How Do Stimulants Work?

How do stimulants work?

Stimulants are a class of drugs that work by targeting the central nervous system. They are mainly prescribed for:

Stimulants mainly accelerate brain activity by increasing the level of a chemical (catecholamine), which boosts alertness, energy, and attention. Moreover, they also produce the following effects in the body:

  • Increase heart rate
  • Raise blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Contract blood vessels
  • Dilate the pathways of the respiratory system

Stimulants are of two types:

  • Short-acting with its effect up to six hours
  • Intermediate and long-acting with effect up to 12-24 hours

Uses of stimulants

The amphetamine class of drugs is used for medical and recreational purposes. A combination of dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine, as well as pure dextroamphetamine and lisdexamfetamine is commonly used for the treatment of ADHD. 

Methamphetamine is widely trafficked and used illegally for recreational purposes. 

Athletes use many drugs belonging to the amphetamine class of drugs for physical performance enhancement. These drugs fall under bans by the world anti-doping agency (WADA).

Stimulants are mainly taken via the oral route. Recreational drugs are taken via the intramuscular, intravascular, or intranasal route.

Side effects of stimulants

Stimulants can induce a broad range of short-term and long-term adverse effects. The major factors that influence side effects include the user's body weight, the specific stimulant used, the dose of the agent taken, and tolerance. The side effects of stimulant include the following:

  • Decreased appetite 
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Headaches
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Psychosis
  • Itching
  • Paranoia (irrational suspicion and mistrust of others)
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Tachycardia (faster heartbeat)
  • Seizures
  • Arrhythmias (irregular or abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Abnormalities in the heart
  • Stroke
  • Sudden cardiac death

The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

Stimulant drugs


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