Dangers of Stimulant Abuse

Stimulants or psychoactive substances, including illicit drugs such as cocaine or crack (variant of cocaine) and methamphetamine, as well as legal medications to manage ADHD disorders such as Adderall and Ritalin, produce a state of increased alertness. Some common party drugs such as ecstasy, benzylpiperazine (BZP) and methylone also come in the category of stimulants. The means a user adopts for administering the drug is responsible for intensifying the euphoric effects and increasing the risk of addiction. A person who injects or smokes the drug is more likely to experience its adverse effects within a short span of time as it causes the drug to reach the brain sooner. Users are also more liable to become victims of abuse and dependence.

Abuse of stimulants is a cause of concern. According to a recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 1.7 million people 12 or older were current misusers of stimulants equivalent to 0.6 percent of this population. Further, 92,000 youths aged 12 to 17 were current misusers of stimulants, or 0.4 percent of adolescents. Around 767,000 young adults aged 18 to 25 were reported to have misused stimulants in the past month, corresponding to nearly 2.2 percent of the total population belonging to the same age group.

After a lull, cocaine abuse is on the rise again. According to SAMHSA, the number of people trying cocaine in 2011 was 670,000. The number dropped to 601,000 in 2013. However, by 2015 it had risen to 968,000. The latest survey reveals that approximately, 1.9 million people aged 12 or older were current users of cocaine, including about 432,000 current users of crack.

Physiological and psychological health problems

The brain gets accustomed to stimulants with recurrent use and craves for more to get the desired high. A user may become tolerant within a few weeks. Listed below are some of the dangers of stimulant abuse:

Physiological health problems: Some of the complications associated with stimulant use are cardiovascular damage, increased blood pressure and changes in heart rhythm. It can also cause seizures, breathing difficulties and loss of muscle control. Individuals who use an injectable to get the high have an increased risk of contracting diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis B, C and D. Long-term abuse can also be fatal.

Poor judgement and other psychological impairments: Stimulant abuse is associated with poor judgment and decision-making abilities. As per a 2013 study, cocaine can rewire changes in the brain in a way that the drug dominates the decision-making process. Mundane tasks have less power to activate the brain’s decision-making centers. Those using drugs risk everything from job and money to family and relationships. They are not even afraid of getting into criminal activities as they cannot think practically. Apart from a poor sense of judgement, stimulant abuse is also responsible for causing psychological problems such as paranoia, delusions, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Psychosocial problems and increased risk of incarceration: A person who is addicted to drugs fails to attend to family and friends, and has a diminishing social circle. The risk of incarceration is also high as he or she may resort to unfair means such as robbery to get the supply of drugs. Abusing drugs can transform someone from a responsible human being into a wastrel.

Dangerous if taken without medical prescription: Teens, who misuse drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may soon get addicted to it. While initially ADHD meds cause a feeling of euphoria, the effect wears off after a couple of hours. Thereafter, the child feels sleepy and confused but finds it difficult to fall asleep. This disturbs the body’s sleep-wake cycle and is harmful in the long run. Prolonged use of one stimulant also increases the risk of a person turning to harder drugs.

Road to recovery