What are stimulants?
Stimulants are a type of medication cause the brain to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, movement, and attention. When used properly, they can produce a number of pleasurable and therapeutic effects. But when abused they can have severe, possibly fatal, side effects. Those who are addicted to stimulants may need professional assistance in treating this serious condition.
Many stimulants can be found in nature, including caffeine and nicotine. Throughout history people have enjoyed the pleasurable effects produced by these substances. Many folks find that they couldn’t start the day without the increased focus and energy they get from their morning coffee or tea. Certain herbal extracts also contain stimulants.
Stimulants can also be synthetic compounds including the prescription drugs Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine. These may be used to treat conditions such as sleep apnea and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Misuse of Adderall and Ritalin is especially prevalent amongst young people. Students find that the increased alertness they provide helps them stay awake and focused through long hours of studying. However, abuse of these medications is not limited to young people. According to a 2015 report from CBS News, misuse of ADHD prescriptions has risen amongst adults who are also seeking to improve focus and concentration.
Some non-prescription drugs are also classified as stimulants. Ephedrine is an over-the-counter medication. It is the active ingredient found in Sudafed and other nasal decongestants. Because it can be used to produce methamphetamine, a driver’s license or other form of identification is required to purchase it. Ephedrine was a common ingredient in weight loss drugs because it stimulated metabolism, but they have since been removed because of potential health risks.
Certain illegal street drugs such as cocaine are also classified as stimulants. Cocaine is responsible for more trips to hospital emergency rooms than any other illicit substance. It can be snorted, smoked or injected. A patient who has overdosed on cocaine may experience any number of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and vertigo. According to the University of Arizona, “fatal cocaine overdoses are usually related to seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, or respiratory failures.”
MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, is another popular illegal drug. It is known for the euphoric effects it produces. Users may also have hallucinatory experiences. It is especially popular among high school and college students. Also known as Molly, its use is often associated with Raves – dance parties where many in attendance use the drug. It is most frequently taken in capsule or powder form, however it can be swallowed as a liquid or snorted as a powder.
Recognizing stimulant abuse
Whether purchased in a pharmacy or on the streets these substances can be abused. Stimulant dependence can have severe consequences. Symptoms of addiction include:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Pupillary dilatation
- Increased alertness
- Pressured speech
- Flight of ideas
Stimulant withdrawal effects include:
- Depressed mood
- Psychomotor agitation
- Decreased attention
- Sleep disturbances