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Why Stimulants are So Addictive

Written by Jade McNulty BMS’23 Neuro’23
Published on May 4, 2021

When used properly, stimulants can be prescribed to treat narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Due to the attractive effects of increased alertness and attention, stimulants are often misused. Stimulant misuse occurs when a person takes the medication other than as prescribed and can include taking the prescription purely for its effect.

Stimulants increase the rate of communication within the brain. The substances raise the levels of neurotransmitters and thus the physiological activity within the body and decrease the time between messages going from the brain to the body. Whether they be smoked, snorted, swallowed, or injected, stimulants can make people feel energetic and alert. The effects of the drug depend on a variety of factors including amount taken, strength of the drug, the persons’ weight, and overall health of the user. Every drug affects individuals differently and any dosage of the stimulant carries a risk.

Increased levels of dopamine are caused by taking stimulants. Dopamine is what causes the good feelings’ in the brain as it is the key factor in the brain’s reward system. When stimulants are used for an extended period of time, the brain gets used to the increased levels  of dopamine and does not produce the usual amount. This is due to conditioning, and when the drug is not taken, withdrawal symptoms may occur. These symptoms cause urges and cravings for the drug, creating a physical dependency. Individuals begin to rely on the drug to feel normal, which can lead to addiction.

Repeated misuse of stimulants can have dangerous long term effects including damage to blood vessels, psychosis, and high blood pressure. Overcoming drug addiction is a difficult process, but it can be life-changing. If in need, check out this helpline.

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