Everything You Need to Know About Prescription Stimulants | Ambrosia Drug & Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center
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Prescription Stimulants

Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that are commonly used as performance and memory enhancers, although they are associated with high amounts of recreational use. Stimulant medications are often prescribed to treat children, adolescents, or adults diagnosed with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The average onset age of ADHD is 7, but studies have shown ages 4-17 have been diagnosed and began using prescribed medications.

But people that do not have attention disorders experience a different effect from prescription stimulants. Drugs like Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, or even Modafinil create a speedy, energetic rush coupled with euphoria that many find appealing. This kind of drug is extremely popular among high-school and college age students who use it to achieve intense focus when studying as well as to stay awake while partying.

Adderall®, Ritalin®, Vyvanse®, Dextroamphetamine®, Concerta®, Focalin®
Uppers, Addy, Dexies, Christmas Trees, Speed
Orange or white capsule with mixed salt ball-like structure
Orally, snorted, injected
Methylphenidate: Concerta®, Methylin®, Ritalin®
Vitamin R, The Smart Drug, Skippy, JIF
Capsule, tablet, liquid
Orally, snorted, injected


Health Effects
For the individuals who have been diagnosed with an attention disorder, stimulants have a "focusing" effect. Treatment of ADHD with stimulants improves the individual's self-esteem, thinking ability, and social and family interactions.

Short-Term Effects of Amphetamines:

  • Increased alertness, attention, energy
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Narrowed blood vessels
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Opened-up breathing passages
  • Malnourishment

Long-Term Effects of Amphetamines:

  • Heart problems
  • Psychosis
  • Anger
  • Paranoia
  • Convulsions
  • Addiction

In high doses, dangerously high body temperature, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and seizures can be fatal. In combination with alcohol, stimulants mask the depressant action of alcohol, increasing the risk of alcohol overdose and may increase blood pressure and jitters.

How Stimulants Work

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, movement, and attention. When taken as directed, prescription stimulants produce slow, steady increases in dopamine in the brain. Scientists think that these gradual increases may help correct abnormal dopamine signaling that may occur in the brains of those who are diagnosed with ADHD.

Do Prescription Stimulants Make You Smarter?
Students who have not been diagnosed with an attention disorder, but use stimulants to get ahead in academics are in for a rude awakening. Stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse may promote wakefulness, but they do not improve a person's ability to learn.
In individuals who do not have ADHD, stimulants do not enhance thinking ability or grades. Research has shown that students who abuse prescription stimulants have lower GPA's than those who do not.

Do Stimulants Increase the Risk for Addiction?

Studies have found that there are no differences in later substance use for children with ADHD who received treatment and those that did not. In conclusion, treatment with ADHD medication appears not to affect (positively or negatively) an individual's risk of developing a substance use disorder later on in life.

How Are Amphetamines Used?

Amphetamines, such as Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Dexedrine, tolerance develops rapidly, so periods of extended use require larger doses increasingly to achieve the same effect. Amphetamines are typically swallowed orally or could be crushed and snorted, which poses a higher risk for health complications.

Regular use of amphetamines can result in various negative physical and mental health consequences, such as:

  • Malnourishment
  • Aggressive and paranoid hostility
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Heart Failure


The number of prescriptions for some of these medications has increased dramatically since the early 1990’s.

Studies have found that full-time college students, between the ages of 18 and 22, were twice as likely to abuse amphetamines than those of the same age not in college.

Individuals using amphetamines non-medically in college were also:

  • Three times more likely to have used marijuana in the past year
  • Eight times more likely to have used cocaine
  • Five times more likely to have used painkillers non-medically
  • 90% were reported binge drinkers and more than 50% were reported to be heavy drinkers

The continued abuse of amphetamines will render the user unable to sustain a lot of activity, causing the abuser to crash. The effects of amphetamines on the abuser’s personality are just as sheer as the physical effects, often causing deteriorations of the abuser’s behavior or appearance.


History of Amphetamines

Amphetamines first made an appearance in the late 1800’s, later being prescribed to treat conditions including obesity, depression, and hyperactivity. In the 1930’s, the media labeled amphetamines a “cure-all”, claiming they would solve problems from alcoholism to personality defects.

By the time the 1960’s arrived, amphetamines were reported as the cause of many heart attacks and strokes reported in young people. Stricter regulations were put in place for the manufacturing and distribution of amphetamines.

In the 1970’s, methamphetamine labs began sprouting in the Midwest, exacerbating the ‘speed’ problem in the United States with now more hazardous chemicals and effects.

One of the biggest dangers of amphetamines and related drugs is that new varieties are constantly created. The use of some drugs, such as crystal meth, continues to reach epidemic proportions.

ADHD medications have been listed as Schedule II drugs, meaning it is illegal to take them without a prescription especially since they are potentially addictive.


Withdrawals from prescription stimulants of any kind can cause many physical and mental issues that may not subside quickly and can sometimes last several months or longer. Various withdrawal symptoms are listed:

  • Powerful craving for more
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia and narcolepsy)
  • Intense hunger
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts


By increasing awareness and promoting additional research on prescription drug abuse, and when prescription stimulants are not abused, the proper medications can be part of a beneficial treatment plan for individuals with severe ADHD and other medical conditions.

Real, lasting recovery involves intensive therapeutic addiction treatments that tackle the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of addiction.

General Addiction Questions

What are some types of inhalants?

Types of inhalant abuse, huffing, or snorting includes:

  • Correction fluid
  • Dust-Off
  • Diethyl Chloride
  • Dry Erase Markers/Sharpies
  • Paint Thinner
  • Lighter Fluid
  • Freon
  • Redi Whip

Who regulates the sale of substances?

The Food and Drug Administration or FDA regulates the manufacture and sale of over-the-counter substances. The FDA requires all “new drugs” to obtain a New Drug Application to be recognized as a safe and efficiently controlled substance.

What Are the Costs of Treatment?

Treatment costs vary depending on what treatment center you go to, for how long you will be staying, and on what type of insurance you have if its a treatment center that takes your insurance.

Why Is the Internet So Addictive?

The internet offers an array of outlets. Whether it is playing a game or reading about an interest you can delve into anything; the world is literally at your fingertips.You can look up any interest or hobby and find similar people who share your passion. The internet also offers an outlet to the socially challenged, people who are inherently shy or have social anxiety can communicate with their peers or other people behind the security of their computer screen or smartphone. However, people often abuse this virtual world and prioritize their internet life over their real life.

Why Is Addiction a Disease?

Addiction is a disease because it is chronic and progressive.

How Can I Tell If a Person Is On Drugs?

When someone is using drugs they are often sweaty and clammy. They constantly look unwell and depending on the drug used, may nod out throughout the day. Depending on what they are using their pupils will be dilated or constricted. If they are using heroin they will most likely have a runny nose, have bruises on their body, and may have weight loss. They will also have different sleep patterns. For the individual, the drug becomes the most important thing to them, their hygiene will decrease and their personality can drastically change.


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