Stimulant medications – also known as “uppers” – include amphetamines (e.g., Adderall) and methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta). Prescription stimulant medications are classified as Schedule II drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They are commonly prescribed to treat people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and obesity. Other stimulant drugs include nicotine, caffeine, pseudoephedrine (found in allergy medicine), cocaine and methamphetamine.
Stimulants work by increasing the release of chemicals called monoamines in the brain. These include dopamine, which produces euphoria, and norepinephrine, which heightens physiological responses. Stimulants affect the central and peripheral nervous systems, temporarily enhancing and speeding up the processes of the mind and body. Teens often abuse stimulant drugs to boost their performance in school.
The abuse of stimulant drugs can produce effects such as:
- Feelings of increased energy and attention
- Increased respiration
- Fast and/or irregular heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Constriction of blood vessels
- Panic attacks
- Sleep difficulties (e.g., insomnia)
- Lack of appetite