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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



Methamphetamine is a Schedule I controlled substance under Idaho Law and Cocaine as well as 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.

Position Statements

Medical Organizations

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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