How do stimulants work?

Stimulants are sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat conditions such as asthma, respiratory problems, obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and sleep disorders like narcolepsy. This class of drug is often abused for its ability to produce euphoric effects or to counteract sluggish feelings induced by tranquilizers or alcohol.

Why do teens abuse them?

Teens abuse stimulants to feel alert, focused and energetic, to manage course work or final exams, or to lose weight.

At BHS, 12% of all seniors admitted to abusing amphetamines not prescribed to them. Reasons ranged from self-medication and weight loss to study aids and recreational use – the sustained “high” from stimulants allows students to party longer.

Effects might include

  • Restlessness, anxiety
  • Delusions, hostility, aggression, panic
  • Suicidal or homicidal tendencies
  • Paranoia, often accompanied by auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Dilated pupils
  • Decreased appetite, vomiting, abdominal cramps
  • Loss of coordination, tremors, collapse
  • Increase blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates, chest pain
  • Dizziness, headache
  • Flushed skin, excessive sweating
  • Overdose: high fever, convulsions, heart failure
  • Withdrawal symptoms include depression, sleep disturbance, fatigue and apathy

Common stimulants

Drug Uses Commercial and street names


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Strong stimulant drugs that speed up the central nervous system
Biphetamine, Dexedrine, Adderall; bennies, black beauties, crosses, hearts, LA turnaround, speed, truck drivers, uppers


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Amphetamine-like drugs that affect the central nervous system

Concerta, Ritalin; JIF, MPH, R-ball, Skippy, the smart drug, vitamin R