Know the facts, connect with resources, and get one-on-one support to help you address known or suspected medicine abuse with your child.

    Stimulants are a class of drugs that enhance brain activity. Prescription stimulants were used historically to treat asthma, obesity, neurological disorders, and a variety of other ailments, before their potential for abuse and addiction became apparent.[1] Medically, they are now prescribed for only a few health conditions, including narcolepsy, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and short-term treatment of obesity.[2] They are sometimes dubbed “study drugs.”

    Commonly known medications include Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Concerta, ProCentra and Suprenza. See the table below for a more complete list of prescription sedatives and tranquilizers.

    Understand the risks

    It’s dangerous for anyone to take prescription medication not prescribed to them. Stimulants increase the amount of natural chemical messengers called norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. This in turn increases blood pressure and heart rate, constricts blood vessels, increases blood glucose, and increases breathing — which can cause rapid or irregular heartbeat, delirium, panic, psychosis, paranoia and heart failure. There is also the potential for cardiovascular failure (heart attack) or deadly seizures. Stimulants can be addictive in that individuals begin to use them compulsively.[2]

    Prevent misuse

    Stimulant abuse is often associated with stress and anxiety among young people. The following provide insight and guidance to help steer young people toward healthier stress management, and to avoid substance use.

    Stress and Drug Use: What Every Parent Should Know

    School stress can lead to teen drug use, but many parents with good intentions overlook the possibility. Learn the effects of stress and how to help your kid cope.
    Learn more

    School Stress: Are Study Drugs Helpful or Harmful?

    What happens when high-school and college kids (who don’t have ADHD) take prescription stimulants that are not prescribed to them? Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, weighs in.
    Learn more

    School Stress: 5 Myths About Stimulant Abuse

    Being a student today can be really tough, and often teens will feel tempted to “solve” their academic and social problems with prescription stimulants.
    Learn more

    Identify & address problem use

    If you suspect your child or a loved one is struggling with substance use or addiction, explore the following resources to learn where to start.

    Spot the Signs of Teen or Young Adult Substance Use

    A few simple tips and guidelines can go a long way toward spotting issues with drug use earlier rather than later.
    Learn more

    How Worried Should I Be About My Child’s Drug Use?

    So your kid has been using drugs or drinking. Is this just what kids do? Is it going to become a problem? Don’t leave the answers to chance.
    Learn more

    What Do I Do if My Child is Using Drugs?

    It can be scary if your child is using drugs or alcohol, and it's important to confront it. We're here to give you tips and strategies on how to do it.

    Table of commonly prescribed stimulants

    Generic Drug Composition Brand Name
    Methamphetamine Desoxyn
    Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine Adderall
    Benzphetamine Didrex, Recede
    Dextroamphetamine Dexedrine, ProCentra, Dextrostat
    Lisdexamfetamine Vyvanse
    Methylphenidate Concerta, Methylin, Ritalin, Daytrana
    Dexmethylphenidate Focalin, FocalinXR
    Phentermine Suprenza, Adipex-P
    Armodafinil Nuvigil
    Phendimetrazine Bontril

    Last Updated

    June 2020

    [1]Drugs of Abuse | A DEA Resource Guide: 2017 Edition. “Amphetamines.” Drug Enforcement Agency, 2017. Web. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=50. Accessed 26 Oct. 2018.
    [2]NIDA. “Prescription Stimulants.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 6 Jun. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants. Accessed 1 Nov. 2018.

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