Prescription Stimulants

Somewhat overshadowed by the opioid crisis, abuse of prescription stimulants has risen dramatically since as far back as the 1990s. They were once widely used as a weight loss aid to treat obesity, but due to their addictive properties, prescription stimulants are rarely used for that purpose today.

Generally, prescription stimulants are used to treat some psychological disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and physical disorders such as narcolepsy.

What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants are psychoactive drugs that affect the central nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. ‘Stimulant’ is an umbrella term for a wide variety of substances, including caffeine, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine, and pharmaceutical medications such as Ritalin. They work by enhancing the effects of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, resulting in increased alertness, attention and energy. Physically, they increase blood pressure, and respiratory function, and can produce feelings of euphoria.


Types of Stimulants:

Although stimulants are categorically devices, the most commonly prescribed medications are Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine), Ritalin and Concerta (methylphenidate), Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) and Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine).

How Addiction Occurs?

The brain chemical that is prompted by stimulants is dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, movement and attention. When the dosage is modified, the resulting feelings of pleasure can quickly become addicting. They can also be abused in order to enhance mental performance or suppress appetite.

Who is most at risk?

Teenagers, young adults and children are prescribed more stimulant drugs than any other age group. Interestingly, this also raises concerns around possible overdiagnosis and inappropriate prescription of ADHD medications. These drugs are often known as “study drugs” and can be misused among teens and youngsters when seeking to increase focus and concentration.

Stimulant drugs may also appeal to people with eating disorders, food addiction or problems with obesity. This is because of their appetite-suppressant and energy-releasing effects.

Stimulant Overdose

“Overamping” is a term used to describe what is typically an overdose of stimulants. While overdosing on opioids generally has defined symptoms, an overdose of stimulants can be far more complex. Not only can it occur from taking too much of the drug, but can be compounded by lack of sleep, dehydration, or mixing the drugs with other substances such as alcohol.

The physical effects can include but are not limited to: hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, overactive reflexes, muscle pains, rapid breathing, increased body temperature, tremors, seizures, or convulsions. Stimulant psychosis describes the mental disturbance caused by an overdose of stimulants and can include paranoia, anger, hallucinations, extreme agitation and catatonia.

Preventive Measures

Prescription medication can be used safely, but it is important to always take the medication under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Always ensure that you disclose any other medications you are taking to your doctor. This should include illicit substances. It is also important to note the following: 

  • Do not exceed the recommended dosage
  • Do not abruptly stop the medication if not directed to do so
  • Do not take the medication in a manner that has not been directed
  • Do not use someone else’s medication, even if you have similar symptoms. 

Treatment for Prescription Stimulants

It is important to consult with a physician before abruptly stopping the use of any prescription medications.  Long-term treatment will require additional assistance and support, and an addiction professional can assist in formulating a plan to achieve the best possible outcomes. Inpatient rehabilitation is an option, but outpatient treatments can also yield successful results.

Recovery852 assists individuals and families struggling with addiction and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Our primary goal is to help clients break free from harmful behaviours and to shift from a life of chaos, conflict, and crisis to recovery and wellness. Contact us now.