Stimulants are a broad grouping of drugs that include both illicit drugs and prescription drugs. Illicit stimulant drugs include cocaine and methamphetamine. Prescription stimulants, including ADHD drugs, are also used for the treatment of narcolepsy, obesity and binge eating disorder. Prescription stimulants include Adderall, Ritalin and Concerta, among others. Prescription stimulants can typically be prescribed to children aged six and older, as well as adults. When someone with ADHD is prescribed a stimulant drug, it should help them focus, concentrate and have more self-control. While there are medical reasons stimulants are prescribed, these drugs are recreationally misused as well. Recreational misuse of prescription stimulants has gone up significantly in the past two decades because they are so widely available. Prescription stimulant misuse is especially common among teens and college students since these drugs can help improve cognitive performance and may have other desirable effects such as weight loss.
Most prescription stimulants are classified as amphetamines. Amphetamine is in drugs like Ritalin, while Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Amphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S. This means that these drugs have an accepted medical use, but there is also a high risk of severe physical and psychological dependence stemming from the misuse of these drugs. It’s illegal to have a Schedule II controlled substance or to use it without a valid prescription. Cocaine is also a Schedule II drug in the U.S., with similar implications, as is methamphetamine.
Cocaine isn’t just one of the most commonly misused stimulants, it’s also one of the most commonly misused drugs of all in the U.S. Cocaine creates feelings of energy and euphoria when it’s used, but the effects end pretty quickly. Cocaine is very addictive and also causes physical withdrawals in many cases. Crack cocaine is a stimulant as well. Methamphetamine is a highly powerful, dangerous and often deadly stimulant. Methamphetamine changes the dopamine in a person’s brain, so they feel energized, happy and alert. Over time, however, meth can cause serious brain and organ damage. Many people report being addicted to meth after using it only once. Among prescription drugs, Adderall is one of the most commonly misused. Adderall contains amphetamine, and it can cause serious side effects, like a heart attack or stroke.
Stimulants specifically speed up the central nervous system. When someone uses stimulants, it causes there to be more available dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. That’s why people feel euphoric, happy and energized. However, those effects don’t last. When the effects of stimulants wear off, people will experience a crash. A stimulant crash can include fatigue, lethargy, apathy, loss of motivation, depression and anxiety. Since stimulants speed up bodily processes, when someone uses them, they don’t feel tired or hungry. Their heart starts to beat faster, and body temperature and blood pressure can rise as well. Sometimes people who misuse high doses of stimulants will start to behave erratically, aggressively or even violently.
The half-life of stimulants can vary quite a bit depending on the specific drug. The elimination half-life of a drug refers to how long it takes for half a dose of a drug to leave the system. It usually takes around five half-lives for a drug to be fully eliminated from the system of a person. Below is an example of some of the half-life estimates of commonly misused stimulants:
- Cocaine has a very short half-life of usually less than an hour.
- Methamphetamine has a longer half-life of around 12 hours, and the effects of being high on meth can last for anywhere from four to eight hours.
- The half-life of amphetamines which are what is found in most ADHD medications is usually less than 11 hours.
While there are estimates for drug half-lives that can give a general idea of how long a drug might stay in the system of the person, there are individual variables that influence this. The following are some of the factors that influence how long stimulants stay in your system:
- Metabolism: People with faster metabolisms tend to eliminate drugs from their system faster.
- Age: Older people take longer to eliminate substances from their system in most cases.
- Dose: A higher dose is going to take longer to be fully eliminated from the system of a person.
- Strength: The strength of the stimulant may make elimination time longer.
- Health: People who are in generally good health will eliminate stimulants more quickly than someone with underlying health problems.
- Size/Body Mass: Larger people tend to eliminate a similar drug dose more quickly than a smaller person.
- Hydration: Most drugs are eliminated via urine, so someone who’s well-hydrated is likely to eliminate a drug more quickly
When it comes to drug testing, again there are estimates as to how long certain stimulants will stay in the system of the individual, but these aren’t exact. With amphetamines, it’s estimated they’ll show up in a urine test for anywhere from one to three days after being used and for around 12 hours in a blood test. Cocaine will usually show up for around three days in a urine test and for one to two days in a blood test. Methamphetamine can show up in a urine test for anywhere from three to six days and in a blood test for 24 to 72 hours after it’s used. In a hair test, detection windows can be up to 90 days for any kind of stimulant use.
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Stimulant Withdrawal And Detox
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