Neuroscience of Addictions – Brain Chemistry in Action

Prescription stimulants belong to schedule II drugs as per Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classification. They are highly abused for they are easily accessible. The effect of this is the emergence of substance abuse disorder. Drug abuse denotes using prescription stimulants or any other drug for other reasons other than the intended one. Non-medical use of prescription stimulants increases annually and now ranks second after marijuana among other illicit drugs. Sedative-hypnotics are drugs used to sustain sleep (Schmiedl et al., 2014)). Additionally, they cause dependency which is known to bring addiction.

Why is prescription stimulants commonly abused? The ability of these drugs to make a person lose weight by suppressing appetite is considered one of the reasons why people abuse prescription drugs. Secondly, these drugs can be used to achieve performance in sports which include but are not limited to cycling and marathons. In addition to that, they can be used to increase focus and enhance alertness with performance boost (Schmiedl et al., 2014). Thirdly, there is a perception that prescription stimulants are harmless. Thus, encouraging people to use them recreationally, in effect, leading to addiction.

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Concerns associated with over the counter stimulants A major problem with over the counter stimulants is their easy accessibility and their ability to be altered for different uses. When over the counter prescription stimulants are used continuously, they cause pleasurable increase in the amount of dopamine present in the brain’s reward pathway. A good example is a stimulant called Ritalin. Its effects on neurotransmitter are similar to that of cocaine.

However, of importance is that, more often than not, seeking that pleasurable feeling leads to addiction. On the other hand, prescription stimulants taken in high doses can raise body temperatures to dangerous levels, cause irregular heartbeats and seizures (Schmiedl et al., 2014). Lastly, feelings of hostility and paranoia are associated with high doses of non-medicated prescription stimulants.


Schmiedl, S., Rottenkolber, M., Hasford, J., Rottenkolber, D., Farker, K., Drewelow, B., … & Thrmann, P. (2014).

Self-medication with over-the-counter and prescribed drugs causing adverse-drug-reaction-related hospital admissions: results of a prospective, long-term multi-centre study. Drug safety,? 37(4), 225-235.”

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