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    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.

    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.

    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

    October 2023

    [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.

    Additional sources:
    National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

    Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

    U.S. National Library of Medicine