While many of us might only think of stimulants in a prescription drug or street drug sense, there’s a whole other side to stimulants; a legal, over-the-counter side, where anyone (of almost any age) has unlimited access to them.
It might come as a surprise to some people, but most of us use, at least, one stimulant every single day, if not multiple times a day. Commonly referred to as “uppers” due to the rush of dopamine that’s released after consuming. Stimulants often result in heightened energy levels, increased ability to focus and improved mental clarity and mood.
This rush, while it provides temporary pleasure in the moment, has a variety of both short- and long-term effects on the individual.
People who abuse stimulants often suffer from a wide range of negative side effects that not only lead to addiction, but in the most severe cases, death.
With the rise in stimulant abuse and addiction — in adults and adolescents alike — it’s now more important than ever to become familiar with the signs of this substance abuse, as well as the negative effects that often follow it.
What are stimulants?
Stimulants are substances (sometimes even prescription drugs) that are used to temporarily improve the functionality of your body, nervous system and brain.
Used to increase the levels of neurological or physiological activity in the body, stimulants can uplift a person’s mood as well as increase their energy and focus. The ability of stimulants to improve mood, energy levels and alertness, comes from your body releasing a rush of dopamine in response to ingesting the stimulant.
These euphoric-inducing and performance-enhancing effects of stimulants can be psychologically addictive; leading many people to increase their doses and ultimately, experience a variety of negative side effects.
Understanding legal stimulants
While there are three commonly understood categories of stimulants (legal, illegal/illicit, and prescription), we are going to focus on only one of these in this article: legal stimulants.
Many people think of stimulants only in the sense of drugs, whether prescription (such as Ritalin or Adderall) or illegal, (such as cocaine or meth), but plenty of us consume legal, easily accessible stimulants on a daily basis.
The most common “household” stimulants are coffee, nicotine and energy drinks; all of these, when used in excess and for a long amount of time, can pose multiple health risks.
Effects of stimulants on the body
The effects of stimulant abuse are diverse, and their severity depends on the individual and their personality, the substance being used and the length of time and extent of the abuse. There are both short- and long-term side effects of stimulants, the most common of which we’re going to go over here.
Short-term effects of stimulants can include—abnormally high blood pressure, muscle shakes, suppressed appetite, increased heart rate and anxiety and agitation. These reactions to stimulants may not be fatal, but they can take a toll on your body.
The more consistently you take the stimulant, the more you will build a tolerance, which often leads to the person increasing their dosage without medical recommendation or supervision.
Abusing stimulants long-term should not be disregarded, as extensive use can result in a variety of dangerous side effects, a few of which can be potentially life-threatening. Some of these long-term effects can be—heart and lung damage, extreme weight loss, brain hemorrhaging, seizures and strokes.
Long-term stimulant abuse can also result in psychological damage, such as chronic depression or anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations.
The abuse or misuse of stimulants can be harmful to the body even in small doses; in terms of recreation, since they were designed to be used by people with a certain neurological stature, they can pose serious consequences to people who do not share the same chemical makeup.
Symptoms of stimulant abuse
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of stimulant abuse are:
- Intense episodes of food cravings (sometimes even bingeing)
- Outbursts of emotion (typically anger, anxiety or panic) or dramatic mood swings
- Elevated blood pressure and/or abnormally high body temperature
- Insomnia or chronic exhaustion that leads to excessive sleep
- Lack of involvement in hobbies and social activities once enjoyed
- Exhibiting excessive or aggressive energy
- Racing thoughts, hyperactive speech or chaotic behavior
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may be abusing stimulant drugs, we can help.
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