Stimulants is a name given to several groups of drugs that tend to increase alertness and physical activity. The groups include pharmaceuticals such as amphetamines and the street drugs commonly called "uppers" or "speed," and cocaine.
The more widely abused stimulants are amphetamines and cocaine. Cocaine has limited commercial use and its sale and possession are strictly controlled. Amphetamines are sometimes prescribed by physicians, and their availability makes them prime candidates for misuse.

Used properly, amphetamines increase alertness and physical ability. They are often prescribed to counter the effects of narcolepsy, a rare disorder marked by episodes of uncontrollable sleep, and to help children with minimal brain dysfunction.

Amphetamines increase the heart and respiration rates, increase blood pressure, dilate the pupils of the eyes, and decrease appetite. Other side effects include anxiety, blurred vision, sleeplessness, and dizziness. Abuse of amphetamines can cause irregular heartbeat and even physical collapse. A common form of abuse of amphetamines is by people who use them to counter the effects of sleeping pills (barbiturates) taken the night before. This roller coaster effect is damaging to the body.

While amphetamine users may feel a temporary boost in self-confidence and power, the abuse of the drug can lead to delusions, hallucinations, and a feeling of paranoia. These feelings can cause a person to act in bizarre fashion, even violently. In most people, these effects disappear when they stop using the drug.

Amphetamines are stolen or acquired through scams involving pharmacists or physicians who are duped into writing prescriptions for the drugs. These illegally acquired drugs are either sold as is or reduced to yellowish crystals that can be ingested in a number of ways, including sniffing and by injection.

Another means of illegal sale of amphetamines involves "look-alike" drugs produced in illicit laboratories. One danger in these look-alikes is that the potency may vary from batch to batch. A person accustomed to using a weak look-alike may unwittingly suffer an overdose taking the same volume of a stronger look-alike.


Amphetamines are psychologically addictive. Users become dependent on the drug to avoid the "down" feeling they often experience when the drug's effect wears off. This dependence can lead a user to turn to stronger stimulants such as cocaine, or to larger doses of amphetamines to maintain a "high".
People who abruptly stop using amphetamines often experience the physical signs of addiction, such as fatigue, long periods of sleep, irritability, and depression. How severe and prolonged these withdrawal symptoms are depends on the degree of abuse.

That boost we get from that morning cup of coffee is the result of the caffeine that naturally occurs in coffee. Caffeine is a common stimulant and is found not only in coffee and tea, but also in soft drinks and other foods. It can also be bought over-the-counter in tablet form. Too much caffeine can cause anxiousness, headaches, and the "jitters." Caffeine is also addictive and a person who abruptly stops drinking coffee may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine's recent notoriety belies the fact that the drug has been used as a stimulant by people for thousands of years. Its properties as a stimulant have led people in the past to use it in a number of patent medicines and even in soft drinks.
But cocaine's highly addictive nature and addicts' willingness to pay a high price for the drug have propelled it into the public eye. The crime and violence associated with its transportation and sale, and the celebrity nature of some of its victims has kept cocaine in the news.

In its pure form, cocaine is a white crystalline powder extracted from the leaves of the South American coca plant. On the street, pure cocaine is diluted or "cut" with other substances to increase the quantity, and thereby increase the profits of its sellers.

Cocaine users most often inhale the powder sharply through the nose, where it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. But it also can be heated into a liquid and its fumes inhaled through a pipe in a method called "freebasing". Freebasing is also a common method of using a form of cocaine called "crack". Crack resembles small pieces of rock and is often called "rock" on the street.

Freebasing is an especially dangerous means of abusing cocaine because of the high concentrations of cocaine it introduces into the bloodstream. These high doses can overtax the cardiovascular system. Reports of sudden death while freebasing are not uncommon.

Cocaine is highly addictive, especially in the crack form. In studies, animals addicted to cocaine preferred the drug to food, even when it meant they would starve. Many users report being "hooked" after only one use. The addiction is both psychological and physical.


Users usually feel an initial "rush" or sense of well-being, of having more energy, and being more alert. This effect quickly wears off, often leaving the user feeling more "down" or depressed than before. This down feeling leads the addict to use more cocaine, sometimes just to feel "normal." Over a period of time the, amount of cocaine needed and the frequency of use to achieve a "high" have to be increased. Feelings of depression can become chronic.

Cocaine addicts frequently turn to other drugs to relieve the down feeling when more cocaine is not available. When used together, these drugs and cocaine can prove even more deadly than when used alone.

Despite a popular myth, cocaine does not enhance performance whether it be on the job, in sports, at school, or with a sexual partner. On the contrary, long-term use can lead to loss of concentration, irritability, loss of memory, paranoia, loss of energy, anxiety, and a loss of interest in sex. The controlling effect cocaine has on an addict's life can lead to exclusion of all other facets of life. A habit can cost an addict thousands of dollars a week to maintain.

Breaking a cocaine habit is not easy. How long and how difficult a task it may be varies from person to person. Treatment can be costly and the craving for cocaine may persist for long periods of time.


What are opiates?

