Substance Abuse

What are Upper and Downer Drugs?

Drugs of abuse are often categorized by the effect that they produce in the user. Informally, stimulants (drugs that increase energy, alertness, and mood) are called uppers and depressants (drugs that reduce energy and alertness and produce relaxation) are called downers. Typically, uppers increase the activity of the central nervous system while downers sedate that activity. There are both legal and illicit uppers and downers. 

As these drugs often produce opposite reactions, users may be tempted to mix them to “level out” their negative side effects. Others may consider using multiple upper or downers simultaneously to enhance their effects. Both combinations can result in dangerous and unpredictable side effects, and can increase the likelihood of addiction. The following article will take a closer look at the following questions:

Related reading: Dangerous Drug Combinations

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What Are Uppers (Stimulants)?

Uppers is a term used to describe stimulants that are drugs that improve energy, alertness and mood. They may boost self-confidence and can enhance libido. They work by speeding up the rate at which messages are transmitted and received by the brain, and also the central nerve system (CNS).

The high produced by uppers is energizing, but it’s results from an underlying process that places enormous pressure to the body. Uppers can increase cardiovascular and respiratory functions to dangerous levels that could overwhelm the body. If you’ve ever experienced the adrenaline rush in the past you probably felt shaken and weak or dizzy after it was over. It’s similar to the feeling people who take stimulants experience when a stimulant has finished its work. Depression and fatigue occur and the users search for additional uppers to avoid what’s called”crash. “crash”.

Legal stimulants, such coffee, or ADHD medication, are useful in increasing focus and concentration. But, if you take too much and the result of excessive stimulation is that it could result in cardiac discomfort like hypertension and irregular heart beats, failure, or even a stroke. This is more likely when you make use of illict stimulants. They are extremely potent and do not have any safe levels of usage.

Commonly abused uppers include:

  • Adderall
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy (MDMA)
  • Methamphetamine
  • Ritalin

Related reading: Does Adderall Damage Your Heart?

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What Are Downers?

At the other end of the drug’s side effect spectrum are the downers. The term is a slang word that describes CNS depressants, which are the kinds of drugs that cause an sedative effect through slowing down the communication and received by Central Nervous System and the brain. They cause people to feel relaxed and drowsy, and are generally efficient in reducing feelings of discomfort. The natural opposites of highers and downers lower concentration and alertness.

Legal sedatives can be helpful in the treatment of epilepsy, anxiety and insomnia, but they can be dangerous if misused. Drugs that are illegally sedatives, such as narcotics are not suitable for use in any amount and are known for being extremely addictive.

Depressants can slow the central nervous system’s processes, like respiration and heart rate. This can lead to extremely low levels of oxygen in your body and lead to condition known as a coma. The lack of oxygen is the main risk when using downers. If a high dose is taken, potential consequences could be an overdose and even death.

Commonly abused downers include:

  • Alcohol
  • Benzos (like Xanax or Klonopin)
  • Heroin and Fentanyl
  • Prescription Opiates (like Oxycodone, Vicodin, etc.)

Mixing Uppers and Downers

In the world of substance abuse, drug users may refer to the combination of stimulants and depressants as a “speedball”. While this term was initially reserved for combinations of heroin and cocaine or methamphetamine, it may now be used to refer to other combinations of drugs. As “study drugs” have become more popular across college campuses, “pharmaceutical speedballs” have become attractive to less experienced drugs users. This combination frequently includes amphetamine-drugs like Adderall and Xanax or prescription opioids. And of course, the most accessible combination of uppers and downers is the mix of alcohol and caffeinein drinks like Red Bull and Vodka or Four Lokos. 

Any of these combinations of substances is dangerous because the opposing effects of the drugs make it harder to recognize impending harm. When a user combines cocaine and heroin, for example, the energizing effect of the cocaine may prevent them from recognizing that they are close to overdose and that consuming more downers may put them over the edge. The same is true of caffeine when a drinker is close to alcohol poisoning.  

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse and want to know more about how All In Solutions treatment programs can help, reach out today to speak to a friendly addiction specialist.

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