Stimulants, also known as Uppers, are a category of drugs that are used for increasing alertness, activity and energy. Many stimulant drugs are used in prescription medications to alleviate disorders or illnesses that affect the nervous system. Overuse or abuse of stimulant drugs can lead to addiction, resulting in a host of other physical and mental reactions and disorders.
Stimulants speed up processes in the brain and the body by releasing large amounts of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine in a short amount of time. When used under a physician’s care, stimulants may be prescribed for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and some forms of sleep disorders. But upon prolonged use stimulants can result in severe side effects that can become chronic over time.
Long term abuse of stimulants can also damage the brain by decreasing the number of neurons and glial cells leading to a decrease in white matter. Over time, it leads to depletion of self-generated levels of dopamine and serotonin, while increasing neurotoxins in the brain.
Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT
Review Date: 3/1/2023
Caffeine is a stimulant drug present in substances such as coffee and some sodas. Because it is a stimulant it speeds up the messages between the brain and the body. It is also addictive, which means it can cause withdrawal symptoms when a regular intake is not available.
Nicotine, mainly present in tobacco used in cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and other tobacco-based products is another widely used addictive stimulant. Excessive use and long term use may cause premature death, roughly 1 out of 5 deaths in the United States. It is a highly addictive substance causing dopamine floods to the brain, high blood sugar and a host of vascular diseases.
Cocaine, present in Coca bush leaves, is another stimulant drug that may be ingested in various ways such as smoking, snorting, inhaling, chewing, and injecting. It is illegal in the United States but it is still one of the most abused drugs. Long term use of cocaine may create a range of effects in the body and the brain, such as insomnia, high blood pressure, anxiety, paranoia, and violent behavior. Overdosing on cocaine may lead to panic attacks, hallucinations, kidney failure, seizures, stroke, and heart attack.
Meth, or methamphetamine, is an extremely addictive psychostimulant drug similar to prescription amphetamines. It can be consumed in various ways such as smoking, snorting, inhaling, ingesting, and injecting. It is illegal in the United States but is rapidly expanding its reach over substance-abusing population. Overdosing on methamphetamine may lead to kidney failure, convulsions, passing out, stroke, heart attack and death.
Prescription stimulants are psychoactive drugs that are commonly used in prescription medications such as Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to help patients with their ability to focus and to control their impulses. Long term abuse of these medications can lead to depression, nausea, anxiety, manic states, and cardiovascular complications.
Long term use of stimulant drugs damages the central nervous system (CNS) by acting on the neurotransmitters in the brain, which creates an imbalance of neurotransmitters. To combat the effects of these dangerously addictive substances may not be easy, but you can overcome your addiction with treatment if you have the commitment to do so.
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