Central Nervous System Stimulants: Everything You Need to Know

Central Nervous System Stimulants

Central nervous stimulants are drugs that boost alertness, attention, energy, and physical activity by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. Stimulants of the central nervous system also raise blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate. They’re used to treat depression, narcolepsy, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (a condition in which a person has trouble paying attention, controlling their actions, and remaining still or quiet).

How Do Central Nervous System Stimulants Work?

What does a stimulant do to the central nervous system? Well, a lot, as it turns out.

Central nervous system stimulants work by raising catecholamine levels in the brain. Norepinephrine and dopamine are examples of catecholamines, a class of neurotransmitters. CNS stimulants work by preventing norepinephrine and dopamine from being reabsorbed into the brain. They may also increase the brain’s release of these neurotransmitters directly. Different physical and mental processes such as attention, mood, and motivation are thought to be influenced by norepinephrine and dopamine. 

Amphetamines have been shown to be effective stimulants in the treatment of conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy in clinical trials. Amphetamines, such as methylphenidate, were found to relieve symptoms in 55 to 70 percent of ADHD patients and 65 to 85 percent of narcolepsy patients in some studies. Children, adolescents, and adults with ADHD may benefit from stimulants; according to a meta-analysis, methylphenidate is the preferred choice in children, while amphetamines are preferred in adults. 

Dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate are CNS stimulants that can help stimulate increased brain activity. They can, however, have unintended consequences in the body. During stressful situations, catecholamines play a role in the body’s fight-or-flight response. CNS stimulants can raise norepinephrine levels, resulting in higher blood pressure, a faster heart rate, and narrowed blood vessels.

What are Central Nervous System Stimulants Used For?

Central nervous system stimulants

CNS stimulants may be beneficial in the treatment of certain conditions characterized by symptoms such as excessive sleepiness, inability to concentrate, or prolonged fatigue. CNS stimulants may also be used to aid weight loss in morbidly obese individuals. The following conditions have been treated with CNS stimulants: 

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) 
  • Persistent Lethargy  
  • Morbid obesity, when other treatments haven’t worked. 
  • Narcolepsy 
  • Neonatal Sleep Apnea
  • Depression that hasn’t responded to traditional antidepressants 
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Unfortunately, some people abuse CNS stimulants for their energy-boosting properties. Some CNS stimulants also cause euphoria or boost self-confidence for a short period of time.

How Do They Differ From Each Other?

The ability of CNS stimulants to increase levels of certain neurotransmitters varies, which determines their effect and side effects in the body. 

They also differ in terms of how long they act in the body and how quickly they begin to work. A methyl group was added to amphetamine to make methamphetamine, which lasts longer, penetrates the brain better, and is less likely to harm the heart than amphetamine.

Are Central Nervous Stimulants Safe?

CNS stimulants have a slew of negative side effects, and their misuse has resulted in deaths. 

They are highly addictive and widely abused. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, leading to repeated and frequent use in order to maintain the high. Addiction can develop quickly after only a few uses, or even just one. Tolerance develops, which means that more of the substance is required to achieve the desired high. 

Misuse of CNS stimulants can result in severe paranoia and psychosis, as well as severe depression and suicidal ideation. It can cause relationships to fall apart and affect a person’s ability to keep a job. Drug-seeking can take over a person’s life to the point where they lose track of their nutrition. People who abuse CNS stimulants are more likely to get sick and have sexual problems.

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Central Nervous Stimulants Side Effects

CNS side effects

CNS stimulants can have a variety of negative side effects. Side effects can be influenced by a variety of factors, including dosage, the patient’s age, and the medication prescribed. The following are some of the most common CNS stimulant side effects: 

  • Headache
  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight 
  • Upset Stomach
  • Excessive sweating 

The following are examples of severe CNS stimulant side effects:

  • Arrhythmia 
  • Tachycardia 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest Pains
  • Seizures 
  • Breathing problems 
  • Psychosis 
  • Cardiac arrest

Tolerance, abuse, and dependence are all possible side effects of long-term CNS stimulant use. These drugs may also increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack, especially in people who have had a previous heart attack or stroke. 

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The majority of stimulant side effects are minor and transient, and severe side effects are usually the result of incorrect dosing or misuse. Stimulants are frequently started at a low dose to assess any potential side effects. Because stimulant side effects differ from person to person, a healthcare provider will monitor a person through regular office visits.

Who Can Take CNS Stimulants?

Adults with mental health and sleep disorders, among other conditions, are often prescribed CNS stimulants. They can be used for short- or long-term treatment, and they can be combined with other types of therapy like talk therapy. To avoid side effects, adults should take CNS stimulants exactly as prescribed.

Children with ADHD may also be prescribed CNS stimulants. To improve symptoms like inattention and learning difficulties, stimulant therapy is usually combined with behavioral therapy. Depending on the stimulant prescribed, there may be different age restrictions. Regular Adderall, for example, is not recommended for children under the age of three, and Ritalin is not recommended for children under the age of six.

Because of the increased risk of side effects, CNS stimulants are rarely prescribed to the elderly (those aged 65 and up). For certain conditions, such as treatment-resistant depression, these medications may be effective and safe in the elderly. Stimulants, on the other hand, can raise blood pressure and heart rate. When using CNS stimulants, older adults are at an increased risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

There isn’t enough evidence to say whether CNS stimulants are safe in pregnant or breastfeeding women. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of stimulants and seek medical advice. CNS stimulants can have negative effects on a woman’s health if she is pregnant or breastfeeding.

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Is Alcohol a Central Nervous System Stimulant?

No — alcohol is in fact classified as a central nervous system depressant.

Drinking has a significant impact on a person’s mood, behavior, and neuropsychological functioning. Alcohol consumption is a form of relaxation for many people; however, the effects of alcohol and hangovers can actually cause anxiety and stress. Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system, which means it slows down brain function and neural activity. This is accomplished by increasing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA. 

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Alcohol can cause impairments such as slurred speech, unsteady movement, distorted perceptions, and an inability to react quickly by depressing the central nervous system. Alcohol impairs a person’s ability to think clearly, lowers inhibitions, and skews judgment. A person’s central nervous system can be depressed to the point of respiratory failure, coma, or death if they consume too much alcohol too quickly.

Are CNS Stimulants Used For Performance Enhancement?

CNS for performance enhancement

CNS stimulants are used in sports to increase alertness, competitiveness, and aggression while reducing fatigue. Stimulants are more likely to be used on the day of a competition, but they can also be used in training to increase the intensity of the workout. There are potential dangers in using stimulants in contact sports because they can increase an athlete’s aggression towards other competitors or officials.

Ephedra alkaloids have been viewed as products that can potentially be used to enhance athletic performance and give athletes unfair advantages, even when used in supplement form, due to their stimulant properties and sympathomimetic actions. 

In studies, the isolated use of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine at standard dosages has been shown to have an inconsistent, and likely insignificant, ergogenic benefit for power, endurance, strength, or speed. 

Other studies that looked at ephedrine in combination with vitamins, minerals, or caffeine found that it had ergogenic effects. Many athletes use ephedra alkaloids in food supplements because of the perceived benefits of increased energy, decreased time to exhaustion, and potential thermogenic properties with increased metabolism, fat loss, and muscle strength. In particular, when ephedrine was combined with caffeine, a series of studies found that the time to exhaustion was increased and the rating of perceived exhaustion was decreased compared to either drug alone or a placebo.

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