Prescription Stimulants and Illicit Amphetamines: Why Are They So Addictive?
Prescription stimulants and street methamphetamines are both highly addictive substances.
Prescription Simulants And Methamphetamines – One In The Same?
Many argue that prescription stimulant medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexedrine are just legal forms meth – although, of course, they are safer and much less potent. Both legal stimulants and methamphetamines work on the brain the same way. They create feelings of extreme euphoria in the user and incite an addictive pattern.
In this blog, we will discuss legal stimulants and street meth, compare the two, and explain why these drugs are so addictive.
Information On Prescription Stimulants
Prescription stimulants (nicknamed “speed”) are among the most commonly abused medications. They come in a pill form and are usually prescribed by a doctor for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy (a sleep disorder that causes someone to fall asleep continually and uncontrollably), or as an appetite suppressant. They work by changing certain chemicals produced in the brain to increase alertness.
Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine, Vyvanse, and Strattera are among the most popular prescription stimulants. Legal stimulants can help increase the user’s ability to pay attention, stay focused, and control behavioral problems. They are also said to help organize thoughts, help people execute tasks more effectively, and improve listening skills.
While these effects may be helpful for those who have been prescribed stimulants for a medical reason and greatly improve quality of life, many abuse legal stimulants and take them to get high. Although they seem to have a reverse effect on people who have ADHD, stimulants increase energy and produce a euphoric feeling. They also decrease appetite, which is why many doctors prescribe these drugs to overweight people who need to shed some pounds.
Prescription Stimulant Abuse Is On The Rise
Anyone who takes take prescription stimulants should have a prescription for them, and they should take them as prescribed. However; more and more people are abusing legal stimulants by taking more than they are supposed to or using them without a prescription.
Legal stimulants definitely have a street value. Sadly, many parents who have an ADHD child will take their medication themselves or sell it on the street. Legal stimulants can be sold on the black market for as much as $10 per pill.
Legal stimulants are quite popular among college students. Many young people abuse them because they say they help them focus, study longer, and stake awake to cram for exams. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), among people 18 to 22 years of age, full-time college students are twice as likely to use a stimulant for nonmedical reasons compared to those who aren’t in college or are only part-time students.
Understanding Illegal Methamphetamines
Methamphetamines – also called meth, ice, crank, or speed – are illegal. The drug comes in a white or yellowish crystalline powdered form that can be snorted, smoked, injected, or eaten. It produces a similar effect to that of legal stimulants, only much more powerful.
It doesn’t take much meth to get a user high. A quarter-gram or less of the drug can last up to twelve hours, compared with the same amount of cocaine; which only lasts two hours. Experts suggest that meth is at least three times more powerful than cocaine.
When people use meth, they go on binges that can keep them awake for days at a time without the need for food or sleep. Those who experience these binges say the drug makes them feel superhuman – as if they could conquer the world and tackle any project put in from of them with laser-like precision. The truth is, prolonged use of methamphetamines can make a person hostile, aggravated, and even dangerous.
Methamphetamine Use Is A Major Problem In The United States
According to a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), reported that “approximately 1.2 million people (0.4 percent of the population) reported using methamphetamine in the past year, and 440,000 (0.2 percent) reported using it in the past month.”
Additionally, NIDA reported that “according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), which collects information on drug-related episodes from hospital emergency departments (EDs) throughout the Nation, methamphetamine accounted for about 103,000 ED visits in 2011; it was the fourth most mentioned illicit drug in ED visits following cocaine, marijuana, and heroin.”
This is the most current data available on meth use in the United States, but experts predict that more people are becoming addicted to the drug every year.
Meth Is Much More Addictive Than Prescription Stimulants
Meth is a powerfully addictive substance, much more so than prescription stimulants. This is because methamphetamines
“We often see people who’ve become addicted after one or two uses,” Jim Peck told Merced Sun Star in an interview. “It’s that powerful. It also sets off intense pleasure and euphoria. It’s like a super-high. And it’s like a deep, dark hole of depression when you come down.”
Peck is a clinical psychologist and researcher at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and has worked with meth addicts for years.
According to Peck, meth actually changes your brain “The brain elevates your need for the drug to the same level as anything else you have to do to survive, like breathing. It starts sending signals saying, ‘You have got to get more of that stuff right now,’” he said.
Why Stimulants Are So Addictive – A Simple Explanation
Stimulants produce an increase in the brain’s production of serotonin, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are known as the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. They are responsible for feelings of contentment, well-being, happiness, and overall mental health. When someone abuses prescription stimulants or methamphetamines, the brain is surged with an overwhelming level of these feel-good neurotransmitters.
The brain was designed to feel good about things that are necessary for survival or things that are healthy for the body. When a person engages in these “good” activities, the brain sends signals to a person to do more of that activity by releasing dopamine and serotonin. Because stimulants release these chemicals, the brain is triggered to do more and more of the addictive substance.
Addiction Is Not A Choice, It Becomes An Involuntary Action
Many people are under the mistaken belief that an addiction to stimulants is a choice. This is simply not true and science has proven it. Although someone does make a choice to use stimulants for the first time, after that the brain takes over and begins making choices on its own accord.
The use of stimulants affects the brain’s limbic system, which is the part of the brain responsible for emotion, learning and memory. The first few times someone gets high on stimulants, it’s a choice made of free will. The decision is made in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is associated with voluntary action.
Research shows that by the third or fourth use of stimulants, the decision to take these drugs moves to an entirely different part of the brain known as the hind brain. The hind brain controls involuntary functions, such as breathing, blinking, and heartbeat. Once the decision to use drugs moves to the hind brain, it is no longer a choice, but an involuntary action.
Tolerance Is Another Reason Why Stimulants Are So Addictive
Another reason why stimulants are so addictive is because they produce tolerance. According to the National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA), “tolerance occurs when the person no longer responds to the drug in the way that person initially responded. Stated another way, it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same level of response achieved initially.”
Someone who has developed a tolerance will continue to use more and more meth or prescription stimulants to get the same high they used to get from a lower dose. This leads to dependence and then addiction. It is easy for someone who is using stimulants to blindly increase their use of their drug of choice because denial won’t allow them to see their addiction for what it is.
Stimulants Produce Withdrawal Symptoms
If someone has been using prescription stimulants or street meth for any length of time, they will go through the painful process of withdrawal if they attempt to stop using the drug on their own. Withdrawal produces unpleasant symptoms that can last up to a month, although the worst of the symptoms usually last two weeks.
Here are the symptoms associated with the withdrawal from legal stimulants or street meth:
- Extreme fatigue
- Feelings of agitation and hostility
- Sleep disturbances
- Extreme depression
- Uncontrollable crying
- Loss of interest in daily life
- Overwhelming cravings for more of the drug
- Suicidal thoughts
- Seizures in extreme cases
Withdrawal symptoms are another reason why simulant drugs are so addictive. Someone will continue to abuse legal stimulants or methamphetamines because they want to avoid withdrawal. They will keep taking more and more of the drug just because they don’t want to go through this experience, which is understandable.
Getting Help For Prescription Stimulants Or Meth Addiction
The body cannot tell the difference between legal stimulants like Adderall and street meth. It only knows that it likes the way these drugs feel and it wants more. Most people find that they cannot stop using stimulant drugs on their own and realize they need to check themselves into an inpatient treatment center to get help.
If you have an addiction to stimulants, rehab really is the way to go. It allows you to withdrawal in the safety and comfort of a 24-7 care facility so you can manage cravings and learn the tools you need to stay sober. If you want to get help for your addiction problem, talk to an addiction specialist and find out what your treatment options are.