Drug Use

What are stimulants?

What are stimulants?

Stimulant drugs are a class of psychoactive drug that provides temporary improvements in physical or mental functioning, thus elevating mood and increasing feelings of wellbeing, energy and alertness. Stimulants are often called uppers. Examples of stimulant drugs include cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, nicotine and ecstasy.

Stimulants are widely used as both recreational and prescription drugs. Note that amphetamines, a common stimulant drug, are prescribed and produced, and sold illegally. A healthcare provider may prescribe a stimulant drug to treat narcolepsy, promote weight loss, or treat ADHD and clinical depression. Over time, stimulant drug abuse disrupts the functioning of the brain’s dopamine system and eventually dampens the user's ability to feel any pleasure at all.

Types of stimulants

Illicit stimulants (street drugs)

  • Cocaine or coke

  • Ecstasy

  • Methamphetamines (an amphetamine that is usually smoked)

  • Illegally sold or manufactured amphetamines

Over-the-counter and prescription stimulants

  • Adderall

  • Ritalin

  • Concerta

  • Dexedrine

  • Dextroamphetamine (used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD)

Stimulant abuse and addiction

Stimulants are abused in several ways, depending on the type. Stimulant drugs can be swallowed in pill form, snorted as a powder, injected with a needle or syringe, or heated into crystal form and smoked. Injected or smoked stimulants reach the brain faster and therefore produce the most intense highs. Snorting or swallowing stimulants produces a high that is less intense but longer lasting.

Often, chronic stimulant abusers will try to compensate for diminishing highs by taking more and more stimulants to experience the same initial pleasure. This can result in increased dependence and addiction. Stimulants can be fatal, especially when taken in large doses or when mixed with other substances.

How stimulants affect users

Desired effects of stimulants

  • Enhanced alertness
  • Wakefulness and endurance
  • Increased productivity, motivation and arousal

Short-term side effects of stimulants

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
  • Other cardiovascular irregularities that may include heart attack or complete heart failure
  • Hyperactivity
  • Weight loss
  • Cravings
  • Nausea
  • Muscle spasms

Overdosing on stimulants can lead to heart problems, strokes, convulsions, and, if not treated immediately, death.

Long-term effects of stimulant drug abuse

  • Addiction
  • Severe dental problems
  • Delusions
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Anorexia
  • Problems thinking
  • Aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

Long-term use of stimulants damages the central nervous system, disrupts one's functioning, and has multiple negative health consequences. Unfortunately, even when used for medical use, amphetamines and other stimulants, because they are highly addictive, can result in the drug user becoming addicted. It's critical that you or your loved one seek drug treatment if you think you have substance use disorder. For help overcoming stimulant addiction, please explore Caron’s programs or contact us.

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