Prescription stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin are drugs that elevate the user’s heart rate, blood pressure and respiration as well as cause a corresponding increase in energy and attention. The drugs are prescribed as medication to treat such conditions as ADHD, narcolepsy and depression. However, stimulants also have the potential for abuse. When people use the drugs without any medical need or go beyond the recommended usage prescribed by a doctor, they run the risk of suffering serious health problems.
How stimulants work
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, stimulants affect the brain by mimicking neurotransmitters in the brain called monoamines, which enhances the effect that these neurotransmitters have on the brain. They also increase blood glucose, open up breathing passages to increase respiration and increase the user’s blood pressure and heart rate. Combined, these effects cause the user to feel more alert, focused and energized. The effects of the drug also create a rise in dopamine levels, which causes a feeling of euphoria in large doses. This pleasurable sensation can lead to abuse and addiction.
Abuse of prescription stimulants
Prescription stimulants are intended only to treat certain medical conditions and should not be used without a medical need. However, stimulant addiction is a growing trend, particularly among students and other young people, because of their seemingly positive effects and the general perception that they are harmless. Many abusers take large doses of stimulants to enjoy the euphoric rush that comes with elevated dopamine levels. Other abusers use the drug as a “cognitive enhancer” to improve their performance in a mental or physical task. It is common to hear stories of students using stimulants to get them through the “crunch” of semester finals. These drug abusers rarely realize the risks they are posing to themselves by taking such powerful drugs without medical oversight.
Dangers of stimulant abuse
One risk of unsupervised stimulant use is the potential for dangerous drug interaction. For example, over-the-counter cold medications that include decongestants should not be taken when using stimulants. Using both kinds of medications can cause dangerously high blood pressure and lead to an irregular heartbeat. No medications should be taken in conjunction with stimulants without prior authorization by a physician.
Even by themselves, stimulants can cause health problems when used improperly. Taking large or repeated doses over a short period of time can cause severe psychological distress, including increased hostility, paranoia and psychosis. High doses also put the user at risk of seizure or heart failure, with potentially lethal results. Furthermore, stimulant abusers can become chemically dependent and addicted to their drug of choice. Chemical dependence spurs users to take ever-increasing doses and can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when the drug is removed from the system. Addiction creates cravings for the drug that can make it extremely difficult for an addict to stop using.
If you have become addicted to prescription stimulants or know someone who has, the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California can connect you with effective recovery therapies. Call to speak with a qualified health professional and start on your recovery today.