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.
- Methylphenidate (prescription drugs like Ritalin and Concerta)
- Dextroamphetamine (prescription drugs like Dexedrine)
- Dextroamphetamine/amphetamine (prescription drugs like Adderall)
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)
- 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)
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
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.