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Stimulants (or as they are often referred to – psychostimulants) are a class of natural and pharmaceutical chemicals which produce a short term boost to one or more mental or physical functions in the user. This might manifest as improved speed or reflexes, greater alertness, or wakefulness when the user would typically be drowsy or asleep. Caffeine is a stimulant, but so is cocaine. Stimulants have been called ‘uppers’ to differentiate them from ‘downers’ (depressants or sedatives).
Stimulants ore one of the most common psychoactive chemicals in the world coming direct from China to USA and all over the world with many examples used as legal recreational chemicals, illicit drugs and prescription medicines.
Effects of Stimulants
There is no simple list of stimulant effects, as there are so many different types, many of which cause these effects in vastly different ways. Stimulants typically enhance or improve nervous activity, in either or both the central and peripheral nervous system.
Common effects of some (but by no means all) stimulants include:
- Reduction on fatigue
- Reduced need for sleep
- Physical or sexual arousal
- Lessening of anxiety
- Lack of appetite
- Increased endurance
- Increased blood pressure
- Improved mood
- High heart rate
- Greater productivity
- Greater or more profound awareness
- Feeling more motivated
- Possible euphoria
Many of these effects are dependent on dosage level. For example, certain amphetamines may cause a reduction of hyperactivity and mild euphoria at small doses, but increased anxiety, hyperactivity and heart trouble at higher doses.
The Chemistry and Classification of Stimulants
Stimulants arrive at their effects in the body through different routes. The most common pharmacological mechanism for stimulant effects change the effective levels of dopamine or norepinephrine (adrenaline) in the body, or to agonise either the nicotinic or adenosine chemoreceptors.
Classification into categories is made difficult as most stimulants can arguably be assigned to at least two categories. For example, on a purely chemical structure level, ‘ecstasy’ is at the same time a substituted amphetamine, a substituted phenethylamine, and a substituted methylenedioxyphenethylamine.
Stimulants – Ampakines
The ampakine class of stimulants are known to improve alertness and increase attention span. They have been seen to improve learning and memory in clinical trials. They are called ampakines because they act strongly on the AMPA chemoreceptor.
Ampakines do not tend to have the ‘body’ effects of many stimulants, and may therefore be less prone to abuse and addiction because they do not have a strong effect on the dopamine system. They do, however, sometimes compromise sleep quality. America’s military DARPA labs have examined several ampakine chemicals for use on soldiers.
Stimulants – Eugeroics
Eugeroic stimulants improve a patient’s alertness, and cause wakefulness. They seem to work by increasing the activity or levels of dopamine or related chemicals in the brain, or the histaminic system.
They see use I treating certain sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, but also to enhance productivity and/or motivation. They are seen as fairly non-addictive, and not particularly habit-forming. Many are seen to confine their activity largely to the hypothalamus, which controls wakefulness and attention.
Examples of eugeroic drugs include: