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What Stimulants Do to the Body and Mind?

3 minute read

Stimulants, often called “uppers,” are substances that raise levels of physiological or nervous activity in the body. A stimulant is a drug that excites any bodily function, but more specifically those that stimulate the brain and the central nervous system. The short-term effects from consuming stimulants often induce awareness, alertness, elevated mood, wakefulness, increased speech and increased motor activity.

Though stimulants have very limited therapeutic use, the mood-elevating effects make some stimulants extremely potent drugs to abuse. The most commonly used street drugs, cocaine and amphetamines, fall under the category of stimulants. Below are five ways stimulant consumption, more specifically methamphetamine and cocaine, can affect the mind and body.

  • After consumption of stimulants the brain increases certain types of cell signaling and amplifies various physiological processes throughout the brain and body. Many stimulants heighten the brain’s dopamine release, which results in a sense of well-being, increased energy, increased attention and alertness. These increases in brain activity allow the user, temporarily, to accomplish tasks at hand, meanwhile feeling a sense of euphoria. The heightened brain activity of the user, results in stimulants having a high abuse potential, due to the positive effects produced by stimulants. These desired effects are short-lived, thus causing the user to increase the intake of stimulants, resulting in a plethora of negative effects that soon follow prolonged use of stimulants.
  • After prolonged use of stimulants, the user often experiences irritability, restlessness, hyperactivity, anxiety, excessive speech, rapid mood swings, agitation, tremors, confusion, and, in most serious cases, a state resembling paranoid schizophrenia. A user typically experiences these effects from prolonged use of stimulants because the brain is having a difficult time regulating and balancing dopamine. Stimulants also interact with certain areas of the brain that manage emotions, fear, aggression and flight-or-fight responses, and when the brain is over stimulated, often these negative effects of stimulant use become present.
  • After stimulant abuse users brain structures and functions are altered, more specifically the cells containing serotonin. Stimulant abusers may experience weight loss, memory loss, confusion, tremors, convulsions, psychosis, repetitive motor activity, damage to nerve cells and cardiovascular collapse. Users may experience these negative side effects due to the over stimulation of the brain. Often, those on stimulants have a suppressed appetite and lack the ability to rest properly, causing many of the symptoms listed above. Those who abuse stimulants will try to maintain the feelings present during the initial use of a stimulant, by increasing the amount used and the frequency of use, inevitably causing much of these side effects.
  • The let down effects or often referred to as the “come down,” causes much distress in the user. Once the effects of a stimulant ends, dopamine levels drop below normal and individuals endure a crash, also known as a comedown. A comedown is a period of exhaustion that occurs because the body is drained of energy. Symptoms of a stimulant come down often include aches and pains, low energy, confusion, intense drug cravings, agitation, restlessness, anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. According to the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies at New York University, it is said that it takes 7-10 days for the body to reach normal energy levels after extended stimulant abuse.
  • The long-term effects of stimulant abuse are rather severe, due to the potency of many stimulants. It is likely that those who abuse stimulants may develop an addiction, which in turn, causes intense drug cravings that lead users to continuously use, despite consequences. Other side effects and risks associated with the long-term use of stimulants include heart disease, high blood pressure, seizures, irregular heartbeat and skin discolorations.

Author: Michael Kelly, Clinical Technician

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