One of the prescription drugs that people in the UK are most likely to abuse is stimulants. This class of drug is very addictive and includes substances such as amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, and crack. Caffeine and nicotine are mild stimulants. Prescription drug stimulant abuse can have very serious consequences and can easily lead to illegal drug abuse.
Stimulant drugs are used to treat a number of conditions, including depression, attention deficit disorder, narcolepsy, chronic lethargy, and morbid obesity. As long as the drug is used as prescribed, it can be very effective at treating these conditions. Stimulants work in different ways, but all involve chemical changes that affect the central or peripheral nervous system. Drugs like amphetamine work by increasing the level of a neurotransmitter called dopamine in the brain. Caffeine works by inhibiting certain neurotransmitters that are related to tiredness.
When individuals take stimulants, it causes functions to speed up. This means that those who have chronic lethargy or are suffering from depression, for example, are given a boost of energy to help them more able to do things. It helps those with narcolepsy to stay awake during the day. The fact that it speeds up certain functions means that those who are morbidly obese could find it easier to lose weight. Stimulants have a powerful effect for those with attention deficit disorder because it improves their ability to concentrate.
The side effects of stimulant drugs can be very appealing. It gives individuals a significant energy boost and means they are able to stay alert for longer. This drug can also produce a temporary feeling of increased well-being and euphoria. It also leads to improved focus and an increase in confidence. Once people begin to notice these appealing effects then it can be tempting for them to begin taking this prescription drug for the wrong reason. The individual can quickly become addicted and may then turn to illegal sources in order to get their hands on more of the drug.
Stimulants are a very dangerous drug when abused, leading to:
- rapid weight loss
- mental health problems including depression and psychosis
- intense mood swings
- chronic insomnia
- poor diet, which can lead to serious nutritional deficiencies
- aggressive behaviour
- impotence and loss of libido
- suicidal tendencies
- damage to many different organs in the body including the heart (it can trigger heart failure) and the respiratory system.
Those abusing stimulants could become caught in a vicious cycle. If they are not taking the drug, they feel dreadful, so they continue with the abuse in order to keep going. The more they abuse the substance, the higher their tolerance for it becomes – this means having to keep on taking more in order to get the same effects.
Prescription stimulant drug addiction usually involves a downward spiral, which means that things are likely to get worse over time. It is therefore vital that the individual is able to stop as soon as possible. There are many treatment options available for dealing with this type of problem. The first step is to come clean with the doctor who has been prescribing the medication. In some cases, it may be possible to work with a GP to wean off the drug. If the addiction is serious, it may be necessary to enter a rehab programme. This can be a very effective solution as it means the individual would have the opportunity to learn strategies for dealing with life without the drug.