Thanks to a long history of evolving federal policies and a new health crisis in the form of the nationwide opioid epidemic, more Americans are wary of the dangers of drug abuse than they have been in decades. Despite this increased awareness, however, many have taken for granted that their homes are stocked full of dangerous, addictive chemicals.
This problem is particularly deceptive when it revolves around stimulant drugs. While stimulants like cocaine are highly regulated and difficult to obtain, many legal stimulant drugs, like caffeine, are widely available to the average American. Take a closer look at the data:
- More than 40 million Americans smoke cigarettes, a regular source of nicotine.
- More than 80 percent of Americans consume caffeine daily, and many of those individuals report that caffeine improves their mood.
- Over 1 million Americans are currently abusing prescription stimulant drugs, such as those prescribed for ADHD.
These are just a small sample of the alarming statistics that point toward another potential epidemic of drug use. Yet, this one revolves around legal, yet addictive, stimulants that many people assume are mostly harmless.
Even worse, those who are addicted to these substances don’t have a space to be open about their addiction. If no one acknowledges that these problems exist, those dealing with them won’t feel empowered to seek treatment.
What’s the best way to avoid another national health crisis and help friends and families in need? Getting informed about the reality of legal stimulant abuse and how to treat it is a great first step. This comprehensive resource acts as a helpful starting point for your research.
Prescription Stimulant Addiction on the Rise
A number of clinically tested stimulants approved by the FDA are prescribed to patients as medication. More often than not, these drugs are prescribed to treat types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or given to patients dealing with chronic sleeping problems.
When taken as prescribed by a doctor, stimulant drugs can be extremely effective. However, these drugs also contain “feel good” chemicals like dopamine, which means they have a high potential for becoming addictive.
The most commonly prescribed (and abused) stimulants include:
- Adderall (dextroamphetamine/amphetamine)
- Ritalin (methylphenidate)
- Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
Misinformation is part of why ADHD medication and addiction so often go hand in hand. These drugs are prescribed by a doctor, leading to many people not being fully aware there is any potential to becoming addicted.
As a result, patients are more likely to take more than they are prescribed, allow friends to borrow or try their prescription, or become lax about keeping their medication out of the hands of family members.
The severe symptoms and signs of prescription stimulant abuse include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart attack
- Nerve damage
- Abdominal cramps
Prescription Stimulant Abuse Starts Young
Parents and family members who are prescribed stimulant drugs must be diligent about keeping an eye on their prescriptions. Among the most common ways a person starts to abuse and become addicted to stimulant drugs is by stealing them from their own home.
A closer look at stimulant abuse statistics reveals just how serious the problem has already become:
- According a survey by Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 1 in 7 young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 abuses stimulant drugs to stay awake, either to study or for recreation.
- Research contained in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that those between the ages of 16 to 19 are the most likely to start abusing stimulant drugs.
- Adderall abuse is the most common in young men, while young women tend to abuse prescription diet pills.
Caffeine Addiction Is Real
Though not as immediately addictive or potentially dangerous as abusing ADHD medication, caffeine is another stimulant that is more widely abused than many people might believe. Caffeine abuse is particularly nefarious because the drug is so easy to consume, especially in our food, and most assume that there is no such thing as “too much” caffeine.
These assumptions are incorrect. Most people can consume up to 300 milligrams (about three cups of coffee) per day without developing negative side effects. Those who consume more on a regular basis are more likely to develop physical symptoms and a psychological need for caffeine.
As daily caffeine intake begins to rise and become habitual, so too does an individual’s risk of developing any of the following health problems:
- Elevated heart rate
- Chronic exhaustion
- Mood swings
- Additional withdrawal symptoms
The Dangers of Nicotine Addiction
Many recognize the lung and heart dangers of cigarettes and chew while overlooking the threat posed by the stimulant properties in tobacco products. Chief among these is nicotine. In addition to being incredibly addictive, nicotine’s properties as a stimulant make the drug exceptionally threatening in terms of long-term health problems.
Nicotine is particularly dangerous because of the carcinogenic and other organ-damaging effects of using tobacco products. When someone stops smoking, it’s the nicotine, not the toxic additives and chemicals, that draws the smoker back to their vice of choice. That’s why nicotine’s nature as an addictive legal stimulant must be recognized.
Notably, the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting tobacco products are generally associated with nicotine addiction. These symptoms include:
- Cognitive problems
- Irregular appetite
- Debilitating cravings
These withdrawal symptoms begin almost immediately after the last cigarette smoked, reflecting the powerful and dangerous properties of nicotine. Nicotine withdrawal also makes a person more likely to abuse other addictive drugs.
Real Solutions for Stimulant Abuse
Fighting off the dangers posed by stimulant drugs means calling out an addiction when it happens. It can be hard to admit that you or a family member has a problem with dependence. It can even feel silly to look at something you feel is harmless, like caffeine, as an addictive substance.
However, Americans face critical health problems caused by nicotine, caffeine and prescription stimulants every day. Turning around this downward spiral around will take patience and willingness to confront the issue head-on.
Before you leave, we’d like to hear your thoughts on a couple of questions we have:
- Which of the substances listed in this article should someone quit first? Or should they quit them all at once?
- If you’ve used all three of these types of stimulant substances before, which was/would be the hardest to quit?
Please answer these questions in the comment section below, or head to our forum to discuss stimulant abuse further.