Top 7 Most Commonly Used Stimulants
Stimulants speed up the activity within a person's body and temporarily increase alertness and awareness, our ability to concentrate, and improve our mood. Most people think of stimulants in terms of illegal drugs, like speed, cocaine, and crystal meth. But there are many legal stimulants such as caffeine, prescription stimulants, and energy drinks that have become a common part of everyday life for millions of Americans. Each stimulant may be different, but what all stimulants have in common is that they artificially stimulate the body, and because of this, they can be very addictive.
There is also a different class of stimulants we are filling our body with that most of us are not even aware of. These are stimulant chemicals called "excitotoxins" that are found in many processed and refined foods. They are used heavily by food manufacturers to create addictions to many of our favorite foods, and keep us coming back for more. Learn more about stimulants and excitotoxins:
Let's take a look at the 7 most commonly used stimulants today and their impact on our bodies.
- Sports and soft drinks
- Sport "gels"
- Over-the-counter medications (pain relievers, cold medicines, etc.)
- Weight loss products/appetite suppressants
On product labels, if the caffeine is from natural sources, it will show the plant source of the caffeine (e.g. guarana). If the caffeine is synthetic, the label will simply state the amount of caffeine, often listed as "caffeine anhydrous." Compare the two images on the right to see which one contains caffeine from a plant source, and which one contains synthetic caffeine.
Because caffeine has no flavor, it can be removed from food and drinks with no change in taste (decaffeination), or added to any food or drink and be undetectable to our taste buds.
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant with a powerful following. Americans drink 400 million cups of coffee each day, making the US the world's largest coffee consumer. It has become symbolic of the energized and dynamic American worker. Millions of Americans claim they cannot function properly in the morning without their coffee fix, be it straight black coffee, or loaded with sugar, milk, or other ingredients such as imitation flavorings (vanilla being one of the most popular).
Coffee is also a cultural ritual enjoyed over conversation, or after a meal. Enjoying an occasional cup of coffee socially is not the problem. The problem exists where many people wake up in the morning and have such a strong addiction to coffee that they cannot begin their day, or do not feel their best without it. They need the shot of adrenalin to jump-start their body. Feelings of tiredness and grogginess are quickly replaced by feelings of energy and mental alertness as the bodies experience an artificially stimulated jolt to the central nervous system.
If you feel you need caffeine on a daily basis
to get you through the day, you have an addiction.
If you think caffeine is nothing like other addictive drugs and prescription stimulant drugs, think again. It functions using similar mechanisms to stimulate the brain. The effect of caffeine may be milder than these drugs, but the body is still artificially stimulated. This is why caffeine is addictive.
Coffee manufacturers and popular coffee house chains spend millions reassuring the public that drinking coffee is not bad for their health. Some even claim caffeine to be a seemingly miracle ingredient that can prevent disease. Specialty coffee drinks are the worst offenders, filled with all sorts of flavors, sugars, processed soy, and can contain upwards of 500 calories of sugar and fat, in addition to the caffeine. The negative effects are swept under the coffee table!
Caffeine & Our Health
Caffeine stimulates the cardio-respiratory and central nervous system, increasing blood pressure and affecting every cell, organ, and system in the body. It artificially speeds up the metabolism by 10-25%. It stimulates the overproduction of stomach juices, contributing to the formation of stomach ulcers. In some people (especially those drinking it for the first time), it stimulates symptoms including nervousness, irritability, moodiness, and jitters. Caffeine also causes heart palpitations, stomach irritation, dizziness, muscle tension, trembling, insomnia, diarrhea, lightheadedness, and/or headaches.
Over the long term, the constant and unnatural stimulation of our system creates stress levels that damage the resilience of the immune system. Let's take a look at some of the positive and negative effects that(1) caffeine has on our bodies:
- Cardiovascular Problems: Caffeine increases the heart rate, elevates blood pressure, and can contribute to the development of heart disease. Drinking both decaf and regular coffee may also increase cholesterol and homocysteine levels, increasing the risk of heart attack. Caffeine is linked to coronary vasospasms, causing 20% of all fatal heart attacks that kill otherwise perfectly healthy people.
