What Are Stimulants

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.

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