What Are the Dangers of Using Stimulants?

in Addiction
Morgan Metzger
Published Jan 29, 2021
dangers of using stimulants

Stimulants, sometimes referred to as “uppers,” are highly addictive drugs. They are frequently used due to their performance-enhancing and euphoric effects. Stimulants increase dopamine levels in the brain, encouraging users to return to using them repeatedly. Long-term use of stimulants can have significant consequences on both the mind and body and may lead to substance use disorder (SUD).

What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants speed up the messages between the brain and the body. They can make a person feel more awake, alert, confident, and energetic. Numerous drugs fall into the category of stimulants, including prescription medications and illegal substances. Some of the most abused stimulants include Adderall, cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine (speed), and Ritalin.

Physiological Effects of Stimulants

Acute effects of stimulants can include increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure, increased heart rate, increased respiration rate, increased body temperature, dilation of the pupils, heightened alertness, and increased motor activity. Large doses of stimulants can cause dangerously rapid and erratic heartbeat, cerebral hemorrhaging, seizures and convulsions, respiratory failure, stroke, heart failure, brain damage, and death. Chronic effects of stimulants can include organ toxicity, malnourishment, dental problems, and dermatitis.

Stimulants are also known to cause sensitization. This means that using them multiple times can eventually produce a new reaction. For example, an individual may not experience a seizure after one small dose. But with repeated use, the individual may become sensitized to stimulants and experience a seizure after a single, previously harmless, dose.

Psychological Effects of Stimulants

The immediate psychological effects of stimulant administration include a heightened sense of well-being, euphoria, heightened alertness, and increased motor activity. Stimulants also reduce food intake and the amount of sleep an individual receives. High doses of stimulants may result in restlessness and agitation, and repeated doses may produce repetitive behaviors. Chronic psychological effects of stimulant use include various psychiatric problems such as psychosis, paranoia, and suicidal tendencies. An individual may also experience neurological impairments and cognitive deficits. The intensity of stimulants’ psychological effects depends on the dose and how fast the drug enters the brain.

Route of Administration

Stimulants can be smoked, snorted, injected, or ingested orally. The route of administration affects the amount of the drug delivered to the brain, the speed at which it is delivered, and the resulting intensity of the drug’s effects. Immediate and intense effects, typically caused by smoking or injecting stimulants, is also known as a “rush.” However, the feelings the drug produces may fade just as quickly. A “crash” can follow the extreme effects. An individual may then administer another dose to get rid of the “crash” and feel the “rush” again, creating a cycle of stimulant use.

Fentanyl and Stimulants

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is roughly 50 to 80 times more powerful than morphine. It is a prescription drug that is also made and used illegally. It is a medicine typically used to treat patients with severe pain. Fentanyl is now one of the most common drugs involved in overdose deaths in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 59% of opioid-related death in 2017 involved fentanyl.

Some people have started to mix fentanyl with other drugs, such as cocaine and speed. When people do not realize that the substance they are using may contain fentanyl, they are more likely to overdose. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an outbreak of overdoses and death involving fentanyl combined with cocaine has been reported across the United States.

Withdrawal From Stimulants

Repeated use of stimulants can lead to addiction and physical dependency. If an individual is dependent on stimulants, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped and the brain must relearn to function on its own.

Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological and are usually moderate to severe. The psychological withdrawal from stimulants can be especially severe, causing some individuals to become violent or suicidal. A stimulant withdrawal should be accomplished with medical professionals to ensure the individual receives the proper care. While withdrawal might be unavoidably uncomfortable, it must be managed in a safe environment. When an individual is under medical supervision, the risk of complications decreases along with levels of pain and distress.

Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the person, their tolerance, metabolism, and history of use. Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dulled senses
  • Slowed movements
  • Slow heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite
  • Impaired memory
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nightmares
Recognizing Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a chronic brain disease defined by a physical and psychological dependence on drugs or alcohol. The criteria for SUD include:

  • Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than meant to
  • Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not being able to
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance
  • Cravings and urges to use the substance
  • Not managing responsibilities at work, home, or school because of substance use
  • Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships
  • Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use
  • Using substances again and again, even when put in danger
  • Continuing to use, even when it is known that there is a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance
  • Needing more of the substance to get the effect desired
  • Development of withdrawal symptoms, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance

Stimulants are highly addictive drugs. They include prescription and illegal drugs, such as Adderall, cocaine, methamphetamine (speed), Ritalin, and others. Stimulant use can cause harmful physical and psychological effects and may lead to substance use disorder (SUD). Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, has also been combined with stimulants such as cocaine and speed, increasing the risk of overdose and death. When a person becomes dependent on stimulants, they will experience withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped. Withdrawal can be uncomfortable and frightening. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we offer proprietary, evidence-based medical protocols to ensure your safety and comfort. We implement The Gallus Method, which includes IV Therapy, 24/7 medical staff, and individual treatment plans. Our mission is to provide the highest quality inpatient medical detox services and be the first step in overcoming SUD. Gallus Medical Detox Centers can help if you or a loved one struggles with SUD related to stimulants. Call us today at (866) 296-5242.