Stimulants, also known as “uppers,” are a type of medications associated with an increased production and release of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, movement and attention. When used judiciously, these drugs produce a number of therapeutic effects. However, when abused, they may have numerous severe, possibly fatal, side effects on the user.
Though present naturally in the form of caffeine and nicotine, stimulants can also be produced synthetically. Some of the common examples of synthetically produced stimulants are prescription drugs like Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine. A highly effective treatment for conditions like sleep apnea and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the misuse of these drugs is mostly prevalent among young people, especially among students who find these to be an effective way to increase alertness as well as stay awake and focused through long hours of studying. However, the abuse is not limited to young people; even adults have been reportedly using these medications for various purposes.
Some non-prescription drugs are also classified as stimulants. Ephedrine is one such over-the-counter (OTC) medication that is an active ingredient found in Sudafed and other nasal decongestants. A driver’s license or another form of identification is required to purchase it because it can be used to produce methamphetamine. Ephedrine was once used as a common ingredient in weight loss drugs because it stimulated metabolism, however, its use has been discontinued because of its potential health risks.
Even street drugs like cocaine fall under the umbrella of 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 known for its euphoric effects and hallucinatory experiences. It is especially popular among high school and college students; is often consumed in capsule or powder form, but can be swallowed as a liquid or snorted as a powder as well. Also known as Molly, its use is often associated with Raves – dance parties where many people in attendance use the drug.