Stimulants come in many shapes and forms. Some stimulants, like caffeine, occur in nature and may even have beneficial effects if consumed in moderation. Others, like amphetamines, have medical uses treating disorders such as ADHD, but they are still at risk for abuse. Others still, like cathinones (“bath salts”), have no medical uses and are quite dangerous. Being found in nature is no guarantee that a stimulant is safe. Cocaine, for example, is found in the coca leaf that grows in South America, but it still is quite addictive. Meanwhile, other synthetic drugs derived from cocaine, like lidocaine and novocaine, have a wide range of medical uses. Synthetic stimulants are generally risky to use and pose addiction risks.
There are several types of synthetic stimulants, including:
- Amphetamine (Adderall)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
- Methamphetamine (meth, speed, crystal, ice, glass)
- Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy, Molly, XTC, E, X, Adam)
- Benzylpiperazine (BZP, Legal E, Legal X)
- Mephedrone (4-MMC, meow meow, m-CAT)
- MDPV (bath salts, Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky)
- Methylone (bath salts, bk-MDMA, MDMC, MDMCAT)
Prescription synthetics like Ritalin and Adderall come as tablets, which can be swallowed or crushed into a powder to snort. MDMA and BZP usually appear as a tablet in any number of colors. Methamphetamine tends to come in a small bag of coarse white crystals, although blue crystals are starting to make an appearance thanks to the hit show Breaking Bad. The crystals are then crushed into a powder to be snorted or smoked. Bath salts often come in small packets of white or off-white powder labeled “not for human consumption” and may be sold as “jewelry cleaner” or “plant food.” ×
What Are the Effects of Synthetic Stimulants?
The effects of synthetic stimulants will vary based on the stimulant.
Some, like the FDA-approved medications Adderall and Ritalin, have relatively few physical side effects if used as prescribed. Others, like Ecstasy, produce not just a euphoric high but also feelings of empathy.
Effects of synthetic stimulants can include:
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Sweating or raised body temperature
- Boosted mood or euphoria
- Increased excitability or irritability
- Feelings of empathy or compassion
- Increased ability to study and focus
- Increased energy and wakefulness
- Decreased appetite
- Increased sociability and sex drive
- Paranoia or delusions
- Dry mouth
- Clenched jaw or grinding teeth
- Aggressive or violent behavior
Stimulants act in the brain by boosting levels of either/both dopamine and serotonin, two of the brain’s signaling molecules. Dopamine is involved in attention, reward, and motivation, and serotonin is involved in creating feelings of happiness and pleasure. Different stimulants will act on the two brain systems to different extents, accounting for their range of effects. MDPV, for example, raises the brain’s dopamine levels 10 times as much as cocaine does.
Using MDMA to Treat PTSD
You may have heard of studies that are attempting to treat PTSD in veterans using MDMA-assisted psychotherapy. Since MDMA promotes feelings of understanding and acceptance, it can be a useful accelerant to conventional therapies. Although their initial results are promising, they warn that MDMA therapy is only effective when combined with a proper context of ongoing psychotherapy. People who use MDMA on their own will not necessarily have any beneficial effects. Additionally, most so-called Ecstasy obtained on the black market is adulterated with other, more dangerous drugs, like methamphetamine or bath salts. Such experiments are best left to the professionals.
Abuse of Synthetic Stimulants
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), most synthetic stimulant users are white, with males in the majority. Rates of illegal amphetamine use have been relatively stable in the past 10 years (162,435 emergency department visits in 2004 compared to 159,840 visits in 2011) but rates of abuse of other stimulants are on the rise. MDMA saw 10,227 ER visits in 2004, compared to 22,498 in 2011. Even more dramatically, in the same time period, ER visits related to pharmaceutical stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin rose from 9,979 to 40,648. Although bath salts are relatively new drugs on the black market, they’re rising in popularity – in 2009, US poison control centers only received 26 calls about bath salts, but that number rose to 9,189 by 2012. In 2011, bath salts were responsible for 22,904 emergency room visits. In 2012, about 676,000 people tried synthetic stimulants for the first time. In 2013, among high school seniors, 7.1 percent had tried MDMA, 9.7 percent had tried Ritalin or Adderall, and less than 1 percent had tried methamphetamine.
How Do You Treat Synthetic Stimulant Addiction?
According to the National Institute on Drug Addiction, there are several effective treatments for stimulant addiction:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy helps identify and alter the maladaptive thought patterns and stress coping mechanisms that lead to destructive behaviors.
- Contingency management intervention offers tangible rewards for engaging in treatment and abstaining from drug use, such as prize vouchers for clean drug tests.
- The Matrix Model combines behavioral therapy, family education, one-on-one therapy, 12-step support, drug testing, and the encouragement of drug-free hobbies and activities.
At Futures of Palm Beach, we understand your struggle and are ready to help. Our luxurious, spa-like facilities will allow you to detoxify in comfort.
Our medical experts can help tailor a custom therapy program that’s personalized for your specific needs. We’ll help you build new coping strategies to deal with the world without drugs and build new life skills to stay clean. Call today to learn more.