Understanding Stimulants

Understanding Stimulants

While the broad class of drugs is known as stimulants, you may not be 100% familiar with which drugs that includes in practice. Before delving into the finer points of stimulants like – what they are, what they do and their addictive nature – let’s list the common ones and some usage stats.

Common Stimulants

  • Caffeine
  • Amphetamines
  • Methylphenidate (prescription drugs like Ritalin and Concerta)
  • Dextroamphetamine (prescription drugs like Dexedrine)
  • Dextroamphetamine/amphetamine (prescription drugs like Adderall)
  • Ephedrine
  • Cocaine 

You might first notice caffeine and for good reason, studies note “caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world. In Western society, at least 80 percent of the adult population consumes caffeine in amounts large enough to have an effect on the brain”.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that “five million American adults misusing prescription stimulants”.

Cocaine “was involved in nearly 1 in 5 overdose deaths during 2017.  Almost 5 million Americans reported current cocaine use in 2016”, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants, in the simplest terms, are drugs that increase the activity of your central nervous system. They stimulate it, in other words.

When used by prescription and under the guidance of a doctor, stimulants can be taken to treat issues like:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Narcolepsy
  • Congestion of the sinuses
  • Nasal congestion

They can also be used to enhance performance in athletics. You may have heard of the term “doping” as it relates to cheating in sports, well one of the ways to dope is with central nervous system stimulants. One study summarizes it like this, “central nervous system (CNS) stimulants may be used to reduce tiredness and increase alertness, competitiveness, and aggression. They are more likely to be used in competition but may be used during training to increase the intensity of the training session”.

The last big silo of stimulants is those used illegally and for recreation. This includes:

  • Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Cocaine

MDMA is classed as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), meaning it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Cocaine and methamphetamine fall under Schedule II and also carry a high potential for abuse that can lead to dependence.

So, what do stimulants do once you’ve taken them?

What Do Stimulants Do?

Whether it’s a prescription or not, all stimulants act in the same basic way. NIDA explains it as such; “stimulants increase the activity of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine is involved in the reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Norepinephrine affects blood vessels, blood pressure and heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing”.

Dopamine is of course colloquially known as the “feel-good” hormone so one of the effects of stimulants is something of a rush of euphoria.

Additionally, stimulants can do the following:

  • Increase heart rate
  • Increase blood pressure but decrease blood flow
  • Increase alertness
  • Increase blood sugar
  • Open sinuses and breathing passages
  • Reduce appetite

Are Stimulants Addictive?

Indeed they are.

The euphoric, feel-good sensation coupled with the other effects mean that prescription stimulants are ripe for abuse if not taken exactly as directed. It also means that recreational stimulants can quickly hook a user as well.

The longer you take stimulants of any kind, the more of a tolerance you develop which translates to needing to take more and more to achieve the same effect as before. Before you know it, you have a full-blown substance use disorder on your hands.

Get Help With a Stimulant Addiction at Principles Recovery Center

At Principles Recovery Center, we understand full well the dangers of using stimulants and specialize in treating those who’ve become addicted; particularly to crack/cocaine.

If you want to learn more about stimulants and how we can help you or a loved one recover from them, reach out to us today.

How to Help a Drug Addict Get Sober

How to Help a Drug Addict Get Sober

Addiction slowly but surely turns you into a shell of your former self. Rearranging priorities to serve just one goal in the end: getting more drugs.

It’s a harrowing decline that only fully reveals itself to the user with the benefit of hindsight, but getting ahead of addiction is no easy feat for many.

What makes this worse for you – the parents, brothers, sisters, family and friends – is the helplessness you feel as you watch substance abuse take over. Whatever power you thought you had to influence behavior in the past, completely overshadowed by the drugs.

So, the question becomes, how to help a drug addict?

How do you get your loved one back?

Signs Your Loved One Is a Drug Addict

The first thing you need is knowledge. Knowledge of the signs and symptoms of addiction. Because knowing and naming what you’re looking at is the only way to adequately find a solution for it.

Addiction manifests itself in several ways and there are subtle – and not so subtle – differences depending on the drug of choice. Nonetheless, some general warning signs of addiction can show up no matter the substance.

These include:

  • An inability to stop despite wanting to
  • Taking ever-increasing amounts of the drug due to a built-up tolerance
  • Continuing to use despite clear negative consequences, both physically and mentally
  • Changing friend groups often and hanging out with more “questionable” people
  • Losing interest in things, hobbies, people that brought them joy previously
  • Difficulties at work or school, declining performance and growing disinterest
  • Increased need for privacy and being alone – isolation and secrecy
  • Borrowing and spending more money than usual
  • General financial issues
  • Engaging in increasingly risky behaviors, i.e., driving while under the influence
  • Preoccupation with substances and spending more and more time getting, using and recovering from drugs
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using 
  • Denial that they have an issue at all
  • Changes in mood, mood swings and irritability
  • Shift in eating habits, eating more or eating less depending on the substance being used
  • Drastic change in sleep habits and/or insomnia
  • Disregard for personal appearance, i.e., not showering, washing/changing clothes, brushing teeth, combing hair, etc.
  • Strained relationships with family and friends

As you can see, drugs can affect every part of life. The far-reaching tentacles wrap around whatever is in front of them, suffocating it.

Now that you have some direction in terms of identifying an addiction, what’s the next step?

How to Help a Drug Addict Get Sober

Getting them into treatment is often what gives someone the best shot at getting sober. The difficulty is of course in getting them to understand they need help. Whether by intervention or by them reaching the conclusion themselves with your help, it can be done.

The reason rehab works so well is that it’s concentrated and dedicated care administered by addiction experts. People who have seen it before and are trained and licensed to help your loved one get through it.

Each program is catered to the individual’s needs, fully customized to suit what would work best for them. Depending on the severity of the addiction that may be inpatient care, where they live at a rehab center, or outpatient treatment where they can come just for their sessions.

The hallmark of both is the time spent in individual and group therapy to truly work through and understand the root causes of how your loved one came to be addicted in the first place. From there we work on developing healthy and sustainable coping mechanisms and shifting thought patterns to prevent relapse and future issues.

If your loved one is struggling with addiction and you aren’t sure where to turn to, reach out to us at Principles Recovery Center. We’d be happy to listen and offer any insights or advice on what to do next.