What Are Prescription CNS Stimulants?
Prescription Stimulant Drugs, also known as “stims” or “uppers,” are a group of drugs that can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy in a medical capacity. However, they can also be abused by people who use them recreationally or illegally.
They work by increasing the amount of dopamine in your brain which makes one feel more awake and alert. Dopamine is one of several neurotransmitters that carry messages from nerve cells to other parts of the body, and it helps control movement, attention, pleasure, motivation, sleep, appetite, sexual desire, memory, learning ability, and emotions.1
The effects of stimulants on the body depend upon how much is taken at one time, whether it’s injected into the bloodstream or swallowed, and what other substances may be mixed with them. Some stimulants cause short-term changes in mood, energy levels, concentration, and behavior while others produce long-lasting physical and psychological dependence. This article will discuss some of the short and long-term effects of stimulant drugs.
Short-Term Effects of Stimulant Abuse
When you use a stimulant drug other CNS Stimulants, the levels of dopamine flood into your brain at an unnaturally heightened level. This causes an immediate rush of energy, which can be very pleasurable for some people. People who abuse prescription stimulants may also experience these short-term effects:2
- increased heart rate
- psychomotor agitation
- rapid breathing
- reduced appetite
- decreased sleep
- increased blood sugar
- increased body temperature
- longer periods of wakefulness
It should also be noted, that when taken in too large of a dosage, an overdose can occur.
Overdoses can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, seizures, coma and even death.
Possible warning signs of overdose include dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, sweating, rapid breathing, muscle twitching, confusion, agitation and hallucinations.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms after abusing prescription stimulants, it is vital to call emergency services right away.
Long Term Health Dangers of Stimulant Abuse:
In addition to short-term dangers, there is a large array of health risks associated with prolonged use of stimulant prescription medications. Stimulants affect every organ system in the body including the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, stomach, intestines, muscles, bones, blood vessels, brain, eyes, ears, nose, throat, skin, glands, and reproductive organs. Many of the health complications include the following:3
Liver and Lung Damage:
Some stimulants can damage the liver over prolonged periods of use. Liver problems caused by stimulants include jaundice, hepatitis and cirrhosis. Hepatitis C infection causes further inflammation of the liver and can eventually result in scarring of the organ leading to cirrhosis. Chronic stimulant use can also affect the lungs causing lung infections and pneumonia. There is also evidence that regular use of certain types of stimulants can make asthma worse.
The risk for cardiovascular events increases when people abuse or take high doses of amphetamines medications. This may occur because they increase blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels, cause irregular heartbeat, or lead to sudden cardiac arrest or heart failure. People who abuse stimulants should not drive until their condition has stabilized. If you experience chest pain while taking these medications, call your doctor immediately. You could have a serious problem such as coronary artery spasm, which causes angina-like symptoms without any underlying blockage in the arteries.
Chronic Depression and Suicide Attempts:
People who abuse stimulants often report feeling depressed after stopping treatment. Some studies suggest that this effect occurs more frequently among those using higher dosages of prescription drug abuse and more developed substance use disorders.
In addition, people abusing stimulants are at an increased risk of attempting suicide. A person can be at an even further increased risk for suicidal thoughts if they also take other illicit substances simultaneously; suffers from mental illness; have recently experienced loss or stress, or has a pre-existing history of attempting suicide.
Abusing stimulants can worsen existing anxiety conditions. Anxiety attacks can become frequent and intense. Abusers may find themselves unable to sleep, eat, concentrate, or perform daily activities. Many people who abuse stimulants also struggle with panic attacks. Panic attacks involve feelings of terror accompanied by rapid breathing, sweating, shaking, dizziness, numbness, tingling sensations, and fear of losing control.
Many abusers of stimulants experience many psychotic episodes. Psychoses are characterized by hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, confusion, agitation, aggression, and/or disorganized behavior. When taken together, these symptoms indicate that a person is experiencing a manic episode. Mania refers to elevated mood, irritability, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, pressured speech, and poor judgment. The most common side effects associated with mania include insomnia, restlessness, weight gain, and impulsive behaviors.
Other Side Effects:
Other common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, blurred vision, headaches, muscle aches, weakness, fatigue, tremors, high blood pressure, palpitations, shortness of breath, difficulty sleeping, and changes in sexual desire. Other less common side effects include excessive thirst, urination, and menstrual irregularities.
Getting Help For Stimulant Addiction
Stimulant abuse is an epidemic in the United States. While many may initially use it for different reasons, the result of addiction always ends the same; broken relationships, destroyed finances, compromised health, and even death. Many people suffer under the grip of addiction every day, but there is hope available.
If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, Schick Shadel Hospital is here to help. Our licensed clinicians and intake team are ready to help you get started in your new life in recovery. Our 10-day aversion therapy program has been shown to be many times more effective than conventional therapeutic techniques.4 There is no need to wait to get the treatment you need, we are ready to help.
Visit our Contact Page or call us at 1-800-CRAVING to get started.
Bhatia A, Lenchner JR, Saadabadi A. Biochemistry, Dopamine Receptors. [Updated 2020 Jul 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538242/
Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 33 Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 1999. Report No. : SMA) 09-4209
NIDA. 2020, July 20. Preface. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preface
Elkins RL, Richards TL, Nielsen R, Repass R, Stahlbrandt H and Hoffman HG (2017) The Neurobiological Mechanism of Chemical Aversion (Emetic) Therapy for Alcohol Use Disorder: An fMRI Study. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 11:182. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00182