Stimulants are also a widely used and often abused controlled substance. Though they are controlled substances, they have proven to have medical worth and value and are used in certain types of treatments producing positive outcomes, as long as the drugs or substances are not abused. Stimulants are a type of psychoactive drug that can actually improve mental or physical function on a temporary basis.
Some of the basic and immediate effects of stimulants may include:
Increased blood pressure and body temperature
Feelings of extreme joy or euphoria
Stimulants affect how the central nervous system and its internal components function. Stimulants will most often disrupt the chemical dopamine, which is released by neurotransmitters when an individual experiences or does something that they enjoy, causing a feeling of pleasure and joy. Stimulants cause neurotransmitters to release an overwhelming amount of dopamine, which leads to the effects that stimulants cause.
However, because the build-up and release of beyond normal amounts of dopamine occurs at an unnatural level when caused by stimulants, the brain will have a more difficult time in compensating to reach normal dopamine levels.
Therefore, the abuse of the drug can lead the brain’s dopamine system to be rendered almost inoperable, thus leading users to use and abuse the drug to obtain similar levels of euphoria as with prior uses, which is often why an addiction and dependence can develop to stimulants. Thus, just like other controlled substances, stimulants can still cause significant damage when abused, even though they are controlled substances.
Stimulants are often referred to as “uppers” because their effects having an increase of body function and heightened sensory perception. They are the causal opposite to depressants, which are also commonly called “downers.” There are many types of stimulants, both that are medically and legally used and illicit controlled substances. The most commonly known are:
Cocaine is one of the most commonly known and abused illegal controlled substances in the world today. Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which is indigenous to South American countries such as Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia. Cocaine can be found in various forms and can also be administered by various methods, all of which are considered controlled substances.
Popularly, cocaine is used in powder form and is white in color at its purest level. However, the illicit use of cocaine typically will lend for it to be mixed or “cut” with other agents in order to increase its yield and economic potential on the street and illegal levels. Cocaine is most often cut with baking soda in order to add weight to the powder, thus decreasing its purity. Sugars and local anesthetics such as lidocaine are also used in cutting cocaine. Stimulants, such as methamphetamine, are also used to provide for more intense effects than pure cocaine itself.
Freebase cocaine is the purest of all the forms and is not soluble in water. Certain chemical processes and applications must be applied to cocaine by neutralizing its powder form, which is a salt. This form of cocaine, though at its purest, have proven to be extremely damaging to the liver and lungs.
Crack cocaine is the lowest form of cocaine in terms of purity levels. Crack is often found in a solid form, commonly referred to as a “rock,” which can range from being white in color to a light brown. Depending on how the crack is prepared–usually baking soda or ammonia–its appearance will differ on the levels of impurities added. Crack is also the cheapest form of cocaine on the street market, for its preparation yields more than typical powdered cocaine.
The coca leaf itself can also be ingested orally, as it has been typically done by the natives of the countries that yield the plant. Though it is done on both the recreational and medical levels, the coca plant has been used with positive connotations rather than the abusive context of its cocaine form. Thus, though it might be one of the more controlled substances among stimulants, it does have some potential positive uses.
Cocaine can be administered by several methods. The most common being insufflation or snorting, since the powder form is often the most widely-used. Snorting cocaine can produce effects in an average time of fifteen minutes, while absorbing about 30% to 60% of the drugs efficiency. Injection is another method, and arguably the most dangerous to administer the controlled substance. The drug absorption in to the blood stream is the quickest of all the methods, reaching effects within three minutes. However, the effects may be stronger, they also last the shortest.
Injection of controlled substances poses a serious risk for infections such as AIDS and hepatitis can be transmitted by the sharing of used and non-sterile needles. Furthermore, the injection of cocaine becomes much more dangerous when it is mixed with heroin, which is commonly known as a “speedball.” The effects of the drugs counteract each other, making it extremely difficult to determine and often masking the symptoms of an overdose.
Inhalation through the lungs by smoking is yet another way the drug is administered, typically using the crack and freebase forms of the drug. The effects are felt almost immediately and last anywhere between five and fifteen minutes.
Though cocaine has some severely addictive qualities, it is still proven to have less adverse effects than legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. However, under extreme dosages and usage, the health problems posed by cocaine can be hazardous and dangerous. Depending on the method of administration, some of the adverse health issues caused by the abuse of cocaine are:
Destruction of the septum nasi cartilage
Kidney and renal failure
Amphetamines are another type of stimulant that are used for both recreational and medical purposes. Substances such as methamphetamine have been used to treat narcolepsy, obesity, depression, and has been approved by the FDA in treating ADHD. However, its illicit use, often referred to as “meth” and “crystal meth”, has shown to have serious side effects and health issues. It has similar adverse effects such as cocaine, but also causes its addicts to lose their teeth at an abnormal rate.
Another key factor is the fact the meth is constantly used for the sexual pleasure effects that the drug has. Such effects may lead to sexually compulsive behavior where safe sex practices are ignored. The transmission of STI’s and STD’s is a concern for those who use methamphetamine on a recreational level.
Amphetamines can also be administered in several ways. On a medical level, the drug will most commonly be orally administered. Its illicit use will often consist of snorting, injecting, or smoking.
MDMA, most commonly known as “ecstasy,” is another popular stimulant that is most commonly found in tablet or capsule form. Ecstasy may also be in powder or crystal form, but the pill form is most common for administration of the drug. This controlled substance has effects that create a sense of intimacy and an overall ceasing of feeling fear, depression, or anxiety.
The drug was initially used in certain treatments, such as anxiety disorders, clinical depression, and even couples therapy because of effects with positive results, and was used in psychotherapy treatments before is was classified as a controlled substance. However, the stimulant can create some adverse and acute aftereffects such as:
Coma and/or death
One of the biggest concerns involving ecstasy is that when sold at the street level, it is rarely in its pure form. Ecstasy is often cut with other stimulants such as methamphetamine, caffeine, cocaine, or ephedrine, thus making the effects more intense and more hazardous. Sometimes other chemicals entirely are sold as MDMA and have caused deaths to those who take them, such as PMA, a highly toxic hallucinogenic form of amphetamine.
Caffeine and nicotine are both types of stimulants that are legal for use, both at the recreational and medical levels. Caffeine is a chemical typically found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks. It is by far the world’s most widely used psychoactive drug, with over 80% of Americans alone consuming the stimulant on a daily basis.
Caffeine is also used with medical implications in order to enhance the effect of a drug or substance. Caffeine has effects of increasing mental and physical capacities for labor, providing for increased feelings of energy, as well as alertness and arousal.
Nicotine is most commonly found in cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. This stimulant has been found to produce feelings of relaxation and alertness while raising metabolic rates. Though legally used and available, nicotine has been proving to be far more addictive than controlled substances such as cocaine and heroin.