Drugwise: Growing Up Straight in a Chemical Culture
 Author:   Jim Parker
Publisher:   Do It Now Foundation

 Publication Date:

  September 2003

 Catalog No:



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 popular?

A main reason is that amphetamines suck you in and don't let you out without a fight. Besides blocking appetite and fatigue, they also create feelings of alertness and confidence--which disappear 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, or "crystal meth."

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.

Want to jump ahead (or go back) to a particular drug or drug category? Just click in the table below to go there, or use the links below to continue with the main text.

Alcohol Downers Speed
Cocaine Marijuana Hallucinogens
Inhalants Narcotics Other Do It Now Info

Continue with Chapter 3: Hallucinogens
Continue with Chapter 4: Locks & Keys
Go to Table of Contents


This is one in a series of publications on drugs, behavior, and health published by Do It Now Foundation. Check us out online at www.doitnow.org.