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Prescription Stimulants

What are Prescription Stimulants?

Prescription stimulants are medicines that can only be obtained with a prescription from a doctor. Aptly named, these drugs work by “stimulating” various body processes, increasing dopamine and norepinephrine activity in the brain, which, in turn, increases blood pressure, heart rate, blood flow, and blood sugar. In addition to increasing alertness, energy, and attention, prescription stimulants also produce a feeling of euphoria.

There are two main types of prescription stimulants that are commonly prescribed by doctors:

  • Amphetamines (Adderall and Dexedrine): Used to treat ADHD
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta): Used to treat narcolepsy or depression

Prescription stimulants are typically taken in pill form, but people who abuse them may crush the pills and snort the powder or dilute the powder in water or alcohol and inject it to get high. Many people also misuse them by taking another person’s prescription, taking the pills just to get high, using the pills to increase their performance at work or school, or taking the pills with alcohol or other drugs.

Prescription stimulants can be very addictive, especially if you abuse them on a long-term basis. The DEA classifies them as Schedule II substances and long-term abuse of these drugs can cause physical tolerance, dependence, addiction, and other serious psychological problems.

Prescription Stimulant Abuse in the U.S.

Prescription stimulant abuse is rampant in America. Because they are prescribed by doctors and are easy to get, these drugs are typically perceived as being very safe. However, prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin still have a high potential for abuse and many people taking them for medical purposes misuse them.

For example, one study published by The Medscape Journal of Medicine found that 14 percent of clients at an ADHD treatment center abused prescription stimulants and 39 percent abused illegal stimulants like cocaine and/or amphetamines.

Prescription stimulant abuse is also extremely common in the professional world, and among college students, athletes, and performers. Since these drugs increase wakefulness and may enhance mental concentration and performance, they are especially attractive to individuals who need to achieve a certain level of productivity to be successful, such as college students, overworked professionals, or athletes.

According to CVS Health, one in five college students reported abusing prescription stimulants at least once. Additionally:

  • 56 percent of college students said it was easy to get prescription stimulants that were not prescribed for them by a doctor
  • 58 percent of college students said they have friends who abuse prescription stimulants
  • 28 percent of college students share their own prescription stimulants with friends
  • 52 percent of college students also report being pressured by friends to share or sell their prescription stimulants

Although many students and professionals abuse prescription stimulants to improve their performance, long-term abuse of these drugs can actually have the opposite effect. Once a person is no longer able to get prescription stimulants, he or she may also begin abusing illegal stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine instead.

Side Effects of Prescription Stimulant Addiction and Abuse

Some of the most harmful side effects of prescription stimulant abuse are:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increased respiration
  • Dramatic behavioral changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Malnutrition
  • Stomach pain
  • Digestive issues
  • Circulation problems
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Stimulant Addiction and Abuse

If you believe a loved one is abusing prescription stimulants, certain signs and symptoms may give it away. Some common physical signs of prescription stimulant abuse and misuse may include:

  • Paranoia
  • Picking at the skin
  • Increased talkativeness and/or sociability
  • Violent or erratic behavior
  • Extreme self-confidence
  • Decreased appetite/ weight loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations

If a person is addicted to prescription stimulants, you may also notice that they do some or all of the following things:

  • Visiting several different doctors to get prescriptions for stimulants
  • Taking or buying prescription stimulants from a friend or family member
  • Self-medicating with prescription stimulants
  • Taking larger or more frequent doses of prescription stimulants than recommended
  • Using prescription stimulants with alcohol or other drugs
  • Stealing prescription stimulants from a pharmacy, hospital, or doctor’s office

Legal and Physical Consequences of Prescription Stimulant Abuse

Just because prescription stimulant drugs are legal, doesn’t mean there are no consequences for abusing them. On the contrary, prescription drug abuse comes with many severe and life-changing consequences, like:

  • Getting a DUI – If you are driving under the influence of prescription drugs, you can get a DUI, which can result in large fines or even jail time.
  • Jail time – If you choose to forge prescriptions for yourself or someone else, you can get a six to 12 month-sentence in jail.
  • Felony charges – Sharing you prescription stimulants with anyone whose name is not on the bottle (anyone who is not you) is punishable by felony, which will affect future employment and education opportunities and will stick with you for life.
  • Financial problems – If you spend all your money buying prescription stimulants from a dealer, you’ll be plagued by financial problems, which can be difficult to come back from.

Commonly Abused Prescription Stimulants

Some of the most commonly abused prescription stimulants include:

Treatment Options for Prescription Stimulant Addiction

Although prescription stimulant addiction is a major problem in the U.S., a long-term comprehensive addiction treatment plan comprised of drug detox, residential rehab, sober living, and aftercare is an effective way to overcome prescription drug abuse and addiction. The recovery process is an ongoing effort that must continue even after professional treatment is over, but with the right support, long-lasting sobriety is possible. Call Nova Recovery Center today to learn more about our drug rehabilitation program for adults.

 

References:

  1. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/prescription-stimulant-medications-amphetamines
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants
  3. http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/prescription-stimulants
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2438483/
  5. https://cvshealth.com/thought-leadership/prescription-stimulant-abuse
  6. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=50
  7. https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/prescription/stimulants.html

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