- Stress & Anxiety: Caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones that can produce increased levels of anxiety, irritability, muscular tension and pain, indigestion, insomnia, and decreased immunity. It artificially stresses the body. Sleep is one of the most effective ways to fight anxiety, and drinking coffee in excess or too late in the day may prevent the body from using this natural stress-coping mechanism.
- Emotional Disturbances: Anxiety and irritability are well-known mood disturbances associated with caffeine consumption, but equally important are depression and attention disorders. Depression may occur as the stimulant effect of caffeine wear off. It may also appear as a temporary withdrawal symptom when caffeine is given up while the brain's chemistry readjusts and normalizes. Caffeine can decrease blood flow to the brain by as much as 30%.
- Blood Sugar Swings: Diabetics and hypoglycemics should avoid caffeine because it stimulates a temporary surge in blood sugar, followed by an overproduction of insulin, which causes a blood sugar crash within hours. This roller-coaster causes weight gain because insulin's message to the body is to store excess sugar as fat. Caffeine can impair insulin sensitivity, even in healthy individuals. ...Read more about insulin
- Gastrointestinal Problems: Many people experience a burning sensation in their stomach after drinking coffee because coffee increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid, which leads to an increased risk for ulcers. Coffee, including decaf, reduces pressure on the valves between the esophagus and the stomach so that the highly acidic contents of the stomach pass up to the esophagus. This can lead to heartburn and gastro-esophageal reflux disease.
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Caffeine inhibits the absorption of some essential nutrients and causes the urinary excretion of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and trace minerals.
- Male Health Problems: Milton Krisiloff, MD, has found that in the majority of cases, men can significantly reduce their risk for urinary and prostate problems by making dietary changes, which includes eliminating caffeine.
- Female Health Problems: Fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, infertility problems, miscarriage, low birth weight, and menopausal problems such as hot flashes are all exacerbated by caffeine consumption. Women on birth control pills are particularly at risk since they tend to have a decreased ability to detoxify caffeine.
- Osteoporosis: Caffeine can cause the excretion of calcium from the bones, contributing to osteoporosis and other bone conditions.
- Aging: Many people find that in their 40's, they can no longer tolerate the same level of caffeine consumption they could in their 20's and 30's. Production of DHEA, melatonin, and other vital hormones decline with age, but caffeine speeds up that decline. Caffeine has been shown to inhibit DNA repair and slow the ability of the liver to detoxify foreign toxins.
- Adrenal Exhaustion: Caffeine consumption over time can lead to adrenal exhaustion, which can leave you vulnerable to a variety of health disorders related to fatigue.
- Dehydration: Caffeine dehydrates the body, which contributes to aging of the skin and conditions such as cellulite.
- Weight Gain: Coffee is rarely taken black. Refined sugars, milk, chocolate, and other flavors are often added that are high in fat and calories. Coffee houses sell specialty drinks that can easily reach in excess of 400, 500, and even 600 calories just for one drink.
- Mutagens: When coffee beans are roasted, mutagens and genotoxins are created such as methylglyoxal. A genotoxin is a substance toxic to genes and chromosomes and plays a critical role in disease and aging.
- Alertness: Even in relatively low doses of 100 mg (8 ounces of ordinary brewed coffee), caffeine makes people feel more alert.
- Mood: At 200 mg, people report an improved sense of well-being, happiness, energy, alertness, and sociability.
- Concentration: Studies suggest that caffeine can help you perform a variety of cognitive tasks more quickly, such as recognizing visual patterns.
- Performance: Research shows that if 3-9 mg of caffeine per 1 kg of body weight is consumed 1 hour prior to exercise, it increases endurance.
