Stimulants Are A Group of Psychoactive Drugs

Stimulants are a group of psychoactive drugs that include both prescription stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin, as well as illicit stimulants, like meth and cocaine.

Stimulants accelerate brain activity by increasing the level of a chemical, catecholamine, which boosts alertness, energy, and attention. They also cause:

  • Increased heart rate

  • Raised blood sugar and blood pressure

  • Contraction of blood vessels

  • Dilation of the pathways of the respiratory system

The U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies both types of stimulants as dangerous Schedule II drugs under the Controlled Substances Act because they have a high potential for drug abuse, potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.

What are Prescription Stimulants?

Wide Eyed Person | La Hacienda

Prescription stimulants are a group of drugs that are medically used to treat obesity, low blood pressure, narcolepsy, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Prescription stimulant drugs boost energy, increase alertness, and improve focus, attention, and concentration by increasing brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine affects the rewarding behavior process and norepinephrine affects blood flow, heart rate and breathing.

Common prescription stimulants include:

  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)

  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)

  • Adderall (dextroamphetamine-amphetamine)

Prescription stimulants can be taken orally as a liquid form, snorted, or injected (intravenous use). Drug use of prescription stimulants can create increase respiratory function and blood pressure, and feelings of euphoria.

Types of Prescription Stimulants

Assortment of Amphetamines | La Hacienda


In treatment of ADHD, Adderall helps to improve concentration, cognitive function, and focus. As a central nervous system stimulant it can have the very same effects on people who do not have ADHD.


Ritalin (methylphenidate) is similar to Adderall. They are both medications prescribed for use in drug treatment for conditions like ADHD.


Caffeine is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter stimulants used by many adults. It occurs in coffee, cocoa, chocolate, soft drinks, tea, and candy. While it has positive effects, heavy caffeine use can cause insomnia or anxiety.

Abuse of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Prescriptions

Adderall (amphetamines) is legally used to treat ADHD, but young adults and college students employ the easy-to-acquire prescription stimulant for other purposes.

Stimulant ADHD medications, informally renamed “study drugs,” are taken to help keep young people awake for long hours so that they can study or do other schoolwork. Some of the dangerous side effects of this type of use include:

  • Mood change like depression

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Changes in heart rate

  • Heart-related problems

Regarding such use, the National Institute on Drug Abuse offers a resource for teens and those working with teens, NIDA for Teens Drug Facts on Prescription Stimulant Medications (Amphetamines).

Illicit Stimulants

Assortment of Illegal Stimulants | La Hacienda

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, most methamphetamine used in the United States is produced and distributed illicitly.


A powerful, addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system, methamphetamine produces a high that both starts and fades quickly. Commonly called “meth,” its use often leads to addiction and destroys tissues, which can lead to brain damage.

A form of the drug with the appearance of glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks is called crystal meth.

Meth is chemically similar to amphetamine, the drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.


Cocaine is an illegal psychoactive drug made from the leaves of the coca tree. For centuries, the native populations of South America chewed the leaves for mild stimulation and to suppress hunger, thirst, pain, and fatigue.

Cocaine was isolated from coca in 1862 and in the late 19th century was mixed into patent medicines and popular beverages. Cocaine use in this fashion led to social problems with its use and in 1914 the Harrison Act banned all over-the-counter sale of cocaine in the U.S. In the 1970s inhaled cocaine emerged as a popular but expensive recreational drug.

The primary ingredient in cocaine is a hydrochloride salt in its powdered form. The most common form of ingestion is snorting the drug.

Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine is a version of cocaine that provides a brief, but extremely intense, high when smoked. It is made from powdered cocaine by combining it with water and usually sodium bicarbonate. Virtually unheard of prior to the mid-1980s, use of crack spread quickly across the country.

