Overview of Stimulants

Common stimulants include cocaine, amphetamine (Adderall), methamphetamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone), and 3,4-Methylenedioxyyrovalerone (MDPV or “bath salts”). Caffeine is also classified as a stimulant (chocolate, coffee). Stimulants increase cognitive function and cause a state of alertness, attention, talkativeness, energy, and wellbeing. Stimulants can be taken orally, injected, smoked or eaten and cause a shorter more intense state of euphoria when smoked or injected.

Stimulant Use

Stimulants are used to treat attention deficit disorder, narcolepsy, and in some cases obesity, depression or asthma. Medically, cocaine is used as a local anesthetic. Clinical stimulants were once used more widely until their high potential for abuse was realized; now they are highly regulated and over the counter stimulants require a signature to purchase. Stimulants diverted from medical use are usually abused for their ability to enhance performance, both cognitive and physical, while illicit stimulants, usually made in labs, are used for their ability to create a ‘high.’


Effects of Stimulants

Stimulants stimulate the sympathetic nervous system and increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration (dilation of the bronchioles in the lungs). They can cause a dangerously high body temperature, especially if paired with physical exertion. Other serious effects include:

  • Seizures
  • Failure of breathing
  • Hyperthermia
  • Cardiovascular effects and/or failure
  • Death by overdose

Long-Term Effects

With repeated use of stimulants, the user may experience hostility, paranoia, or psychosis. Furthermore, addiction can occur with use of any stimulant; the brain cannot produce a normal amount of dopamine (a pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter) and the user may become dependent on the drug.



Withdrawal symptoms include agitation, abdominal cramps, nausea, severe emotional depression, exhaustion, insomnia, and anxiety.


Stimulants and Other Drugs

Due to their impact on blood pressure and heart rate, stimulants are dangerous when combined with other drugs, especially cold medicines (decongestants), antidepressants, and any other drugs that affect heart rhythm or may raise blood pressure.

Also see Cocaine and Prescription Drug Abuse Health Topics.


How We Can Help

If you think you or a friend may have an issue with stimulant drug abuse, call (530) 752-6334 or go to Health-e-messaging and log in to schedule an appointment with the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Intervention Services Coordinator. There is no charge for the confidential appointment.


Methamphetamine (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Cocaine (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Prescription Drug Abuse - What Are Stimulants? (National Institute on Drug Abuse)