- Reduced Muscle Pain: Caffeine may stimulate the release of B-endorphins and hormones to artificially depress the sensation of pain or discomfort.
- Faster Effects of Medication: Caffeine constricts blood vessels and helps the body absorb medications more quickly, which is why it is added to some pain medications such as Excedrin.
- Antioxidants & Phytonutrients: Antioxidants in natural sources of caffeine help to stabilize free radicals and stop them from doing damage. If a free radical is formed in a cell, it can damage the cell DNA. ...Read more about free radicals & antioxidants
- Dementia Prevention: Caffeine keeps the dopamine molecules active, possibly helping to prevent diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Harvard researchers conducted a study and found that men who drank 4 cups of caffeinated coffee each day are half as likely to develop Parkinson's disease compared to those who refrain from consuming caffeinated beverages.
- Asthma Relief: Drinking a moderate amount of caffeine can be therapeutic for people with asthma. It can be used to help prevent an asthmatic attack in emergency cases, but is not intended to replace medication.
Quitting A Caffeine Addiction
The occasional cup of coffee is not the problem. It is the addiction to the effects of caffeine, creating a need for it on a daily basis that is the issue.
Quitting a caffeine addiction may be a challenge, but the great news is that it is a short-term one. When we give up caffeine, the withdrawal symptoms are temporary and well worth the effort. Your highs should come from being naturally high on life, not from any artificially stimulated highs!
Caffeine can be given up slowly by steadily reducing the number of times you drink it, or given up cold-turkey. Following a good, solid plan that addresses the addiction, and the reason you engage in it in the first place, will help you kick the habit for good.
If you begin by decreasing caffeine consumption over time, you will reduce the withdrawal symptoms. Increasing other fluids and coffee alternatives, while decreasing caffeine, helps tremendously during this transition. Drink other fluids such as bottled or filtered water, fresh fruit or vegetables juices, and coffee alternatives.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
As we know, tobacco is highly addictive. The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that smoking is responsible for over 300,000 premature deaths each year, with more than 500,000 Americans dying from smoking-related illnesses. The vast majority of smokers are heavily addicted to smoking, and many try in vain to give up the habit.
People smoke for many reasons: To help them relax, to cope with tension and anxiety, and simply out of habit. Because it has become an ingrained part of the daily ritual, smoking becomes an automatic response when taking a break, relaxing with friends, watching TV, after eating a meal, and when having a glass of wine. Many people especially associate having a cigarette with alcohol.
The Effects of Smoking on the Body
Smoking negatively affects nearly every organ of the body.
- In the US alone, smoking cigarettes causes over 480,000 deaths each year.
- Of the people who smoke, 1/3 to 1/2 will die early from the habit by approximately 9 years, simply because they are smokers.
- Smoking a pack a day makes you twice as likely to die from lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease than non-smokers.
- About 80% of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are caused by smoking.
When we are addicted to one substance, we are typically attracted to other addictive substances. Studies have shown that smoking also creates a desire for both caffeine and sugar, and that twice as many smokers are found among coffee drinkers than non coffee drinkers. And vice versa, the typical SAD (Standard American Diet) contains addictive food additives, intensifying smoking addiction. This is why when we choose to adopt a healthy diet while quitting smoking, our chances of success are much higher because we are not engaging in an addictive behavior.
Let's take a look at how smoking impacts the body:(3)
- Reduced Oxygen Capacity: The lungs of a smoker have a greatly reduced surface area, and cannot take in oxygen as efficiently. Your body holds nearly 100,000 miles of blood vessels, and each time you inhale smoke, these blood vessels constrict and deprive your body of a much larger amount of fresh oxygen. The result is reduced oxygen circulation within the body. Check out the high vibrational living program to understand why a well-oxygenated body is critical to vibrant health.
