Since down is the opposite of
up, you might guess that uppers are
the opposite of downers. And if you did, you’d be pretty close to the truth.
Uppers (AKA stimulants or “speed”) are drugs that stimulate the body by speeding up
action in the neurochemical circuits in the brain and central
nervous system that play a role in attention and arousal.
Because speed makes users feel
less tired and hungry, it’s been used for years by people who
want to lose weight or generally push themselves further and
faster than they’re meant to go.
For a long time, the most common
form of speed were amphetamines. Like minor tranquilizers, they
were hailed as “wonder
drugs” when they were
introduced, and they were promoted for years as diet pills. They
were so popular that, in 1971, 12 billion diet pills were produced in the United States.
Why were they so
A main reason is that amphetamines
in and don’t let you out
without a fight. Besides blocking appetite and fatigue, they
also create feelings of alertness and
without a trace when the speed wears off.
The more they prescribed them,
the more that doctors realized that amphetamines weren’t wonder
drugs, at all. (Sound familiar?)
While they do stop appetite for a while, hunger eventually
bounces back, usually stronger
than before. And other effects cause other problems.
But as medical use began to fall
off, illegal forms of speed began to bubble up in drug labs instead–especially
a high-powered form of methamphetamine,
Today, crystal is a major drug in many parts of the country, and a cause
of major problems–even a serious, lasting psychological
meltdown in heavy users.
There are tons
of minor problems that speed can cause, too, and some are as
easy to come by as the “natural energizers”
sometimes sold in convenience stores or the herbal “ecstasy” sold at concerts and by mail order.
They promise “safe, legal
highs,” via mega-doses of caffeine,
along with other legal stimulants, such as ephedrine.
Each of these legal drugs produce
a range of stimulant effects–just not
the kind that most people want. They speed up the brain a little,
true, but they also cause jangled nerves
and sometimes sharp
increases in body temperature
and blood pressure.
The fast increases in blood pressure
that legal stimulants trigger can be dangerous.
Users have even died when soaring blood pressure caused blood
vessels in their brains to burst.
And since people who take lots
of speed–legal or not–tend to not eat
properly, nutritional problems can result. And psychological
problems caused by long-term speed use can be even worse.
In a way, a person on speed is
like a rocket-powered
turtle. Even if it gets where
it’s going, the turtle’s still only a turtle. And it’s
usually at least a little shell-shocked.