Analyzing the Benefits and Risks of Stimulant Use

Last updated: January 2023

Most people living with narcolepsy are well acquainted with this word: stimulants.

Known under countless other names (amphetamines, methylphenidate, Ritalin, modafinil, Adderall, and more), every individual’s reaction is unpredictable, and every experience is distinct. There is no doubt that everyone’s body reacts in its own way to any drug imposed upon it, but I ask you to put this aside and consider the following question.

What would happen if we assessed the effects of stimulants in a purely objective and removed manner?

What are the benefits of stimulants?

Reduced daytime sleepiness and temporary energy boost

It is undeniable that the reduction of daytime sleepiness and debilitating fatigue has, most probably, changed countless lives. Having a small boost of energy, even if only for a few hours, makes a significant difference in day-to-day life. The factor of reducing 1 of the main aggravating symptoms is, undoubtedly, the main selling point. For many patients, the desirability to eradicate the aforementioned is alone the driving force behind their decision to readily embrace this treatment.1

Enhanced focus

A significant amount of people have recounted their first ever experience with stimulants being like no other. To feel a surge of blood rushing in your veins, compelling your body to move and your brain to think 1 million things at once? You can finally focus on your work and become able to do a task that would have normally taken you 2 hours, and suddenly you are finished in 30 minutes! Incredible!

Lifestyle improvements

The fear of being in public is no longer a factor. Having the ability to leave the house free of worries is something that not many will ever endure. Stimulants can give the ability to finally have the smallest chance at a normal social life without having to suffer the humiliation of being physically present in family gatherings, yet mentally you can’t be found.

Improvement in relationships

Difficulty in most relationships is more than a possibility for someone with narcolepsy. It is almost an expectation due to the inability of those in the close circle to ever understand. Stimulants permit more alertness during gatherings and conversations. It contributes to the underrated gift of being present.

Positive impact on mental health

A major cause for depression and isolation is the frustration of not having the ability to control your own body, something which most take for granted. Stimulants having a positive impact on the other factors can improve mental health also.

Risks of stimulant use

Impact on sleep

Whilst stimulants can dramatically improve daytime sleepiness, understandably, this means that there is the likelihood that this effect can carry over into the nighttime. Without a form of counteraction, this can lead to episodes of insomnia and/or disrupted nighttime sleep.

Decrease in appetite

Appetite suppression is a side effect of continuous stimulant usage.

Risk of dependence

There is a common misconception that people with narcolepsy are less likely to become dependent on stimulants than people without narcolepsy. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. Addiction is just as prevalent in anyone taking stimulants.2

Impact on life

Narcolepsy can have a negative impact on life, but so can stimulants. Misuse of the drugs can lead to an increase in aggressiveness, manic behaviour, and paranoia.3

All of these can have great effects on decision-making, overreaction to situations, and handling relationships.

Are there long-term impacts?

There is still so much unknown about the impact of continued stimulant use, especially when speaking of the long-term effects. Side effects that are known, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, and abnormal heart rhythm, are some which could very well have consequences that have not yet been fully explored.3

In conclusion, the decision to take stimulants is exclusively a personal one, but one that should not be taken lightly.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Narcolepsy.Sleep-Disorders.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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