The surface area of the lungs are greatly decreased by tissue degeneration from the effects of smoking (well-known to those suffering from emphysema). When the surface area of the lungs decreases, this can create a serious problem during strenuous exercise, which requires a larger exchange of gases over the surface of the lungs. The American Heart Association says that smoking 2 packs each day increases death from cardiovascular disease by 3 times.
The heat and tar in the smoke paralyzes the cilia in the lungs, which act as filters. When paralyzed, they can no longer filter properly and the carbon monoxide attaches to the hemoglobin in the blood, crowding out the oxygen. This is why smokers become oxygen-starved, as up to 20% of their red blood cells are filled with carbon monoxide.
- Premature Aging: Smoking prematurely ages the tissues of the face, especially around the nose and mouth.
- Increased Heart Rate: Nicotine can increase the heart rate by up to 25%, and multiply the amount of adrenalin in circulation as much as 4 times. Smoking a pack each day can maintain a constant adrenalin flow. Over time, this continual shot of adrenalin can wear out the adrenals and contribute to both adrenal and chronic fatigue.
By constricting the blood vessels while increasing the heart rate and decreasing oxygen, the heart has to work harder to pump the blood. It makes the blood more "sticky," activating the clogging mechanism, contributing to atherosclerotic build-up.
- Increased Risk Of Blood Clot: Women on birth control pills who smoke run a higher risk of developing hardening of the arteries, blood clots, and heart disease.
- Effect on Pregnancy & Fetal Health: Pregnant women seriously endanger the health of their unborn fetus when they smoke, and are at higher risk for early delivery, ectopic pregnancy, babies at risk of stillbirth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and orofacial clefts.
- Lower Bone Density: Women who smoke have lower bone density (weaker bones) after childbearing years and are at greater risk of broken bones.
- Increased Risk of Cataracts: Smoking increases your risk for cataracts and other degenerative eye conditions.
- Smoking & Cancer: Smoking increases your risk of developing cancer in almost every area of the body. The CDC estimates that smoking is responsible for 1 in 3 of every cancer.
Let's take a look at the following American Cancer Society statistics on the effects of second hand smoke (SHS):
- SHS contains 7,000 chemical compounds. More than 250 of these chemicals are known to be harmful, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer.
- There is a definitive link between SHS and lung cancer.
- Evidence suggests SHS is linked to lymphoma, leukemia, brain tumors in children, and cancers of the larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), nasal sinuses, brain, bladder, rectum, stomach, and breast in adults.
- SHS contains about 20 chemicals that, in high concentrations, cause breast cancer in rodents. In humans, chemicals from tobacco smoke reach breast tissue and can be found in breast milk. A report from the California EPA in 2005 concluded that the evidence regarding SHS and breast cancer is “consistent with a causal association” in younger women. This means that SHS acts as if it could be a cause of breast cancer in these women.
In the US, the costs of extra medical care, illness, and death caused by SHS are over $10 billion each year:
- SHS causes between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections (lung and bronchus) in children under 18 months of age, with 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations each year in the US.
- SHS causes an estimated 42,000 deaths from heart disease.
- SHS causes an estimated 3,400 deaths from lung cancer in adults.
- SHS causes worse asthma and asthma-related problems in up to 1 million asthmatic children.
Never Allow Cigarette Smoke In Your Home
The smoke from smokers especially pollutes air in enclosed spaced. The amount of carbon monoxide in the blood of a non-smoker doubles in a poorly ventilated area that fills with cigarette smoke.
- If you spend 8 hours in an office where smoking is permitted, you will inhale the equivalent of 3 low-tar cigarettes.
- If you spend 3 hours in a restaurant's non-smoking section while smokers sit in a smoking section, you will inhale the equivalent of 1 low-tar cigarette.
- If you spend 4 hours at a party where there are smokers, you will inhale the equivalent of 2 low-tar cigarettes.
More cadmium is released from the smoking end of the cigarette (or an idle cigarette) than is actually taken in by the smoker. Cadmium is related to bronchitis, emphysema, and high blood pressure.
