Stimulants are drugs that cause an increase in body functions and emotional states, such higher energy and alertness, better mood, and feelings of euphoria. Common examples of stimulants include: amphetamines, MDMA (also known as Ecstasy), and methamphetamine. Stimulants are often seen in pill form, and are used to treat people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stimulants affect the brain by increasing a person's dopamine level, which is responsible for pleasure, movement, and attention. Stimulants work to slow down the brain's activity in individuals with ADHD because the brain is not producing enough dopamine. However, when stimulants are taken other than prescribed or by those who it is not prescribed to, dopamine levels increase too rapidly creating excessive feelings of well-being, known as euphoria. It is this feeling of euphoria that increases the risk of addiction from using stimulants.
Stimulants are man-made or chemically produced, most often to treat medical conditions such as ADHD. Commonly used medications that are stimulants are amphetamines and methylphenidate, which are used to treat ADHD. These medications are popularly known as Adderall and Ritalin. These drugs can be taken in pill form or crushed and snorted. Slang terms for amphetamines include: speed, uppers, truck drivers, bennies, and black beauties. Methylphenidate is also known as vitamin R, rits, and west coast. Another commonly abused stimulant that is known as MDMA (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) or more popularly referred to as ecstasy. What is different about this drug is that the manufacturers of MDMA can put whatever they choose into the drug; thus the content of drug is questionable and potentially toxic. Slang terms for MDMA include: X, XTC, E, love drug, and hug.
The short-term consequences for most users of stimulants may be quite positive to include feelings of increased happiness or euphoria, heightened alertness, and more energy. The negative short-term consequences of stimulants includes anxiousness, irritability, confusion, as well as body responses such as dilated pupils, fuzzy eyesight, upset stomach, muscle tension, and increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. Stimulants can cause extreme pressure on the heart due to constricted blood vessels not allowing the blood to flow naturally; thus causing the heart to have to work harder to get blood pumped throughout the body. Consequently, this dangerous affects the heart causing it to beat out of rhythm and stopping blood flow. The side effects or after- use of stimulants may last up to a week or longer depending on the frequency of use. Symptoms experienced include memory loss or distortion, anxiety, depression, chills or sweating, slurred speech, and sleep problems.
This is difficult question answer. Stimulants have been shown to adverse physical health and emotional affects even after one use in the cases in which they are being abused or used against the prescription. Stimulants use may negatively impact certain areas of an individual's life. Some people become emotionally dependent on stimulants in which the drug is used to cope with the stress and pressures of life. This can interfere with the development of other coping skills when dealing with life's challenges. People who are using stimulants to cope, who are unable to have fun without using, or who are unable to function without using are probably using too much. Other people who should not use stimulants, unless prescribed are the following:
- People under the age 21 - stimulant use affects brain development
- People who plan to drive or do other things that require concentration
- People taking prescription or over-the-counter medications
- People who are using alcohol
- People who have heart or kidney conditions
- Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
- People who struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction
Using stimulants prescribed or otherwise should be never be used or mixed with alcohol or other drugs. This can create adverse side effects that may result in overdosing, coma, and/or death.
An addiction can be defined as needing to find and use the drug, even though the substance use has a harmful effect on the individual's functioning. People with addiction will have their substance use harmfully impacting their relationships with family, in their schoolwork, and leisure activities. As their substance use becomes a bigger part of their lives, the use becomes more frequent and in larger amounts. People who are struggling with addiction spend quite a bit of their lives locating their drug, using their drug, and then recovering from their drug use. Over several years, people who are addicted feel they need to use to just make it through the day. If they are unable to get their drugs, they begin to withdrawal – the process of being mentally and physically sick until their body adjusts to being without drugs.
Long-term stimulant abuse can lead to addiction, especially for those for are using outside of medical care. The quick increase of dopamine levels in the brain causes such feelings of euphoria that it is presumably the source of the addiction. Stimulants can be addictive like all other drugs, and it is dependent on a number of individual factors such as genetics, history of substance abuse, family history of substance abuse, age, as well as environmental forces that can lead to addiction.
As discussed earlier, stimulants affect body functions and the ability of the body regulate some its vital functions. People using stimulants experience increased body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, which can lead to heart problems. Others experience nausea, dizziness, fainting, and dehydration.
As with any drug, continuous use of stimulants can cause many serious health problems that if left untreated may result in death:
- Malnutrition from decreased appetite and sleep
- Severe anorexia
- Heart conditions
- Kidney problems
- Extreme dental problems
Continual use of stimulants can cause emotional and psychological problems as well, including decreased cognitive reasoning, aggressiveness, paranoia, hallucinations (visual and auditory), and depression.
Stimulants directly affect the way the brain functions. As described earlier, it increases dopamine levels creating increased feelings of well-being, impacting a person's judgment, coordination, and memory. Due to the user's evaluated mood, he or she may act or do things that are out of the ordinary for him or her. Examples include engaging in sexual activities, physical altercations, and other risky situations because the user feels so good like nothing can stop them. Stimulants and especially repeated use of stimulants can put the user in serious and sometimes life threatening situations.
Everyone is familiar with the consequences of drunk driving, but few people tend to recognize the dangers of drugged driving. Drugged driving is just that – driving under the influence of impairing drug substances. The use and abuse of drugs can negatively impact an individual's ability to drive safely by affecting reaction time, concentration, alertness, decision-making, and coordination. This is a concern for all persons on the road whether driving, riding, using, or any combination of the three, as it puts everyone in danger.
Important to note that Wisconsin is among several states that have enacted the per se laws, whereby a person found to driving while having any trace of banned substances or such substances not prescribed to them, such as Adderall, in his or her blood stream is punishable under the law.
People use stimulants for a variety of different reasons. Most people who use stimulants develop the belief that using is beneficial for them. These anticipated benefits are known as positive expectations of using because even before they use the person is convinced that using stimulants is going to be a positive experience. Several common positive expectations of stimulant use include:
- Using helps me deal with stress and problems in my life
- Using is fun and helps me have a good time
- Using helps me socialize better
- Using helps me fit in with a certain group of people
- Using helps me escape from the boredom of life
- Using helps me be sexual
- Using helps me feel mature
- Using helps me perform better, especially in school
When teenagers have a positive experience with stimulant use, they tend to remember only the positive aspects of using which increases their tendency to use more. Although there may be some short-term positive effects to using stimulants, the greater amount of stimulants used, the more likely negative consequences will occur.
Something else to consider is the financial costs of using stimulants. They can be expensive to use which can create money issues and lead to legal problems.
The safest strategy for a teenager is to not to use stimulants at all. If you have been prescribed stimulants, such Adderall, to treat a medical condition, then remember to follow your prescription closely in terms of dose, route, and time of day.
If you have decided to quit using stimulants, it may helpful to avoid friends and situations that have lead to using episodes in the past. Many teenagers find it helpful to do activities that make being clean fun and rewarding.
For teenagers who make the decision to use stimulants despite the number of associate risk factors, there are several strategies to use more safely:
- Set a limit on the amount of stimulants you use
- Set a limit on the number of days and/or times you use stimulants
- Keep a record of your stimulant use
- Track how much you are spending on stimulants
- Don't buy stimulants
- Avoid places you associate with stimulant use
- Be ready to say NO if you are offered stimulants
- Spend time with friends who don't use stimulants
- Create a list of things you can do when you are bored or feeling other emotions that can trigger using stimulants
- Have a support system or a person you can go and talk to about your stimulant use
The more strategies you choose to use, the less likely you are to have significant negative consequences. Just remember the only real way to protect yourself from the consequences of stimulant use is to NOT use them at all.