Effects of Stimulants

Both prescription stimulants and illicit stimulants will cause symptoms and side effects to occur. The most common stimulant effects include:

  • Euphoria

  • Wakefulness

  • Decreased appetite

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Nervousness

  • Talkativeness

  • Energy

  • Increased concentration

  • Affects blood vessels

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Increased blood pressure and pulse

How stimulants affect the user depend on a variety of variables. Some people experience mild symptoms when they take the drug, while others feel more intense effects. Some of the factors that play a role in how the drug will affect people:

  • weight, size, and overall health of the person taking it

  • if this is the first time the person takes the drug or they are “used to” it

  • how much and what dose of the drug was taken

  • the strength of the drug (the drug changes based on the batch you get).

  • whether the person takes it in combination with other drugs

Stimulant Drug Abuse

Stimulant addiction is common when people begin to use medications for purposes other than those for which they have been prescribed. When stimulant drugs are used appropriately, at low doses, and for a short period they are far less likely to result in stimulant addiction or substance abuse.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, long-term use of the prescription stimulants, even as prescribed by a doctor, can cause a person to develop a tolerance, which means that he or she needs high doses of the drug to get the desired effects.

Like all drugs, abuse of stimulants can be dangerous. When taking stimulants it’s important to watch for negative effects. Taking higher doses than recommended of prescription stimulants can lead to health issues such as irregular heartbeat, dangerously high body temperature, seizures, heart attack, and heart failure.

The most dangerous misapplication of prescription stimulants and illegal stimulants is when they are taken in combination with alcohol or other drugs. This is especially true of other stimulants including ecstasy or crystal methamphetamine. Taking many stimulants at one time, or taking stimulants along with alcohol, increases the chance for overdose.

The National Institutes of Health states that prescription stimulant misuse can often lead to a substance use disorder, resulting in continued abuse, which in severe cases takes the form of addiction, despite being used as prescribed by a doctor.

Signs of Stimulant Abuse

A prescription stimulant may be being abused if the user is:

  • Taking medicine in a way or dose other than prescribed

  • Taking someone else’s medicine

  • Taking medicine only for the effect it causes—to get high

Treatment at La Hacienda Treatment Center

La Hacienda Addiction Treatment Campus Photo | No Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

If you or someone you love is struggling with abuse of or addiction to prescription stimulants or illegal drugs, please contact La Hacienda Treatment Center. We can help you step back from addiction, work through withdrawal symptoms and start recovery.

For 50 years La Hacienda Treatment Center has been dedicated to serving the needs of individuals and their families in their journey to recovery from substance addiction. We help individuals become free from drugs and/or alcohol.

We have a dedicated and professional onsite team of board-certified addiction treatment doctors who meet daily with patients to provide medical advice. Licensed nurses provide around the clock medical care and dedicated clinicians plan and help patients carry out individualized treatment programs.

Our residential addiction treatment facility rests on 40 Hill Country acres situated on the North Fork of the Guadalupe River in Hunt, Texas, 90 miles from San Antonio and 120 miles from Austin.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a substance use disorder to stimulants or other substances, lease phone 800.749.6160 and let our admission specialists help you take the first step to a better tomorrow.

Meth Lab | La Hacienda


A powerful, highly addictive stimulant, methamphetamine produces a high that both starts and fades quickly. Its’ use often leads to addiction.

Two Lines of Cocaine Powder | La Hacienda


Cocaine was isolated from coca in 1862 and in the late 19th century was mixed into patent medicines and popular beverages. In the 1970s inhaled cocaine emerged as a popular but expensive recreational drug.

Crack Cocaine Crystals | La Hacienda


Crack cocaine is a smoked version of cocaine that provides a brief, but extremely intense, high. Virtually unheard of prior to the mid-1980s, use of crack spread quickly across the country.

Bottle of Ritalin | La Hacienda


Ritalin helps control levels of two chemicals, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which affect how well you concentrate.

Bottle of Adderall | La Hacienda


Adderall helps to improve concentration, mental abilities, and focus and is often prescribed to treat ADHD.