Stimulants speed up both mental and physical processes by increasing levels of dopamine in the brain. They’re commonly referred to as “uppers.” Like opioids, there are both legal and illegal stimulants, all of which are addictive.
What Are the Most Commonly Abused Stimulants?
Some of the most commonly abused stimulants include cocaine, prescription stimulants (legal amphetamines), and methamphetamine.
Cocaine is a very addictive stimulant made from the leaves of the coca plant in South America. It’s one of the most commonly used street drugs. It causes a user to become more alert, excited, and confident.
Why is Cocaine So Dangerous?
While cocaine is one of the most commonly used drugs, its addictive qualities cannot be taken lightly. Cocaine creates a psychological dependence that comes second only to methamphetamine. The stimulant artificially triggers a large release of dopamine, causing an intense spark of pleasure. As a person continues to use, it’ll take increasingly higher doses to produce that same effect. The brain will quickly become dependent on the drug to produce any sort of pleasurable feelings. In addition to the inception of cocaine addiction, this tolerance increase is incredibly dangerous because of the risk of overdose.
There are close to 500,000 cocaine-related emergency room visits in the U.S. each year.
Some stimulants are actually legal and can be prescribed by doctors for conditions like ADHD, depression, and narcolepsy.
Prescription amphetamines include:
These amphetamines are commonly abused by people who don’t need them because of their alert and focused effects. Students, for example, refer to them as “study drugs,” and will misuse them to improve focus and cognitive abilities while studying or to help balance school, social life, and extracurriculars.
An average of 17% of college students have reported misuse of prescription stimulants.
Are Prescription Stimulants Dangerous?
Prescription stimulants can be very effective and beneficial for someone who suffers from one of the aforementioned conditions. But chronic misuse of these drugs can have very serious and negative long-term effects, including depression, hypertension, stunted growth in children and teens, and cardiovascular complications.
Methamphetamine — more commonly known as “meth” — is a highly addictive, potent, and dangerous amphetamine. The drug has the potential to cause perhaps the most physical carnage on the body. The horror of that fact is compounded by how easy and cheap this stimulant is to make.
Common names for meth include speed, crystal, ice, crank, and chalk.
How Addictive is Meth?
Like its fellow stimulants, methamphetamine manipulates the pleasure center of the brain. It triggers a quick release of a large amount of dopamine to produce feelings of euphoria. Meth is extremely potent, so its effects are felt almost instantly.
As that dopamine release is exploited, users will eventually become dependent on meth to feel happy, then normal, and eventually anything besides anger or depression. And because meth produces such a high euphoric feeling, the “crash” coming down from that high typically isn’t just a lack of euphoria but rather negative emotions, such as anger or fear. In order to avoid those feelings, a person will continuously use the drug in what is known as a “binge” or “run,” giving up food, sleep, and everything besides the drug for days.
964,000 people age 12 or older had a methamphetamine use disorder in 2017 (estimated)
What Makes Meth So Dangerous?
Meth has been called the most dangerous drug in the world. Not only is it widely accessible and cheap to make, but it also wreaks havoc on the mind and body.
Physical effects of meth addiction include face sores, severe tooth decay, rapid aging, and a skeletal appearance.
Mental effects of meth addiction include paranoia, parasitosis, aggression, and violent inclinations.