When we think of addiction in the current American landscape, our thoughts naturally drift to the over 60,000 United States citizens that succumbed to opioid overdose just last year. There remains, however, a second addiction crisis in our midst. This public health issue, while admittedly less deadly than prescription painkillers, has taken thousands of lives both in Texas and throughout the rest of the nation. Also known as “uppers”, stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines, diet pills, mood elevators and more continue to pose a sustained and urgent danger to every portion of the American population, including adolescents, young adults and senior citizens.
Last year, there were approximately 70,000 overdose deaths due to drug addiction, over 18,000 of which were directly attributable to stimulants. These drugs create serious and profound changes in the brain’s chemistry and the central nervous system. Some of the more common over-the-counter stimulants include nicotine and caffeine. Others include Ritalin and Adderall, two commonly prescribed medications in the treatment of ADHD. Some of more severe effects of stimulant abuse include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, severe mood swings, fever, hallucinations, flu-like symptoms, paranoid psychosis and more. Legitimate stimulant users should see their prescribing medical professional if they experience any adverse symptoms.
Many stimulant users have been conditioned to think that they’re somehow less harmful than other types of controlled substances. Even cocaine users insist they can nurse their habit without any type of serious long-term adverse effects. The stimulant abuse epidemic shows no signs of slowing down, even in the wake of serious attempts at overall reform. Long-term effects of these drugs can include stroke, seizure, cerebral hemorrhage and more. This epidemic is one more factor in a diverse and multifaceted public health crisis that must be addressed on multiple fronts, including effective treatment, prevention and enforcement.