Stimulant Drugs: Another Epidemic in our Nation

In reading about the huge caches of illicit drugs flowing into our Southern Border, Heroin, Cannabis, and other chemical substances; it is easy to lose sight of a most important issue…my thoughts and energy are drawn to a most important concern facing our nation; the Stimulant use crisis, and the addiction to stimulants; a concern that affects us all.

I have written much over the years about the Opioid Epidemic, and also the vast amount of drug overdoses in our nation. Yet Opioids, such as heroin, are not the only drug that is causing crisis in our society, as stimulant drugs are as well.

Of the 70,000 deaths due each year due to drug overdoses, 18,000 of those deaths were due to overdose on stimulant drugs; primarily caused by the use cocaine and amphetamines, which has at its impetus the increase in the illicit import of these chemical substances across our Southern Border.

Stimulant drugs, often referred to as “uppers,” are central nervous system stimulants; they stimulate the person by forcing the release of energy chemicals (primarily adrenalin) by increasing electrical activity in the brain, and by artificially stimulating the reward/pleasure center.

The principal stimulants are cocaine, amphetamines, diet pills, mood elevators, nicotine, caffeine and lookalike, over-the-counter stimulants like energy drinks. Movies and TV programs would have one believe that alcohol is a stimulant drug, but it is not by a long shot; it is a depressant drug. Alcohol only suppresses inhibitions, leaving one to believe they are being stimulated.

There are many problems associated with the use of stimulant drugs. They disrupt the normal neuro-transmitter balance in the brain, they disrupt the need for nourishment leading to malnourishment, and they may lead to overdose on the chemical. Other problems that may occur include becoming paranoid, having muscle tremors, becoming aggressive, and falling into deep mental depression, and a myriad of other problems.

Caffeine, by far the most used and abused chemical substances in the world, consumed in mass quantities by the world population; in the form of coffee, tea, and cocoa products; is most often seen as harmless, and even our medical researchers relate that there are benefits in consuming coffee.

However, when one exceeds a certain amount of coffee, say more than 4 cups, they may become too excited; jittery, tremulous, intoxicated, etc. Dependency on caffeine also takes place among many; having that morning cup of coffee is essential for starting ones day.

The most addictive stimulant substance is nicotine; which led to the high restrictions on its use among the young; and the campaigns to stop its use. The many campaigns have been most successful in the United States; whereas over 50 percent of the adult population once used nicotine products, such as cigarettes, this number has been reduced significantly to less than 19 percent; primarily because tobacco use causes more physical problems and deaths than any other chemical substance.

One of the major problems involving stimulants, primarily cocaine and amphetamines; beside the high potential of overdosing; is the lack of medical treatment and pharmaceutical products for the addiction. Unlike the treatment for Heroin with medication such as Naltrexone, medications for stimulants are in research stages but yet to be developed.

Gary A. Enos, in an article entitled “Stimulants: The Next Drug Crisis Looms” (Addiction Professional magazine, Fall 2017), writes “…if the stimulant problem continues to gain momentum and become prominent across more of the country, this could end up becoming a vexing issue for treatment professionals.” The absence of approved medication treatments for cocaine and other stimulant addiction certainly adds to the level of concern about the implications of worsening stimulant problem.

Not only are deaths from stimulant overdose on the increase, but the proliferation of the illicit drugs are also on the rise. Stephanie Nichols, PharmD, associated professor of pharmacy practice and the Husson University School of Pharmacy in Bangor, Maine; documented a 170 percent increase in methamphetamine arrests in Maine from 2015 to the first quarter of 2016.

As a result of the study she relates that “This (stimulants) will be big in the next five to 10 years if we don’t look at it now…I don’t think that stimulants have been a focus here at all, “says Nichols, as the effects of the Opioid crisis continue to batter the New England states. From my own investigation into the problem, I may say that this holds true for other states as well, including our state of Texas.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in a brief recently released, states that current market data show the highest cocaine supply levels in the United States since at least 2007, and the largest increase in domestic cocaine usage since at least 2009. The brief also states that, “Barring a significant shift in the Government of Colombia’s policies, drug trafficking organization behavior, or U.S. drug consumer preferences, this trend is likely to amplify through at least 2018.” The importation of the chemicals used to make methamphetamines from Asia into North America is most certainly of great concern as well.

Of major historical concern surrounding illicit stimulant use, as in the case of illicit opioids, has been the integrity of the substance itself. The substance being distributed may contain other substances; such as cocaine mixed with fantanyl, heroin, strychnine, or just plain milk sugar.

Being illicit substances, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not get involved in the substances; therefore the potency, purity, and other general integrity issues are not addressed; and which lead to the major reason for their overdose potential.

Yes, I believe that stimulants present as the “new wave” of a drug crisis in our nation; and this will be most likely to continu; unless it is met head on. Until Next Time, Stay Healthy My Friends!