Stimulants are drugs that stimulate the brain, and tend to increase alertness and physical activity. They include amphetamines, cocaine, crack and some inhalants like amyl or butyl nitrites. Caffeine, found in tea, coffee and many soft drinks, is also a mild stimulant. Caffeine is addictive and a person who abruptly stops drinking coffee may experience withdrawal symptoms. The most widely abused stimulants are: cocaine, crack or a pure form of cocaine and amphetamines.
Different stimulants act on the body in different ways. For example, nitrate inhalants cause the blood vessels to dilate or widen; cocaine and crack alter levels of the brain neurotransmitter chemical serotonin; amphetamines affect the release of a different body chemical, called such as adrenaline and dopamine. Broadly speaking, all these stimulants have a similar effect, causing mental and/or physical stimulation. This may be felt as increased physical energy and/or clarity and speed of thought.
Known to users as sulphate, speed, billy whizz, fast, uppers. Prescription amphetamines are known to users as black beauties, black bombers, black 'n whites or blues.
Medical use of amphetamines for mild depression was common in the 1950's and 1960's. However, due to their side effects and addictive properties the majority were removed from medical use. Used properly, amphetamines increase alertness and physical ability. They are still prescribed for narcolepsy, a rare sleep disorder, and for children with
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD. Prescription amphetamines may be acquired by legal or illegal means, and then sold illegally as tablets or capsules.
, manufactured illegally, is the most common type of amphetamine to be abused. It is a fine, off-white powder, usually containing only 6 to 10% amphetamine; the rest being anything from baking powder to laxative. Users take amphetamine by sniffing through the nose; dabbing the powder on the tongue; dissolving it in a drink; wrapping it in a cigarette paper and eating it; injecting or smoking with tobacco.
Amphetamine is a brain stimulant, i.e., it increases brain activity. It also causes release of adrenaline, leading to an increase in heart and respiration rate, increased blood pressure and reduced appetite. Under the influence of amphetamine, users often experience a temporary boost in self-confidence and feel unusually energetic. They may be over-talkative and overactive, repeatedly getting up and walking around; hence the slang name 'speed'. Users often find relaxation difficult and sleep impossible. They will have little or no appetite. However, amphetamines do not remove the need for rest and food, but only postpone it. As a result, amphetamine addicts are often totally exhausted after a long period of continuous abuse.
When injected, amphetamines take effect immediately. Swallowing or sniffing powdered amphetamines produces effects after 10-40mins. The effects of prescription amphetamines may be rapid or delayed, as some are short acting and some longer acting medicines. The effect of a single dose of amphetamine generally lasts about 3-6 hours.
Amphetamine can cause irritability, restlessness, tightening of the jaw muscles and teeth grinding. As users tend not to eat or sleep, and are overactive, the after-effects of a long period of amphetamine use include extreme tiredness, hunger and increased appetite, listlessness and depression. Other side effects include blurred vision, sleeplessness, and dizziness. Many women who use amphetamines find that their periods become irregular or stop.
To maintain the desired effect, regular users have to take increasing doses. When they do stop, they often feel very depressed and lethargic. High doses, especially if frequently repeated, can produce delirium, panic attacks, hallucinations and feelings of paranoia.
Amphetamines are psychologically addictive. Users often become dependent on the drug to avoid the
experienced when the drug's effect wears off. As a result the user will be driven to taking larger doses of amphetamines, more often, and also to taking other, more powerful drugs. As a result, amphetamine addicts are often totally exhausted after a long period of continuous abuse.
Regular users who take high doses of amphetamine may develop delusions, hallucinations and feelings of paranoia. Heavy amphetamine use can damage blood vessels and cause heart failure, especially among people with existing high blood pressure or heart problems.
Known to users as coke, snow, charlie,
In the past, cocaine was used in medicines and tonics for a variety of symptoms, and doctors have known for many years that people rapidly become dependent on this drug.
