Stimulants are drugs that relieve mild depression, increase energy and activity. They are often referred to as uppers and fall into the categories of both street drugs and prescription medications. Commonly stimulant drugs include cocaine (coke, snow, crack), amphetamines (Desoxyn, Dexedrine), ephedrine, ecstasy (clarity, essence, doctor, Adam), phenmetrazine (Preludin), methylphenidate (Ritalin), and others (Cylert, Sanorex, Tenuate). Both illicit and prescription stimulant drugs hold a high potential for abuse, tolerance and dependency. 


Stimulants are used for many medical purposes. They are useful in treating a number of health conditions, including:

  • To increase energy and counteract lethargy and fatigue.
  • To treat narcolepsy and reduce sleepiness and to keep the person awake when necessary.
  • To treat obesity, decreasing appetite and promote weight loss.
  • To treat attention disorders, improve concentration and focus, and reduce restlessness and hyperactivity
  • To treat clinical depression, in particular, non-typical depression and treatment-resistant depression
  • To treat orthostatic hypotension and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
  • To relieve nasal congestion.
  • To aid in smoking cessation.
  • To counteract fatigue and maintain alertness for extended periods and critical operations in military aviation and space flight.
  • In cancer or AIDS patients, to offset sedative effects of opioids used long term at higher doses.
  • To relieve headache.

Stimulant drugs are also used for recreational purposes. Cocaine is a popular club drug as it helps the user stay awake for long hours, increasing their energy and creating other euphoric effects. ADHD prescription medications are another commonly abuse drug, especially among college students, earning its name as a “Study Drug” as it allows them to stay awake for long hours and cram for big tests.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Stimulant use varies according to the individual, the dose taken and the tolerance the individual has developed. Common signs and symptoms of recent stimulant use include:

  • A sense of euphoria or feeling “high”
  • A heightened sense of visual, auditory and taste perception
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Increased appetite
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Paranoid thinking

For those who have been using stimulant medications over a long period of time may experience some of the following long-term symptoms of use;

  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Poor performance at school or at work
  • Reduced number of friends and interests
  • Drug seeking behaviors
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Restlessness


Treating a stimulant addiction begins with weening the patient off the drug or replacing it with a prescription medication during the detoxification process. Drastically stopping the use of stimulant medications can result in the patient experiencing uncomfortable, even painful and life treating symptoms of withdrawal.

Stimulant addiction often creates extreme cravings that can cause relapse even years into recovery. This is why it is important for the patient to undergo counseling and therapy services to help them get to the root cause of their addiction and overcome it, along with developing the key tools needed to maintain their sobriety in their day to day lives.