Unless a person has a medical condition that can be worsened by consuming alcohol, they are under the legal drinking age, or they are abusing alcohol, having an occasional glass of wine or high quality beer from time to time does not qualify as an addiction. If you have a healthy and highly nutritious diet, then all the better to help your body quickly recover from any negative effects of the occasional drink. Do your body a favor and go one step further: Make it organic, which means you won't be drinking any pesticide residue!
Do You Have An Alcohol Addiction?
Some of us only drink socially, and others drink more often. Many do not realize their drinking habit is bordering on an addiction or that they are already addicted. The ability to easily drink more than others is an early symptom of alcoholism, and indicates a tolerance that can move into a dependence.
In this day and age of high-stress jobs and relationships, the cold and hard statistic is that if you drink, you have a 1 in 10 chance of living to become an alcoholic.
- Light drinking: 2-3 drinks per week or less.
- Moderate drinking: 1-2 drinks per day.
- Heavy drinking: 3 or more drinks per day.
- Hard drinking: Drinking hard and steady at any time throughout the day - either without any sign of being drunk, or to the point of drunkenness.
If a normally tense, highly strung, or nervous person regularly drinks alcohol to become "relaxed" at the end of their stressful day, that person is more likely to become alcohol dependent.
This quiz from Alcoholic's Anonymous can help us understand if alcohol has become a larger part of our life than we may have realized, and to a degree that it is no longer healthy. If you answer yes to 3 or more of these questions, then it may be time to address a potential problem:
- Do you drink to escape from problems or worries?
- Do you crave a drink at certain times of the day?
- Do you often drink alone?
- Do you drink to increase your self-confidence?
- Have you ever used alcohol as a medicine?
- Do you say "I've only had a couple of drinks" when you know you have had more?
- Do you look forward to drinking?
- Do you feel resentment towards those who question the amount you drink?
- Have you ever lost time from work or activities due to drinking?
- Has your drinking ever created problems in your relationships?
- Do you feel guilty after drinking?
- Do you drink to feel relaxed or to feel less tense?
The Effect of Alcohol on the Body
In small doses, alcohol makes us feel relaxed, less tense, and more self-confident by depressing the inhibitory centers in the brain. After several drinks, however, the central nervous system slows down and we become noticeably affected. We have slower reflexes, delayed reaction time, and have less control over our muscular responses. Critical thinking is also depressed.
Alcohol abuse kills not only people, but damages and destroys relationships and our quality of life. It can and does severely affect the lives of those who surround the alcohol sufferer. Billions of dollars are spent annually on health and medical care, car accidents, work loss, industrial injuries, suicide attempts, violent and non-violent crime, support groups, and social programs that are all related to alcohol abuse. The emotional toll on both the person and loved ones cannot be quantified.
Alcohol abuse is a part of 1 in 3 American families.
If you drink, you have a 1 in 10 chance of becoming an alcoholic.
Studies show that alcohol abusers die up to 16 years earlier than other people. This is because alcohol impairs the entire system, not just the liver. A healthy human liver takes about 1 hour to detoxify one shot of 100 proof liquor. It takes the body approximately a week to completely detoxify from a drunken fest.
- When we drink alcohol, it is broken down into toxic substances that damage our bodies at a cellular level.
- It destroys the cells in the brain (approximately 100,000 each time we drink an alcoholic beverage).
- It elevates blood pressure and stimulates cortisol release, causing sodium and water retention that further elevates the blood pressure.
- It stimulates the loss of potassium, which contributes to an irregular heartbeat.
- It has a diuretic effect, dehydrating the body and causing blood to thicken and clot.
- It damages heart muscle fibers, resulting in alcoholic cardiomyopathy, where the heart becomes dilated and unable to pump as efficiently.
- Over time with chronic alcohol abuse, organs such as the liver become permanently damaged. Normal liver cells are replaced by fibroid (scarred) tissue so that the liver can no longer function as it should.