Opiates, sometimes referred to as narcotics, are a group of drugs which are used medically to relieve pain, but also have a high potential for abuse. Some opiates come from a resin taken from the seed pod of the Asian poppy. This group of drugs includes opium, morphine, heroin, and codeine. Other opiates, such as meperidine (Demerol), are synthesized or manufactured. Opium appears as dark brown chunks or as a powder and is usually smoked or eaten. Heroin can be a white or brownish powder which is usually dissolved in water and then injected. Most street preparations of heroin are diluted, or "cut," with other substances such as sugar or quinine. Other opiates come in a variety of forms including capsules, tablets, syrups, solutions, and suppositories.

Which opiates are abused?

Heroin ("junk," "smack") accounts for 90 percent of the opiate abuse in the United States. Sometimes opiates with legal medicinal uses also are abused. They include morphine, meperidine, paregoric (which contains opium), and cough syrups that contain codeine [or a synthetic narcotic, such as dextromethorphan].

What are the effects of opiates?

Opiates tend to relax the user. When opiates are injected, the user feels an immediate "rush." Other initial and unpleasant effects include restlessness, nausea, and vomiting. The user may go "on the nod," going back and forth from feeling alert to drowsy. With very large doses, the user cannot be awakened, pupils become smaller, and the skin becomes cold, moist, and bluish in color. Breathing slows down and death may occur.

Does using opiates cause dependence or addiction?

Yes. Dependence is likely, especially if a person uses a lot of the drug or even uses it occasionally over a long period of time. When a person becomes dependent, finding and using the drug often becomes the main focus in life. As more and more of the drug is used over time, larger amounts are needed to get the same effects. This is called tolerance.

What are the physical dangers?

The physical dangers depend on the specific opiate used, its source, the dose, and the way it is used. Most of the dangers are caused by using too much of a drug, the use of unsterile needles, contamination of the drug itself, or combining the drug with other substances. Over time, opiate users may develop infections of the heart lining and valves, skin abscesses, and congested lungs. Infections from unsterile solutions, syringes, and needles can cause illnesses such stronger approximately 24-72 hours after they begin, and subside within 7-10 days. Sometimes symptoms such as sleeplessness and drug craving can last for months

What are the dangers for opiate-dependent pregnant women?

Researchers estimate that nearly half of the women who are dependent on opiates suffer anemia, heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia, or hepatitis during pregnancy and childbirth. They have more spontaneous abortions, breech deliveries, caesarean sections, premature births, and stillbirths. Infants born to these women often have withdrawal symptoms which may last several weeks or months. Many of these babies die.

What treatment is available for opiate addiction?

The four basic approaches to drug abuse treatment are: detoxification (supervised withdrawal from drug dependence, either with or without medication) in a hospital or as an outpatient, therapeutic communities where patients live in a highly structured drug-free environment and are encouraged to help themselves, outpatient drug-free programs which emphasize various forms of counseling as the main treatment, and methadone maintenance which uses methadone, a substitute for heroin, on a daily basis to help people lead productive lives while still in treatment.

How does methadone treatment work?

Methadone, a synthetic or manufactured drug, does not produce the same "high" as illegal drugs such as heroin, but does prevent withdrawal and the craving to use other opiates. It often is a successful treatment for opiate dependence because it breaks the cycle of dependence on illegal drugs such as heroin. When patients are receiving methadone in treatment, they are not inclined to seek and buy illegal drugs on the street, activities which are often associated with crime. Patients in methadone maintenance programs also receive counseling, vocational training, and education to help them reach the ultimate goal of a drug-free normal life.

What are narcotic antagonists?

Narcotic antagonists are drugs which block the "high" and other effects of opiates without creating physical dependence or producing a "high" of their own. They are extremely useful in treating opiate overdoses and may prove useful in the treatment of opiate dependence.


What are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are a group of powerful compounds that are closely related chemically to the male sex hormone testosterone. These artificial substances were developed in the 1930's originally to help men whose bodies produced inadequate amounts of the natural hormone that is responsible for the development of masculine characteristics occurring at puberty, such as lowering of voice and growth of body hair.
How are Steroids Used?
Physicians seldom prescribe steroids today, and the few remaining medical uses for them are generally limited to treatment of certain kinds of anemia, severe burns, and some types of breast cancer.

What are the Side Effects?

Steroid abusers subject themselves to more than 70 side effects ranging in severity from liver cancer to acne and encompassing psychological as well as physical reactions. The parts of the body that are most seriously affected by steroids are the liver and the cardiovascular and reproductive systems. In males, steroids can cause withered testicles, sterility, and impotence. In females, irreversible masculine traits can develop along with menstrual irregularities, breast reduction, and sterility. Psychological effects in both sexes include aggressive, combative behavior known as "`roid rage" and depression. Some side effects may not show up for years, such as heart attacks and strokes, and some might not even be recognized as side effects, such as failure to achieve full height potential because of arrested bone development during adolescence.


Most steroids used illegally are obtained through the black market from underground laboratories and foreign sources. The quality and purity of such drugs are questionable at best. Furthermore, while steroids may build muscle, their intended effect -- increased strength -- may be offset by the fact that the strength of tendons and ligaments doesn't increase with muscle strength. This imbalance may result in injuries that take a long time to heal. Little research has been done to assess the long-term effects of steroid use; nor is there much clinical evidence of the effects on women and adolescents. Young people whose bodies are still developing are particularly vulnerable, as are women, because they have less of the natural hormone.
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