What are Stimulants? As the name of this class of drugs implies, stimulants are central nervous system stimulants. They are mostly prescribed these days as medication for Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, Narcolepsy, and as a poor choice for weight control, given side effect and abuse potential. Cocaine, Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines and methamphetamines are common forms of stimulant drugs. Non-prescribed users of these drugs and medicines experience a false sense of increased energy, stimulation and enthusiasm. They are attractive to some people in that they can increase the bodily sensations that feel like excitement. However, some people with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders, for some unknown reason, experience the reverse effect in that these drugs slow their experience of stimulation to a more manageable level.
How do they affect the body?
This class of drugs and medicines stimulates the central nervous system. They speed things up: increased heart rate, pulse and blood pressure rate, breathing, thinking and stimulation of the senses. They are usually accompanied by loss of appetite and insomnia. In too large a dose the user can experience hallucinations, paranoia, agitation, panic attacks, convulsions and death from cardiac arrest.
There does not appear to be a significant difference between men and women and the effects of the drug.
- Heart attacks
- Panic or paranoid reactions
- Increase in flight / fight/ freeze responses
- Increased anxiety levels
- Increased interpersonal reactivity
- Accidents and disorientation due to hallucinations
- High abuse-addictive potential: yes, even caffeine
- Arrest and incarceration: cocaine and its varied forms (crack) and non-prescription amphetamines are illegal in the Unites States
- Longer-term health risks include depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder
How to recognize if someone has a problem
Some, but not necessarily all, of the following:
- Manic like behaviors
- Not sleeping, not eating, or not bothering with personal hygiene for days at a time
- Sudden onset with panic or paranoid like thinking
- Dramatic weight loss
- Unexplained absences or follow-through with commitments and other signs of addictive behavior
How to cut back on misuse
If someone has been prescribed these for a medical condition, consult with his/her doctor. In general, people who successfully stop let people that they trust know about their liking and use of these substances, to elicit their support. Withdrawal can bring on a period of apathy, excessive sleep, depressiveness, disorientation and irritability. These effects are difficult to manage on one’s own, and often people find themselves returning to using these drugs or switching their drug of choice to what they assume to be “safer” drugs. Consulting with a trained professional and going to a 12 step support group can prove to be invaluable for those wishing to stop.