- It can cause us to become irrational and experience extremes of emotion, ranging from euphoria to anger, happiness to sadness.
- Alcohol in very large doses can cause alcohol poisoning and cause us to lose consciousness. In severe cases, it can cause death as the cardiovascular and respiratory systems shut down.
- People who have between 1-3 drinks each day have a higher risk of developing oral cancer than non-drinkers.
- It damages the digestive organs, affecting the way the body assimilates the nutrients from food.
- It damages bone marrow.
- Prolonged, heavy drinking leads to lower sex drive, and in some men, impotency.
- Pregnant drinking women expose their unborn baby to risks of fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Abnormal sugar metabolism occurs in 70-90% of all alcoholics.
- Those who have an alcohol dependence are much more likely to eat a standard American diet of processed junk food, contributing to malnutrition, mineral deficiencies, and many types of chronic and autoimmune diseases.
You Are Not A Victim Of Your Past Environment
If one or both of your parents is an alcoholic, statistically you have a higher chance of becoming addicted to alcohol. But you are not a victim of the environment you are raised in. The opposite is true. On the contrary, becoming fully aware of your family history, of the negative personal experiences you may have suffered at the hands of those who are alcohol-dependent, and knowing about the health impact, you can make the decision right now to choose the path of not being a victim of your past environment. Instead, you have the choice to create a new environment where alcohol is no part of your game plan.
You are absolutely in control of your fate,
and you can choose to not be part of this statistic.
Chocolate comes from the seed of the cacao tree. When first extracted, cacao has a very bitter taste. Ancient civilizations such as the Aztecs, Mayans, and Omet in Mexico and Central America used the cacao beans and mixed them with various spices (usually chili powder, vanilla, or honey) to make delicious chocolate drinks. The cacao flowers were also used to treat fatigue, and the paste was used as an appetite stimulant. Cacao is high in potassium, iron, and calcium, as well as vitamins A, B, C, and D.
Unfortunately, this is not the chocolate of today. The chocolate that fills our grocery stores is commercially produced, and many have been stripped of all the nutrients found in the cacao bean. Many do not even contain cacao, but instead, contain a variety of artificial chemicals that mimic real chocolate. They also contain high amounts of sugar, fat, and trans fats. There is very little about today's chocolate that resembles the healthy treat consumed in older civilizations.
So, why is it that we crave chocolate? Because compounds such as theobromine(2) found in the chocolate stimulate the release of serotonin in our brain, which is what helps produce feelings of pleasure, and gives us a sense of comfort and relaxation. Theobromine is the alkaloid in cacao that is highly toxic to dogs. But we also crave chocolate because of other addictive ingredients in the chocolate (known as "excitotoxins") that manufacturers add to keep us coming back for more.
Good Chocolate vs. Bad Chocolate - Make the Right Choice
There is nothing wrong with an occasional piece of chocolate, just make it the healthy kind! Healthy chocolate is high in cacao, and is minimally processed with no unhealthy chemicals or ingredients. Chocolate high in cacao content is known as dark chocolate (as opposed to milk chocolate or white chocolate), and there is now a large selection of dark chocolate that contains wonderful ingredients. Even better, there are also brands of raw chocolate where none of the nutrients have been damaged by processing and high cooking temperatures.
Follow these tips for buying both awesome AND healthy chocolate:
- Choose high cacao content
Choose at least 70% cacao content. Look for the percentage on the front of the packaging.
- If possible, choose organic
Chocolate laced with pesticide residue just isn't healthy! But don't assume that just because chocolate is listed as organic, it is necessarily good for you. Some organic chocolates are filled with all sorts of undesirables, or a very high quantity of fat. Some even contain hydrogenated oils.
- If possible, choose raw
If possible, purchase raw (Righteously Raw Chocolates and Go Raw are two great examples of healthy, raw chocolate).
