The most commonly abused prescription stimulant medications include amphetamines (Dexedrine and Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta).
The amphetamines and methylphenidate are used to manage medical conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and works by changing the amounts of specific neurotransmitters (hormones) in the brain. The medication’s function then is to:
- Help increase an affected person’s ability to pay attention.
- Control behavioral problems.
- Allow the patient to stay focused for a longer period of time.
- Reduce daytime fatigue and for this reason, is also indicated for those patients who struggle with narcolepsy.
Methylphenidate can also be prescribed off-label to help manage treatment-resistant cases of:
- Major depression.
- Bipolar mood disorder.
Use by Students
These prescription stimulants are sometimes used by students to help enhance their mental abilities in order to improve their concentration for purposes of studying. There are individuals who state that denying these students the medications, who are essentially not struggling with any conditions that the medications are indicated for, would be denying them the opportunity to better themselves academically.
However, if one is to prescribe individuals who do not exhibit any pathology medications that alter their brain chemistry, then one is bound to expose them to certain adverse effects.
Dependence and Addiction
Psychological dependence and addiction to amphetamines and methylphenidate are possible, especially if taken at high doses as a recreational drug. As with all addictive drugs, dependence on prescription stimulants causes changes in the brain’s neurotransmitter levels and this leads to addictive behavior.
Addiction can lead to an overdose of prescription stimulants. This can result in central nervous system overstimulation which can cause issues such as:
- Muscle twitching.
- Increased reflexes.
- Heart palpitations.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Abnormal heart rhythm.
- Elevated blood pressure.
- Dry mucous membranes.
A severe overdose which will require immediate medical attention may result in the following problems:
- Increased core body temperature.
- Repetitive movements.
- A severe drop in blood pressure.
- Rapid muscle breakdown.
- Sympathomimetic toxidrome or an adrenergic storm which is a rapid increase of epinephrine levels in the body which causes the heart rate to spike and possibly become abnormal.
Fortunately, a prescription stimulant drug overdose is rarely fatal if one receives the appropriate medical care.
Becoming addicted to prescription stimulant drugs can become problematic, especially when the medication is taken in higher than required dosages as this can lead to the above-mentioned problems.
There are rehabilitation centers available where inpatient rehabilitation is offered. This will be beneficial to patients who are addicted to prescription stimulant drugs as the following services will be made available to them:
- Safe withdrawal from the stimulant drug.
- Management of any underlying mental health issues or stressors.
- Psychological counseling to aid in the development of coping skills.
- Time and study management or any other advice regarding everyday tasks and functions so that one doesn’t have to rely on taking stimulant drugs on a recreational basis.