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Stimulants

Drug Information

Stimulants are a class of substances that act on the central nervous system to speed up mental and physical processes in the body. Stimulants make people more alert, increase their attention, and raise blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. This class of drugs includes both legal substances, such as ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin, as well as illicit substances like cocaine, crack, and methamphetamine, all of which can be abused. On this page we will focus on illegal stimulants methamphetamine and cocaine.

Stimulants are a widely abused class of substances, with nearly 1.7 million people aged 12 or older reporting current nonmedical use of stimulant medications and .9 million people reporting current methamphetamine use. Cocaine, in particular, is one of the most widely abused illicit stimulants, with 1.9 million people 12 years or older reporting current use of cocaine (NSDUH, 2015).

Cocaine is a stimulant drug made from the leaves of the South American coca plant. Cocaine look like a fine white crystal powder. Street dealers may mix it with other drugs such as the stimulant amphetamine, or synthetic opioids, including fentanyl. Popular nicknames include blow, coke, rock, and snow.

Cocaine can be snorted or rubbed into the gums while in the powder form, injected into the veins after dissolving in water, or smoked. Another popular method of use is to smoke cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal (also called "freebase cocaine"). The crystal is heated to produce vapors that are inhaled into the lungs. This form of cocaine is called Crack, which refers to the crackling sound of the rock as it's heated.

Cocaine increases levels of the natural chemical messenger dopamine in brain circuits related to the control of movement and reward. This flood of dopamine in the brain’s reward circuit strongly reinforces drug-taking behaviors, because the reward circuit eventually adapts to the excess of dopamine caused by cocaine, and becomes less sensitive to it.

Signs and Symptoms

Physical Signs

  • Extreme happiness and energy
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • Dangerously High Body Temperature
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tremors and muscle twitches

Other Signs

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Paranoia

Health Consequences

  • Snorting: loss of smell, nose bleeds, problems swallowing
  • Smoking: cough, asthma, respiratory distress
  • Needle Injection: higher risk for contracting HIV and Hepatitis C
  • Poor nutrition and weight loss
  • Death of bowel tissue from decreased blood flow

Methamphetamine (meth) is a stimulant drug that has a similar chemical structure to amphetamine, the synthetic stimulant medication. Regular methamphetamine is a pill or powder, while crystal methamphetamine looks like glass fragments or blue-white rocks. Other common names for methamphetamine include chalk, crank, crystal, ice, meth, and speed.

Meth is taken orally, smoked/inhaled, injected, or snorted. To increase its effect, users smoke or inject it. Because the "high" from the drug both starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a "binge and crash" pattern. In some cases, people take methamphetamine in a form of binging known as a "run," giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days. Methamphetamine has a substantially longer half-life in the body than cocaine (which quickly metabolizes), therefore leading to a more intense prolonged withdrawal.

Meth works in the brain by very much the same mechanism as cocaine, rapidly releasing high levels of dopamine.

 

 

 

 

 

Signs and Symptoms

Physical Signs

  • Faster breathing
  • Increased body temperature
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • Erratic Sleep Patterns

Other Signs

  • Paranoia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Violent Behavior
  • Extreme fluctuation in energy

Health Consequences

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Severe dental problems
  • Insomnia
  • Skin sores from scratching
  • Long term emotional and cognitive issues

Prescription stimulants are medicines generally used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy—uncontrollable episodes of deep sleep. They increase alertness, attention, and energy. Common prescription stimulants include dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®), dextroamphetamine/amphetamine combination product (Adderall®), methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®). Popular slang terms for prescription stimulants include speed, uppers, and vitamin R.

Most prescription stimulants come in tablet, capsule, or liquid form, which a person takes by mouth. Misuse of a prescription stimulant means:

  • taking medicine in a way or dose other than prescribed
  • taking someone else's medicine
  • taking medicine only for the effect it causes—to get high

When misusing a prescription stimulant, people can swallow the medicine in its normal form. Alternatively, they can crush tablets or open the capsules, dissolve the powder in water, and inject the liquid into a vein. Some can also snort or smoke the powder.

Prescription stimulants increase the activity of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. Misuse of prescription stimulants can lead to a substance use disorder (SUD). Long-term use of stimulants, even as prescribed by a doctor, can cause a person to develop a tolerance, which means that he or she needs higher and/or more frequent doses of the drug to get the desired effects.

Signs and Symptoms

Physical Signs

  • Faster breathing
  • Increased body temperature
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased alertness, attention, and energy
  • Pupil dilation

Other Signs

  • Visiting multiple doctors
  • Angry outbursts
  • Anxiety
  • Aggressive Behavior

Health Consequences

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures

Policy

Methamphetamine is a Schedule I controlled substance under Idaho Law, and Cocaine and Coca Leaves are Schedule II controlled substances. It is illegal for any person to manufacture, deliver, possess with intent to manufacture or deliver, or possess these substances. It is illegal to publically use or be under the influence of these substances.  Specific penalties for these acts can be found in Sections 37-2732, 37-2732C, and 37-2732B of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Prescription central nervous system stimulants fall under Schedules II-III of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

Retail Sales of Pseudoephedrine

2006: House Bill No. 530

Places certain controls on the retail sales of pseudoephedrine products and provides penalties for violations. Enacted March 21, 2006.

Prevention

Risk of drug use greatly increases during times of transition.  The transition from childhood to adolescence presents new and challenging social, family, and academic situations at the same time they may be exposed to substances like prescription stimulants for the first time. Early use of drugs increases a person's chance of becoming addicted and alters the brain, therefore preventing early use is important.

Avoid Unsupervised After-School Time

Students who participate in 1 or more days of supervised after-school activities are less likely to have ever misused prescription drugs, including stimulants. After-school activities provide:
  1. Supervision by positive adult role models
  2. Youth leadership opportunities
  3. Incorporation of skills building
  4. A piece of a comprehensive prevention plan
Addressing risk factors early and paying careful attention to children at higher risk can reduce that child’s likelihood of a future problem. This is a simplified list of some overall risk factors. Learn more at youth.gov
  1. Family history of substance use disorders
  2. Mental health or behavioral issues
  3. Trauma
  4. Impulse control problems
Protective factors may reduce the risk of youth engaging in substance use. Increasing protective factors in addition to reducing risk factors can be more effective in preventing substance use.
  1. Ability to make friends and get along with others
  2. Reliable support and discipline from caregivers
  3. Mastery of academic skills (math, reading, writing)
  4. School Engagement
These are simplified lists of some overall risk and protective factors. Learn more at youth.gov
  • ODP's Be the Parents campaign developed conversation cards, a fun way for parents and kids to engage in open and positive communication. Order them here.
  • Download the 30-day Challenge - a way to stay engaged with youth and create more opportunities for conversation.
  • The Partnership for Drug Free Kids has helpful information about prescription stimulants.

The Idaho Office of Drug Policy leads Idaho’s substance abuse policy and prevention efforts by developing and implementing strategic action plans and collaborative partnerships to reduce drug use and related crime,
thereby improving the health and safety of all Idahoans.

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