Cocaine was commonly used as a local anaesthetic for minor surgery, but at present synthetic anaestheticsare more widely used. Cocaine has no other medical application.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, derived from the leaf of coca bush, grown in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. There is a huge worldwide illegal trade in cocaine in its various forms. Often it is sold as a fine, white crystalline powder, mixed with inert substances such as talcum powder or fine sugar; local anaesthetics or stimulants. Usually it is sniffed through a straw or rolled paper. Some users place the powder under the tongue and on the gums. It can also be smoked or injected. As with any drug taken inhaled through the nose, sniffing cocaine can damage the nasal membrane.
In the 1970s and 1980s the rarity and high cost of cocaine meant that it was regarded as a drug of wealthy people such as film stars. In the 1990's it became less expensive and easier to buy. Despite the still high cost, its easy availability and false reputation of being non-addictive has led to widespread use among young people.
Known to users as rock, wash or stone.
can be reverted into its base form by a fairly simple chemical process. This is called 'free basing' and can be dangerous because the solvents used are highly flammable. The resulting form of cocaine is called freebase, or crack, and takes on the shape of relatively large crystals. Crack is pure cocaine and, as it is not soluble in water; it can only be smoked. It makes a crackling noise as it is smoked, hence its name. Crack is absorbed into the body much faster than sniffing cocaine, and so it takes effect very quickly. It is a very powerful form of cocaine and is highly addictive and widely abused.
Generally, cocaine produces feelings of mental wellbeing and exhilaration. Users feel energetic, talkative and mentally alert, especially sensations of sight, sound, and touch are increased. Cocaine also reduces appetite and the desire for sleep. In many ways the effect of cocaine is similar to that of amphetamines in that cocaine can cause anxiety or panic attacks. The after-effects of cocaine can include tiredness and depression, and excessive doses can cause death from heart failure.
When cocaine is sniffed, its effects appear soon after it is taken, peak in about 15 to 30 minutes and disappear within 30 minutes to 2 hours. As the 'high' is short lasting, this encourages the user to repeat the dose to maintain the effect, often within about half an hour. Many repeated doses, taken over a short period, can cause extreme agitation, anxiety or paranoia. The urge to repeat cocaine is even stronger for crack cocaine than cocaine, as the effects occur immediately and begin to reduce shortly afterwards. Crack users often abuse at very short intervals in an attempt to maintain the high.
If cocaine is taken over a long period of time, the euphoric high is often replaced by restlessness, extreme excitability, insomnia, and paranoia, and eventually hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms are very similar to amphetamine psychosis and paranoid schizophrenia, although they usually disappear when the use of the drug is stopped.
At present there is no evidence of tolerance to the effects of cocaine. Users may keep taking the original amount over extended periods with the same effect. However, some users do increase their dose in an attempt to intensify and prolong the effect. It is also unclear if physical dependence on cocaine hydrochloride can occur. However, when some regular heavy users stop taking the drug, they experience a powerful negative reaction, which may suggest physical dependence.
Crack cocaine does produce strong physical dependency. With regular heavy use increasingly unpleasant symptoms occur. Euphoria is replaced by restlessness, over-excitability and nausea, which can result paranoid psychosis with prolonged use. Regular users may appear chronically nervous, agitated, excitable and paranoid. Confusion as a result of exhaustion, due to lack of sleep, is common.
An intense psychological dependence can emerge in heavy users as they suffer severe depression when the supply of cocaine runs out. The depression will only lift when they have another dose. Experimental work has suggested that cocaine may be the most powerful drug of all in producing psychological dependence. When not taking cocaine, regular users complain of sleep and eating disorders, depression and anxiety, and the craving for the drug often forces them to reuse.
Death from a cocaine overdose can occur from convulsions, heart failure, or depression of parts of the brain that control breathing. Chronic cocaine sniffing often causes stuffiness, runny nose and eczema, and damages the nasal membranes and the structure separating the nostrils. Users who inject the drug, risk infections from shared needles. Cocaine abuse poses a high risk to mental health. Regular use can lead to anxiety, paranoia and psychosis, which can produce permanent mental health problems.
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