Stimulants act on the central nervous system in the body and increase alertness in people that use them. They can also increase cognitive function. Stimulants can be prescribed legally, or they can be illicit drugs like cocaine. The effects of illicit stimulants and legal stimulants, however, are often similar.

Prescription Stimulants

The molecular differences in these drugs are apparent, but they cause similar effects across the board. Prescriptions for legal stimulants are often given to patients depending on the potency needed and the duration of time the drug will be used.

  • Adderall – This drug was approved for medical use in the 1960s and has since become the most prescribed stimulant in the United States.
  • Dexedrine – This drug came onto the market in the late 1970s. It was used by the United States Air Force to keep Gulf War pilots awake during World War II.
  • Ritalin – Hyperactive children are often prescribed Ritalin. The drug was approved in 1955 for this reason, differing from Dexedrine and Adderall by being methylphenidate. These are similar to amphetamines, but their molecular structure is different.
  • Concerta – This is relatively new, approved in the year 2000 as a treatment option for ADHD. It is methylphenidate, but it has a different strength and the effects last for a different duration than Ritalin.
  • Desoxyn – This prescription methamphetamine was brought to the market in 1947 as the first medication to help manage obesity and ADHD.
  • Ephedrine – This is used as a suppressant for appetites as well as a bronchodilator to help people with asthma. It’s available as an over the counter medication and is often used in illegal meth labs.
  • Illicit substances – Crack, cocaine, and meth must always make a list when talking about stimulants. They have effects that are similar to prescription stimulants, but they give users a more intense high that lasts for a short period than prescriptions.

The Effects of Stimulants

Stimulants can cause the brain to become flooded with dopamine, which is the chemical responsible for causing the feeling of pleasure in the brain and body. By using stimulants regularly, the brain becomes dependent on the substance and stops producing its own supply of dopamine. This makes users turn to the drug more often, as they are not getting any dopamine without the substance. Other than stopping dopamine from being produced naturally by the brain, stimulants also produce other effects, including:

–    Increased energy

–    Talkativeness

–    Increased alertness

–    Decreased appetite

–    Feelings of euphoria

The Problem with Stimulants

Each year, more than 900,000 people in the United States abuse stimulants – most of these are prescriptions. Students and athletes have been known to use them to increase school performance or performance in sports. Once addiction develops, stimulants can become the main priority in the user’s life. The person may ignore issues and consequences to partake in the drug. They may even ignore their own health and continue using the drug. Dopamine causes people to use stimulants over and over again, returning to the drug that has caused issues in life and negative consequences.

More than 1.2 million United States citizens 12 or overuse prescription stimulants each year. This is a large number of preteens, teenagers, and young adults that are at risk of developing an addiction to stimulants. Nearly 40 percent of emergency room visits in 2011 were due to mixing stimulants with alcohol. In the year 2012 alone, there were nearly 360,000 people admitted to a rehabilitation center to get help for their stimulant addiction, whether it was illicit or a prescription.