- Choose only healthy ingredients
Read the ingredient list carefully and choose chocolate that contains only healthy foods for ingredients. The fewer ingredients, the better. For example, the Go Raw chocolate in the picture contains only 3 ingredients: Raw organic cacao, raw organic agave nectar, and organic orange oil. You can't get much better than that..!
Healthy Ingredient Examples:
Cacao butter, cacao powder, cacao nibs, sea salt, nuts, honey, agave nectar, coconut, nut oils (e.g. coconut oil), vanilla bean, herbs, botanicals (e.g. lavender), essential oils...
Unhealthy Ingredient Examples:
Soy lecithin, natural flavor or color (unless it clearly states it comes from a whole food, e.g. paprika or strawberries), artificial flavor or color (e.g. yellow 6 or red 40 - these chemicals have been linked to health conditions), corn starch, sugar...
The Body Healer Protocol...
We typically take an energy drink when we need to feel "stimulated" or need to study for a test, or in general, want to feel mentally alert and awake. But similar to a caffeine addiction, some people are addicted to their effects and need to take them on a daily basis, or take them in an attempt to artificially rev up their metabolism when trying to lose weight.
Even if the ingredient list only contains organic and natural substances, energy drinks and bars still cause the body to become artificially stimulated because they are stimulants. Energy drinks can often contain multiple stimulants to increase their effects. If you drink energy drinks or take energy supplements on a regular basis, make sure you understand how a stimulant "stimulates" your body, and the long-term consequences you are setting yourself up for. Also understand that, over time, this chronic stimulation damages the health of the thyroid and adrenal glands..
The average 16 oz. can or bottle of energy drink can contain 13 teaspoons of sugar and the caffeine equivalent of 4 or more colas. Despite what flashy energy drink labels say, there is very little difference between a junk soda and an energy drink. In some cases, the energy drink is worse because most of them are glorified sodas containing an array of chemicals that your organs must then work harder to excrete.
The main difference between a soda and an energy drink is the use of stimulant that has been added. Popular ones include:
Taurine is an amino acid that is naturally produced by the human body. Your body creates taurine using the amino acids methionine and cysteine. It is also found naturally occurring in foods such as meat and seafood. But the version found in energy drinks is chemically manufactured, not the natural kind.
Extracted from the Paullinia Cupana plant native to South America, guarana is denser in caffeine than coffee beans. The guarana fruit contains 2.5-7% caffeine – several times more than coffee beans. It differs from caffeine in that it contains the molecules theobromine and theophylline,(2) but the effects are similar to that of caffeine.
- Yerba Mate
This herbal, earthy product gives you a mild energy buzz similar to caffeine, but without any of the negative and jittery side effects. Like many teas and coffees, it contains various antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals including quercetin, theobromine,(2) and theophylline. The "mateine" in yerba mate refers to the caffeine. In a food study, yerba mate was shown to restore insulin sensitivity in obese rats.
Panax Ginseng is an Asian plant with a fleshy root that clinical studies are now linking to improved thinking and learning ability, concentration, memory, and other mental functions. It has also been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce nervous tension. In a typical serving, it does not have the same negative side effects as caffeine, and yet can help improve our ability to focus and concentrate. It is often combined with caffeine in energy supplements to give an energy boost. The health concern lies in the combination of ingredients often mixed with ginseng, rather than the ginseng itself.
Amphetamines were once used as a weight loss treatment, but because of their addictive properties and negative side effects, they are much less commonly prescribed.
Common side effects include:
- Constriction of blood vessels
- Insomnia / restlessness
- Irregular heart beat / heart palpitations
- Agitation / aggression / hostility / irritability / nervousness
- Appetite loss
- Dry mouth
- Itching / picking / scratching
- Increased talkativeness / abrupt shifts in thought and speech that are difficult to comprehend
- Increased body temperatures / sweating
Higher doses can result in more amphetamines than their body can deal with, leading to “amphetamine psychosis" where paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and bizarre, aggressive, or violent behavior is experienced. These symptoms typically fade a few days after the person stops using amphetamines, but it takes the body take much longer to recover from the assault.
