficult to quit using drugs.
Treating Stimulant Addiction
The spiral into stimulant addiction isn’t easy to watch. Users may become agitated and moody, swinging from euphoric to suicidal in a short time. Secrecy, stealing and lying may seem to be necessary evils for the user to be able to continue getting and using drugs. Someone who once had friends and family, a job, and things they liked to do now has no interest in anything but drugs.
Fortunately, addictions to cocaine, meth and other stimulants are treatable. While physical withdrawal symptoms may be manageable, the psychological effects can make it difficult to commit to a recovery program. The most effective treatment for stimulant addiction includes a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy, self-help support groups and other behavioral therapies. Because stimulant addiction robs the brain of the ability to feel pleasure, addicted individuals may need support in learning how to have sober fun and deal with drug cravings while the brain and body heal.
Also Read: Stimulant Use and Sexual Addiction
Learn about the Stimulant & Sexual Disorders Program at Promises Malibu