Drugs are addictive substances that can be highly addictive in the person who uses them.
In this article, we’ll give a brief description of what drugs are, and later explore how one type of drug works: stimulant drugs. More precisely, we will talk about the two most common stimulants: Cocaine and amphetamines. We will analyze their most striking characteristics, their mechanism of action, the disorders associated with them and the effects they produce on our body.
What are drugs?
The drugs are substances which, when introduced into the body, act on the central nervous system (SNC), altering or modifying its functioning.
These are substances that can easily cause different psychological disorders, such as substance use disorders (where drug use is excessive, interfering with the normal functioning of the person) and two types of disorders induced by the substance itself; intoxication and abstinence (abstinence syndrome).
But … what kinds of drugs are there? In the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders), we find the following classification of drugs:
- Hallucinogens (phencyclidine and others)
- Sedatives / hypnotics / anxiolytics
- Stimulants (cocaine, amphetamines and others)
- the tobacco
- other substances
That is, according to the manual, we find up to 10 different types of drugs, depending on their characteristics and effects.
As we can see, among the stimulant drugs we find: cocaine, amphetamines and others. That is why in this article we will talk about cocaine and amphetamines, since they are the most common stimulants.
Stimulant drugs are a type of medicine which, as the name suggests, they stimulate the activity of the central nervous system (SNC); in other words, they are excitatory drugs that increase brain activity.
On the other hand, among the effects of stimulant drugs, we find increased sharpness of mind as well as increased energy and attention, as well as increased blood pressure and the speed of breathing and the heart.
As for their mechanism of action, stimulant drugs increase the levels of three types of brain neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine (all monoamines).
Now yes, let’s talk about the mentioned stimulant drugs:
Cocaine is one of the stimulant drugs that exist. Thus, it is a drug that excites or stimulates the central nervous system (CNS), for a mechanism of action that involves increasing the levels of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Specifically, cocaine blocks the neuronal absorption of these three brain neurotransmitters.
This drug produces a series of important psychological and behavioral changes, which manifest themselves in three phases: the rising phase (with symptoms such as euphoria, overwhelming energy …), the falling phase (depressive symptoms) ) and the hangover phase.
1.1. Consumption route
Cocaine can be used in different ways, that is, it has different routes of use. The most common are: intravenous, smoked or sniffed. In the first two cases, their progression through the body is faster; in the third case (sniffling), its progression is more gradual.
1.2. Consumption model
The pattern of use associated with cocaine, of course, varies from person to person. The episodic pattern involves separate use of it, two days or more, with “binge” in the middle. The daily rhythm, on the other hand, involves a gradual increase in the consumption of the substance.
According to the DSM-5, about 0.3% of people over 18 have a cocaine disorder, By placing the age group of the highest consumption at 18-29 years. On the other hand, the consumption of this stimulating drug is higher among men (0.4%), compared to the consumption among women (0.1%).
1.4. Cocaine withdrawal syndrome
Withdrawal syndromes associated with different stimulant drugs produce a number of symptoms that can cause great discomfort to the sufferer. In the case of cocaine (in the case of a stimulant drug), the symptoms that appear in this syndrome are opposite: that is, mainly depressive symptoms will appear.
More precisely, in cocaine withdrawal syndrome, a three-phase pattern occurs, Which consists of three phases. In the first phase (accident phase), acute dysphoria appears, with a decrease in depressed mood, accompanied by anxiety. Other associated symptoms also appear, such as restlessness, fatigue, exhaustion, hypersomnolence, anorexia, etc.
In the second phase, actual abstinence occurs, with reduction of previous dysphoric symptoms. At this point, subjects respond more soberly to conditioned environmental stimuli (such as places where the subject typically consumes the drug).
Finally, in the third and final phase of cocaine withdrawal syndrome, a state of excitement occurs in the subject; its duration is indefinite, and in it appears an irresistible intermittent desire, associated with multiple conditioned stimuli, such as: moods, places, people, white dust, mirrors, etc.
Amphetamines are another stimulant that we can find. Amphetamines, like cocaine, they are composed of strengthening and stimulating effects for the brain and the body.
Along with cocaine and other substances, amphetamines are included in DSM-5 in the group of stimulant drugs. For its part, the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases) includes them in the group of “other stimulants”, along with caffeine.
As for its mechanism of action, amphetamines work primarily by inducing the release of monoamines (That is, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, three types of brain neurotransmitters). In other words, like cocaine, amphetamines act on these same three neurotransmitters, albeit differently.
Compared to cocaine, these stimulant drugs have a longer lasting effect on the body, which is why a lower frequency of administration is necessary.
Regarding the prevalence of the disorder due to the consumption of amphetamines, it is slightly lower than that of cocaine, standing, according to the DSM-5, approximately 0.2% in subjects over 18 years.
In addition, subjects diagnosed with an amphetamine use disorder mainly belong to the 18 to 29 age group (0.4%), with their use being more common in men (compared to women). .
2.2. associated disorders
As with the other stimulant drug, cocaine, amphetamines can cause different disorders. We can talk about two main groups of disorders: disorders induced by the use of substances (consumption disorder) and disorders induced by the substances themselves (intoxication and abstinence).
Thus, amphetamines (and / or their consumption) can produce all of these disorders.
- American Psychiatric Association -APA- (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- WHO (2000). CIE-10. International Classification of Diseases, tenth edition. Madrid. Panamericana.
- Stahl, SM (2002). Essential psychopharmacology. Neuroscientific bases and clinical applications. Barcelona: Ariel.