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The Affect Of Stimulants On Your Health

Stimulants And Their Risks by Mary F. Zesiewicz, MD

Stimulants come in all forms. They have great appeal for their ability to enhance alertness and produce a "high". Likewise, stimulants have risks. Stimulants literally "burn up" the body's cellular metabolism. Stimulants artificially "rev up"our metabolic processes- but everything that speeds up,invariably must slow down. Examples of stimulants include: caffeine, nicotine, over the counter cold medicines, chocolate, diet pills, like ephedrine, or ma huang, and the class of drugs known as amphetamines- both legally prescribed and illegal.

Of course, it is easy to get hooked. Many, if not most people today, quite frankly, are tired. Fatigue is a pandemic of 21st century life. First, the pace alone of our lives is dizzying. "Managing" day to day life requires a colossal "juggling" act.This phrenetic juggling will wear out the best of us. Shifting mentally and physically from task to task drains our resources of hormones and nerve chemicals and disrupts cellular health. But reaching for stimulants to get through our busy days backfires sooner or later.

The mental and emotional crash from stimulants is nothing to take lightly. Abruptly stopping stimulants of any kind can lead to depression, nervousness, irritability and even suicidal thinking. At the very least, fogginess, or dullness in focus and concentration exist, along with fatigue, which can be debilitating.

In addition, stimulants can be very "psychologically" addicting. There is an inherent fear of the "crash" even when it is mild, of stopping stimulants abruptly.

Physically, stimulants affect a range of organs and body systems. Strain on heart muscle and blood vessels are but a few physical risks of stimulant abuse. Dehydration is common. And there are hidden demands on the body of stimulant abuse- short term and long term.

In "The Schwarzbein Principle", Diana Schwarzbein, MD and Nancy Deville, ( Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, FL, 1999) elaborate on the complexity of the physiological mechanisms that disrupt bodily functions by use of stimulants.

First, stimulants rev up metabolism by increasing adrenaline. Adrenaline actually uses up protein in the body and destroys lean body mass. Of course, stimulants promote a decrease in appetite. This diminishing appetite will lead to malnutrition eventually. Even if the person maintains near normal body weight, the

nutritional value of cells becomes markedly depleted.

In addition, stimulants raise insulin levels in the body. Long term higher insulin levels actually promote weight gain, not weight loss, that people often reach for stimulants to achieve.

In addition, although stimulants induce a transient increase in serotonin, attributing to their mood enhancing effects, the long term use of stimulants burns out serotonin reserves. Serotoninis one of the major neurotransmitters (or nerve chemicals) responsible for maintaining a balanced mood. Long term stimulant use, in burning out serotonin in the body, will induce a major crash in mood.

Last, but not least, prolonged stimulant abuse will accelerate aging.

So what if I am ready to come off stimulants?

We have helped many detoxify from highly addictive stimulants with a minimum of medication. Of course, those patients go "cold turkey" but in a supervised environment can get additional support for the "crashes" including severe depression and sometimes suicidal thinking. Lots of fluids are essential; flu-like symptoms such as shakes, tremors and shivers are common. Thinking is often quite foggy for at least a few days.

If your stimulant of choice is caffeine, you may need to wean over a period of weeks, and during that time, lighten your workload, and get lots of rest. Even weaning from caffeine gradually may result in headaches, nausea, fatigue, nervousness and irritability. Lethargy and lack of motivation are common, at least for several days to several weeks. Some people may be ableto wean from caffeine completely after several days, but more commonly lowering consumption is a process that may take weeks to months.

Stimulant use and abuse have reached epidemic proportions,largely in response to our overly stressful lifestyle. Knowledge of the risks and proper detoxification are essential for cellular and life restoration.

Copyright 2006 Mary F. Zesiewicz, MD.Mary F. Zesiewicz, MD, is a Board Certified Psychiatrist who has been in practice for the past twenty years. The author of 'Hippocrates MD: The Transformation of Health Care', Dr Mary is passionate about an integrative wellness approach to health care. Her website offers up to date health resources and tips for people who want to maintain good health or recovering from illness.

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