Content reviewed by Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADC, CEO of Pinelands

Stimulants are an umbrella term for drugs that speed up the body’s internal systems, especially activity related to the central nervous system. Often referred to as “uppers,” stimulant drugs are widely used for various reasons including, but not limited to, performance enhancement, medical benefits and other recreational purposes.

Many stimulant drugs are prescription medicines, leading people to believe that they are inherently safe substances. However, the use of both legal and illegal stimulant drugs can result in various mental and physical health consequences. It is important to understand how the long-term use of stimulants, both medicinal and recreational, can affect an individual’s health and wellbeing.

Stimulant drugs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all of which range in legality and usage.

There are many different classes of stimulant drugs. Some of these include:

  • Amphetamines Amphetamines are prescription stimulants often used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some common brands include:
    • Adderall®
    • Concerta®
    • Methylin®
    • Ritalin®
  • Cocaine Cocaine is a crystallized powder that derives from the leaves of the coca plant. Although it is most commonly recognized as a hard, illegal, recreational substance, the drug has an extensive history of use as a medicine and local anesthetic.
  • Khat – Khat is a drug made from leaves and twigs of an evergreen shrug. The plant has been used for centuries as a recreational and religious substance, although there is no recognized licit use for khat in the United States.
  • Methamphetamine Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug developed from its parent drug, amphetamines, used initially as nasal decongestants. It is much more potent than other amphetamines — drugs with a high potential for abuse but have accepted medical uses. Other street names for methamphetamine may include:
    • Speed
    • Ice
    • Meth
  • Caffeine Most people recognize that coffee has stimulating properties, but have you ever considered caffeine as a drug? Caffeine is most popularly used to restore mental alertness, reduce drowsiness and reduce fatigue. It is most commonly found in coffee and energy drinks, although it is also present in some medications and certain dietary supplements.
  • MDMA  Also known as “molly” and “ecstasy,” MDMA is a synthetic drug with similar effects as amphetamines. It is a schedule I substance, which means it is identified as having no accepted medical uses and has a high potential for abuse. MDMA is most commonly used in the nightlife scene recreationally, although researchers continue to investigate the substance for its potential medical benefits.

Prescription stimulants increase brain activity, resulting in mental alertness.

Stimulant drugs are often prescribed for individuals that struggle with ADHD by increasing alertness, focus and energy. On a chemical level, prescription stimulants increase neurotransmitter activity in the brain, specifically increasing the activity of dopamine, which is involved in the reinforcement of pleasurable behaviors, and norepinephrine, which helps regulate the autonomic nervous system.

Individuals that use prescription stimulants tend to experience a “rush” of energy along with several physical effects, including:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increase heart rate
  • Increased breathing
  • Decreased blood flow
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Opened breathing passages

When stimulants are consumed in larger quantities than prescribed or in high recreational doses, they can lead to dangerously high body temperatures, heart failure and seizures. Repeated stimulant drug use increases an individual’s risk of experiencing psychosis, anger or paranoia.

Prolonged or repeated stimulant use can result in long-term adverse consequences.

Several adverse health consequences may result from repeated use of stimulant drugs. These consequences may include:

Substance abuse and addiction

Regular use of either prescription stimulants or other illegal stimulant drugs can increase an individual’s risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD), such as chemical dependency or addiction.

The long-term use of stimulants can cause an individual to develop increased tolerance, which means that a person would need higher doses or more frequent doses of a drug to achieve desired effects. When a person continues to use stimulants despite the consequences it may be causing in their life, it is a sign that they may be developing a SUD.

Psychiatric problems

Another potential consequence of long-term stimulant use is prolonged psychiatric problems, including, but not limited to:

No matter how severe the consequences of stimulant use may be, treatment is available for you or your loved one. It is essential to seek support and guidance as early as possible to effectively treat any of the potentially chronic physical or mental health problems or substance use disorders caused by regular stimulant use.

Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is a premier drug and alcohol treatment center that treats adults and young adults with substance use problems. We understand that stimulant use can get the best of you sometimes, but we are ready to help you achieve long-lasting recovery. To learn more about our treatment facility or the effects of stimulants, give us a call today at (877) 557-5372.