Did you know that over half a million Americans receive treatment for stimulant abuse every year? In our society, stimulants have long been hailed as somewhat of a “wonder drug.” We use them to get good grades, to keep the kids calm, to help give mom that extra boost, and to aid in our ever-present battle with weight loss.
Despite all of the reasons why these drugs are so widely accepted, stimulant abuse has continued to increase and these drugs have since become one of the most widely prescribed, and widely abused medications in the United States.
If we really stop and think about it, a vast majority of Americans are addicted to stimulants in one way or another. Whether it be in pill form, or in our coffee or cigarettes, we are a country built on doing more, working more and being better. Stimulants are widely accepted because they help us achieve that. The fact that stimulant abuse continues to pervade all ages of Americans does not seem to affect the rapid rate at which we consume, purchase, and are prescribed them.
The most commonly abused stimulants in our society today are:
- Prescription Stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine
Who Uses Stimulants
When we think about prescription stimulant abuse, we primarily target in on college students. Adderall, Vyvanse, and Cocaine continue to be the topmost abused drugs among college-age students. Some reports even show that as much as 10-15% of all college students in the past five years admit to taking or abusing stimulants without a prescription, and even with a prescription.
It makes sense, American college students also report some of the highest stress levels, financial strain, and difficulty keeping up with the expectations they are pressed to meet during their college years. Not to mention, the generation that is currently of college age is the same generation where ADD and ADHD diagnosis seemed to explode, so many of these young adults have been taking stimulant medications since they were children.
- The most common stimulants abused today are Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Ephedrine, and illegal stimulants such as Meth and Cocaine
- In 2011, 38% of emergency rooms visits involving alcohol also showed the presence of stimulant drugs.
Other than that, the next highest age range of stimulant abuse is reported to be adults between the ages of 24 and 40. This is largely believed to be due to the fact that this age group is the largest population of the workforce, where these people are not only working 9-5 but also raising a family, trying to exercise, have a healthy home life and hopefully find time to relax. Stimulant abuse occurs due to the high levels of stress, fatigue, and expectations of this population.
Signs of Stimulant Abuse
Unlike someone who has a problem with drinking, smoking marijuana or abusing opiates, people who struggle with stimulant abuse can often show little to no signs of addiction for quite some time, especially if they have been taking them since childhood. In the short term, the desired effects of stimulant drugs are mostly beneficial, besides, what could be so bad about some extra energy and more focus?
Over time, these desired short-term effects occur less and less as the person develops a tolerance to the drugs. In other words, the more they take, the less they work, just like with any other addiction. This leads to continual and habitual use centered around needing more and more to achieve the desired effect.
This is especially true when a person experiences stimulant abuse in regards to illegal substances such as meth and cocaine.
The most common indications that someone may be abusing stimulants or high on stimulants will be:
- Extreme levels of energy
- Decreased Appetite
- Being very chatty or talkative
- Having grandiose ideas
- A “crash” period
The crash is usually what draws the person in for continued use. These stimulant drugs work on the brain by producing a heightened level of Dopamine in the brain, which causes pleasure and euphoria. Over time, the brain gets adjusted to these heightened and artificial levels of the feel-good hormone, which means that when the drug is no longer there, the receptors have a difficult time returning back to normal levels. This usually results in fatigue, irritability, depression, and anxiety.
More commonly than not, the general population experiences stimulant abuse in regards to prescription medications and nicotine and caffeine. Despite that fact, we are commonly lead to believe that these medications and substances are not harmful to us, and while yes, a cup of coffee is by far less dangerous than a line of cocaine, it does not negate the fact that these substances and medications are still extremely addictive.
Stimulant abuse in regards to prescription medications largely goes undiscussed, despite the fact that more and more students, athletes, and Americans in the workforce are struggling with a hidden stimulant addiction every year.
The tricky thing about prescription medications is that many people don’t think that they will become one of the statistics of people who become addicted to a medicine. Most people who receive these medications from a doctor assume that as long as they take their prescribed dose, everything will be fine. It isn’t until that one time they take one extra pill or to give them the energy to go out that they realize they can take it more than prescribed without any real consequences. Over time, this recreational and occasional stimulant abuse can lead to a full-blown addiction.
Of course, there will always be the prevalence of stimulant abuse to illegal substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine. It seems strange, that even with all of the news coverage and warnings that we get as children through the largely unsuccessful DARE programs, thousands and thousands of Americans are still developing and struggling with stimulant abuse and addiction to these drugs.
Stimulants continue to be one of the most common reasons for young and old Americans alike to seek professional substance abuse treatment, and recovery from stimulant abuse is possible.
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