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Stimulants are drugs that increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and produce a sense of euphoria or the feeling of being more awake. Stimulants can be used as recreational drugs or therapeutic drugs to increase alertness. They are also used and sometimes abused to boost endurance and productivity as well as to suppress appetite. Examples of common stimulants include caffeine, amphetamines, cocaine, Ritalin and ecstasy.

Stimulants is a name given to several groups of drugs that tend to increase alertness and physical activity. The groups include pharmaceuticals such as amphetamines and the street drugs commonly called "uppers" or "speed," and cocaine. The more widely abused stimulants are amphetamines and cocaine. Cocaine has limited commercial use and its sale and possession are strictly controlled. Amphetamines are sometimes prescribed by physicians, and their availability makes them prime candidates for misuse.

Used properly, amphetamines increase alertness and physical ability. They are often prescribed to counter the effects of narcolepsy, a rare disorder marked by episodes of uncontrollable sleep, and to help children with minimal brain dysfunction.

Amphetamines increase the heart and respiration rates, increase blood pressure, dilate the pupils of the eyes, and decrease appetite. Other side effects include anxiety, blurred vision, sleeplessness, and dizziness. Abuse of amphetamines can cause irregular heartbeat and even physical collapse. A common form of abuse of amphetamines is by people who use them to counter the effects of sleeping pills (barbiturates) taken the night before. This roller coaster effect is damaging to the body.

While amphetamine users may feel a temporary boost in self-confidence and power, the abuse of the drug can lead to delusions, hallucinations, and a feeling of paranoia. These feelings can cause a person to act in bizarre fashion, even violently. In most people, these effects disappear when they stop using the drug.

Amphetamines are stolen or acquired through scams involving pharmacists or physicians who are duped into writing prescriptions for the drugs. These illegally acquired drugs are either sold as is or reduced to yellowish crystals that can be ingested in a number of ways, including sniffing and by injection.

Another means of illegal sale of amphetamines involves "look-alike" drugs produced in illicit laboratories. One danger in these look-alikes is that the potency may vary from batch to batch. A person accustomed to using a weak look-alike may unwittingly suffer an overdose taking the same volume of a stronger look-alike.

Symptoms Amphetamines are psychologically addictive. Users become dependent on the drug to avoid the "down" feeling they often experience when the drug's effect wears off. This dependence can lead a user to turn to stronger stimulants such as cocaine, or to larger doses of amphetamines to maintain a "high". People who abruptly stop using amphetamines often experience the physical signs of addiction, such as fatigue, long periods of sleep, irritability, and depression. How severe and prolonged these withdrawal symptoms are depends on the degree of abuse.

That boost we get from that morning cup of coffee is the result of the caffeine that naturally occurs in coffee. Caffeine is a common stimulant and is found not only in coffee and tea, but also in soft drinks and other foods. It can also be bought over-the-counter in tablet form. Too much caffeine can cause anxiousness, headaches, and the "jitters." Caffeine is also addictive and a person who abruptly stops drinking coffee may experience withdrawal symptoms.



Main article: Cocaine

Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca shrub, which grows in the mountain regions of South American countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. In Europe and North America, the most common form of cocaine is a white crystalline powder. Most users insufflate it intranasally.

Crack cocaine is a smokeable form of cocaine. It is usually smoked in a pipe, glass tube, or foil. Cocaine and crack are powerful, but short-acting stimulant drugs. Crack in particular has strong but short-lived effects. Both drugs tend to make users feel more alert and energetic. Many users say that they feel very confident and physically strong. Common effects include dry mouth, sweating, loss of appetite, and increased heart and pulse rates. Excessive doses can cause death from respiratory failure or heart failure.


Main article: Caffeine

Caffeine is a drug that is found in tea, chocolate, coffee, many soft drinks particularly energy drinks, and cocoa. There is no law prohibiting the sale of any of these products in most countries. Caffeine stimulates the body, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, and alertness, making some people feel better and able to concentrate. Caffeine is a diuretic. Some people have suggested that children that consume a lot of caffeine may become hyperactive even after the caffeine has been metabolized.


Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is an illegally-manufactured drug that comes either in tablet or capsule form (known as ecstasy), as a powder or crystal. Stimulant effects of MDMA include increased blood pressure and heart rate, loss of appetite, rapid sweating, and a dry mouth and throat. It is unusual for an ecstasy pill to contain only MDMA; they often contain amounts of other drugs which may include any of a wide range of substances such as MDA, MDEA, MDBD, PCP, DXM, PMA, Ketamine, Caffeine, Amphetamine, Methamphetamine, Ephedrine, Pseudoephedrine, Aspirin, Paracetamol, Fentanyl and, in a small number of cases, Heroin, Cocaine, Mescaline, DOB, or LSD . In some cases the substance sold as ecstasy may not contain MDMA at is measured in mm/hg.


Nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae), predominantly in tobacco, and in lower quantities in tomato, potato, eggplant (aubergine), and green pepper. Nicotine alkaloids are also found in the leaves of the coca plant. Nicotine constitutes 0.3 to 5% of the tobacco plant by dry weight, with biosynthesis taking place in the roots, and accumulates in the leaves. It is a potent nerve poison and is included in many insecticides.

In lower concentrations, the substance is a stimulant and is one of the main factors responsible for the dependence-forming properties of tobacco smoking. Although pure nicotine is noncarcinogenic, its presence may inhibit the body's ability to cull aberrant cells.


Main article: Antidepressant

Antidepressants are not considered stimulants, as they do not act directly on the sympathetic nervous system and generally do not produce an immediate effect on mood. A possible exception is bupropion (Wellbutrin), whose chemical and pharmacological properties are similar to those of amphetamines.


Recently, there have been improvements in the area of stimulant pharmacology, producing a class of chemicals known as eugeroics, or good arousal. These stimulants tend to increase alertness without the peripheral (body) effects or addiction/tolerance/abuse potential of the traditional stimulants. They have minimal effect on sleep structure, and do not cause rebound hypersomnolence or "come down" effects. Currently, there are two stimulants in this class being used: modafinil and adrafinil, marketed as Provigil and Olmifon, respectively.

In Russia, Carphedon is sold as a general stimulant under the brand name Phenotropil.

See also

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