Chemical Information

Brief History of Stimulants

Brief History of Stimulants are a class of psychoactive drug that provides temporary improvements in physical or mental functioning, thus elevating mood and increasing feelings of wellbeing, energy, and alertness. Stimulants are often called uppers. Their therapeutic use is limited, but their mood-elevating effects make some of them potent drugs of abuse.

The major stimulant drugs are amphetamines and related compounds, methylxanthines (methylated purines), cocaine, and nicotine. Amphetamines achieve their effect by increasing the amount and activity of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine (noradrenaline) within the brain.

They facilitate the release of norepinephrine by nerve cells and interfere with the cells’ reuptake and breakdown of the chemical, thereby increasing its availability within the brain. The most commonly used amphetamines are methamphetamine (Methedrine), amphetamine sulfate (Benzedrine),

and dextroamphetamine sulfate (Dexedrine).

Stimulants are widely used as both recreational and prescription drugs. A healthcare provider may prescribe a stimulant drug to treat narcolepsy, promote weight loss, or treat ADHD and clinical depression. Over time, stimulant drug abuse disrupts the functioning of the brain’s dopamine system and eventually dampens the user’s ability to feel any pleasure at all.

Stimulants are abused in several ways, depending on type. Stimulant drugs can be swallowed in pill form, snorted as powder, injected with a needle or syringe or heated into crystal form and smoked. Injected or smoked stimulants reach the brain faster and therefore produce the most intense highs. Snorting or swallowing stimulants produces a high that is less intense but longer lasting.

Often, chronic stimulant abusers will try to compensate for diminishing highs by taking more and more stimulants in order experience the same initial pleasure. This can result in increased dependence and addiction. Stimulants can be fatal, especially when taken in large doses or when mixed with other substances.

Cocaine is one of the strongest and shortest-acting stimulants and has a high potential for abuse owing to its euphoric and habit-forming effects. Nicotine, the active ingredient in cigarettes and other tobacco products, may also be regarded as a stimulant.

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