Common overdose symptoms include:
- Violent and aggressive behavior
- Loss of coordination
- Irregular breathing / tremors
- Blurred vision
From a prescription perspective, various amphetamines are prescribed to treat ADHD (see below). The potential side effects are the same. There is no "safe" level of amphetamine use. ANY dosage of the drug always carries some risk, including prescribed medications that produce unwanted side effects and addiction.
Amphetamine vs. Methamphetamine
Although very similar in in many ways, including the side effects experienced and the action on the body, they are not quite the same thing.
Methamphetamine (meth) breaks down into amphetamine when metabolized. This means that meth turns into amphetamine in the body, and is excreted as amphetamine. The main difference between methamphetamines and amphetamines comes in the way that these drugs are processed, and this changes the way they affect the body. Meth is "double methylated" instead of methylated once, which means it has a much stronger and quicker effect on the body.
Meth is in the same class as cocaine and is one of the most commonly used illegal amphetamines in the US. It first acts as a stimulant, but then begins to systematically destroy the body. It is associated with serious health conditions, including memory loss, aggression, psychotic behavior, and potential heart and brain damage as it destroys tissues within the brain. It is highly addictive, burning up the body’s resources and creating a devastating dependence that can only be relieved by taking more of the drug.
Withdrawal from short-term use of both amphetamines and meth can cause depression, fatigue, and hunger. Short-term users typically have slight symptoms that can last for several days, while long-term users may experience severe symptoms that can be overwhelming and last for several weeks. They may feel agitated and anxious, suicidal, sleep too much, and have intense and lucid dreams.
Common names of prescription stimulants include:
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta) - prescribed for ADHD, narcolepsy, depression
- Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall) - prescribed for ADHD, depression, obesity
- Dextrostat - prescribed for ADHD, narcolepsy
- Desoxyn - prescribed for ADHD, obesity
- ProCentra - prescribed for ADHD, narcolepsy
- Vyvanse - prescribed for ADHD
- Benzedrine - prescribed for ADHD, narcolepsy
Prescription stimulants work by increasing the effects of neurotransmitters called dopamine and norepinephrine. As these drugs are classed as amphetamines, their side effects are the same as for amphetamines (see above). They increase energy, attention, alertness, focus, and concentration, and can create feelings of euphoria. They also raise a person's blood pressure and heart rate.
Prescription stimulants can be very addictive, and when taken at high doses over a short period of time, can cause feelings of paranoia and aggressiveness.
Avoid Drugs For Depression, ADHD, & Weight Conditions
Prescription stimulants are never a healthy answer for depression, ADHD, or weight conditions. They are a band-aid solution that do not in any way address the root cause of the problem or help you recover from it. They only serve to provide your body with unhealthy side effects that often create secondary health issues worse than the one you are treating.
If you are ready to move away from prescription drugs, then you are in the right place. By taking a look at each area of your life and working to restore them to a state of balance, your need for prescription drugs will disappear.
Bring your body back into balance
The Body Healer Protocol
- Stimulants & addictions
- Top 7 most commonly used stimulants
- Quit your addiction!
- The Dirty Dozen: What they are & why you should avoid them
- Soda, pop, & energy drinks
- The standard American diet: Fast-track to sickness
- Additives & chemicals in our food
- What are processed & refined foods
- Why stress is a silent killer
- Get off the diet merry-go-round
- Is your diet healthy? See how it stacks up
- Healthy food choices for children
- Healthy food choices for pets
- (1) Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America's #1 Drug, by author Stephen Cherniske
- (2) Theobromine is the alkaloid in cacao that is highly toxic to dogs, and produces a stimulatory effect. Whereas caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, theobromine is a vasodilator, relaxing the smooth muscle in blood vessels to allow for better blood flow.
- (3) Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)