Stimulant Medication

Stimulant medications are drugs that act on the central nervous system to induce a temporary improvement in one’s physical or mental abilities (or both).  An individual on stimulants will have enhanced locomotion, wakefulness and alertness.  Stimulants are referred to as “uppers” because they enhance mood as opposed to “downers” that do the opposite.   Stimulants are used throughout the world, both by prescription and over the counter.  Some are legal drugs while others are illicit and used for recreational purposes.

Stimulants act on both the central and peripheral nervous system and produce a wide variety of effects.  The most common effects include an increase in awareness, alertness, endurance, wakefulness, motivation and productivity.  It positively affects locomotion, arousal, blood pressure and heart rate.  People feel little need for sleep or food.  Many improve the mood and relieve anxiety and a few actually bring about feelings of euphoria.  Some effects are dose related.  For example, high doses of an amphetamine can cause dysthymia, anxiety, overactivity and heart failure when, in smaller doses, it causes anxiety relief, euthymia, euphoria, and reduced hyperactivity.

Stimulants have a chemical effect on the body in different ways.  It increases the activity of norepinephrine and/or dopamine by means of inhibition of the monoamine transporter; it causes adenosine receptor antagonism; it is an agonist to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor.

Stimulants have medical uses and are prescribed by doctors for a variety of reasons.  The therapeutic uses of stimulants include the following:
  • These drugs counteract lethargy and tiredness throughout a work day or when doing boring activities.
  • It lessens sleepiness and is used to help people who are suffering from the sleep disorder called narcolepsy.
  • Stimulant medication is used to treat obesity.  It promotes weight loss by decreasing a person’s appetite.
  • It maximizes focus and concentration on tasks and reduces restlessness and hyperactivity in people who suffer from ADD or ADHD.
  • It can be used as an off label use to treat people with refractory depression.  It works in cases of atypical depression or when other agents have failed.
  • It is used to relieve congestion in the nasal passages.
  • It can treat orthostatic hypotension or a syndrome known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
  • Some, such as bupropion and nicotine are used to help people quit smoking.
Amphetamines can be used to combat fatigue and for people to maintain a state of alertness for long periods of time, such as in military aviation and space flight.

Some can be used in patients on high doses of opioids such as cancer patients or patients with AIDS who might get too tired on the opioids.

To help relieve a headache.  For example, caffeine is used along with pain relievers for headache relief.

Some stimulant medications include the following:
  • Adderall (dextroamphetamine and amphetamine)
  • Nuvigil (armodafinil)
  • Strattera (atomoxetine)
  • Didrex (benzphetamine)
  • NoDoz, Vivarin (caffeine)
  • Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Tenuate (diethyproprion)
  • Intuitive (guanfacine)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate)
  • Provigil (modafinil)
  • Cylert (pemoline)
  • Bontril (phendimetrizine)
  • Fastin (phentermine)
  • Meridia (sibutramine)
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