Metabolic Speed: Stimulants Effects – Part 1
Simulants are compounds used to push beyond the normal limits of the body’s function. The common function is their ability to increase catecholamine such as norepinephrine and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). The use of stimulants induces the feeling of increased energy, attention, and alertness by acting on the central nervous system. Physical changes take place in the body when stimulants are used, including changes to: heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure. In today’s fast paced society, many people are turning to the use of stimulants to maintain this way of life. Current research shows that the use of stimulants effects may have serious implications to health.
What Are Stimulants?
There are many types of stimulants commonly used today. Many forms are legal such as nicotine, caffeine, and energy supplements. Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta are examples of stimulant medications that require an ADHD (Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder) or other behavioral health diagnosis as well as a physician’s prescription. Illegal forms of stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA (ecstasy). It is important to note that prescription medications are illegal forms of stimulants if obtained without a physician’s prescription.
The use of stimulants triggers the release of neurotransmitters from the brain. Dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and other neurotransmitters are secreted at an increased rate causing a miscommunication between the cells of the body and the brain. The body’s messages of fatigue are interrupted by the chemical messages of the brain that causes euphoria, energy, and alertness. This reduced communication between mind and body can result in serious health concerns.
Stimulants Effects On The Body
Stimulants effects differ depending on the kind of stimulant used. The effect on health is amplified with long-term use. Many times, individuals find themselves using several types of stimulants which increase the risk of health concerns.
Nicotine, found in tobacco products, triggers an increase in the release of both dopamine and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). Dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical of the brain, creates a sensation of wellbeing and slight euphoria. The added epinephrine provides increased alertness, energy, and focus. Long term stimulants effects of nicotine include an increased risk of heart disease, risk of numerous cancers, decreased insulin levels, damage to the respiratory system, and premature aging.
Caffeine is very popular in the U.S. today. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates approximately 90 percent of the world’s adult population uses some form of caffeine. Common sources include coffee drinks, green and black teas, energy drinks, over-the-counter and prescription medications, and even some forms of chocolate. Caffeine acts as a stimulant to the nervous system, triggering the release of excitatory hormones, such as: epinephrine and dopamine. Caffeine users experience a sensation of energy, focus, and stamina. Caffeine causes dramatic changes to the body. The circulatory system reacts with irregular heartbeats or heart palpitations and the respiratory system works harder to create a proper blood oxygen balance. Stomach acid production increases and digestion disorders may occur. Reproductive health suffers for both men and women. The stimulants effects are system wide.
Medications used for ADHD, such as: Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, Dextroamphetamine Salts, raises the availability of excitatory neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine to boost attention and focus. Common thyroid replacement medications such as Synthroid, Cytomel, and Armour thyroid are by nature stimulatory due to their metabolic enhancing effect. Anabolic hormones include DHEA, pregnenolone, growth hormone, testosterone and estrogen, also have stimulatory properties. The physical effects on the body include increased heart rate, blood pressure, suppressed appetite, and weight loss. These medications, even when used properly under the care of a physician, can interfere with circulation, causing fingers and toes to feel numb or hurt. Other side effects include digestive disorders, vision problems, weight loss, anxiety, depression, and many others. It is important to note that physiologically and biochemically, the body treat all stimulants the same: they all increase metabolic rate and speed. They may not be labelled as stimulants, but their stimulatory properties and effects cannot be ignored. In fact, these stimulatory properties usually become amplified in the adrenal fatigue setting.
Illegal forms of stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA (ecstasy). The use of these stimulants has serious consequences to health. Cocaine and methamphetamine are highly addictive, therefore long term use is very common. The body suffers greatly and long term use can be fatal. Cocaine and methamphetamine create damaging effects on the heart. Blood pressure and heart rate are increased substantially and blood vessels are constricted. Sleep disturbances are common as is liver and kidney damage. The body is often traumatized from malnourishment and sleep deprivation. Tooth structures decay, mental health deteriorates, and the body as a whole suffers greatly.
MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, is becoming increasing popular. MDMA triggers the release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, three very powerful excitatory neurotransmitters. Individuals who ingest MDMA experience decreased anxiety and apprehension while feeling emotionally connected to others, an increased creative thought process, and a higher sense of wellbeing and happiness. The stimulants effects are short lived and often replaced with irritability, anxiety, restlessness, aggression, insomnia, appetite disruption, and other negative symptoms.
Supplements and Medications
Supplements that are intrinsically stimulating include:
- Herbs such as ashwagandha, maca, green tea, black tea, ginseng
- Vitamin such as vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin B5
- Minerals including zinc, manganese, copper
- Amino acids such as glutamine, tyrosine.
They are generally well tolerated and stimulatory. They are not prominent in a body that is healthy and strong. On the other hand, they tend to be stimulatory in nature in a body that is weak, such as those in advance stages of AFS. Nutritional supplements that are generally calming such as magnesium, theanine, and taurine may also exhibit paradoxical behavior and behave as stimulants in a body that is weak for reasons not well understood.
Dependency and Withdrawal
Stimulants are highly addictive in nature. Stimulants effects seem inconsequential when trying to keep up with the hustle and bustle of life. Often times it takes only a single use to become dependent on these substances. Once addicted, avoiding the withdrawal symptoms is the main reason for continued use.
Nicotine withdrawal causes irritability, intolerances to stress, and food cravings with subsequent weight gain. Caffeine withdrawal can induce horrible headaches, fatigue, and irritability. Withdrawing from stimulant medication may trigger low energy and motivation, depression, and other mental health concerns. Illegal stimulants may require medical treatment and rehabilitation services in order to control withdrawal symptoms and maintain stable vital signs.
The most common withdrawal symptoms from stimulants include, but are not limited to:
- Inability to feel pleasure or satisfaction in life
- Damage to heart and circulatory system
- Low motivation, attention, and focus
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
- Depression and other psychological disorders
- Anxiety and panic attacks
Other effects on the body include:
- Fertility problems
- PMS difficulties and premature menopause
- Impotence and other sexual dysfunction
- When stimulant use has been chronic or used in high doses, withdrawal symptoms may worsen and include heart failure, stroke, extreme aggression, and severe mental health concerns such as: psychosis, hallucinations, and paranoia.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.