What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants (also often referred to as psychostimulants or colloquially as uppers) is an overarching term that covers many drugs including those that increase activity of the central nervous system and the body, drugs that are pleasurable and invigorating, or drugs that have sympathomimetic effects.

Examples of Stimulants

  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®)
  • Dextroamphetamine/Amphetamine combination product (Adderall®)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®).
  • Methamphetamine (including crystal meth).
  • Cocaine (including crack cocaine).

Effects of Stimulants

All stimulants work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, movement and attention. When taken in ways other than those prescribed, prescription stimulants can increase dopamine in a rapid and highly-amplified way which, in turn, can disrupt normal communication between brain cells.

Stimulants produce a feeling of exhilaration, enhance self-esteem, improve mental and physical performance, increase activity, reduce appetite and extend wakefulness. Stimulant effects can range from short-term energy boosts to long-term brain changes and/or organ system injury. The harm may be long-lasting in extreme cases, but any amount of stimulant abuse can cause damage to the user.

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