What are stimulants?

Stimulant drugs are a class of drugs that speed up messages travelling between the brain and body. They can make a person feel more awake, alert, confident or energetic.1

Stimulants include caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines and cocaine. Large doses can cause over-stimulation, resulting in anxiety, panic, seizures, headaches, stomach cramps, aggression and paranoia. Long-term use of strong stimulants can have adverse effects.

What do stimulants look like?

Stimulants can be in the form of tablets, capsules, powders, and small chunky clear crystals or a white or brownish crystal-like powder with a strong smell and bitter taste.

Other names – stimulant drugs

Uppers, beans, pep pills, speed, dexies, smart pills

How are they used?

Illicit stimulants are usually snorted, swallowed, smoked or injected. Prescribed stimulants are usually taken orally, and how long the effects last differs depending on the type. stimulant drugs


Effects of stimulants

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Stimulants affect everyone differently, based on:

  • size, weight and health
  • whether the person is used to taking it
  • whether other drugs are taken around the same time
  • the amount taken
  • the strength of the drug (varies from batch to batch with illegally produced drugs).

For lower doses, effects include:

  • euphoria
  • heightened feelings of wellbeing
  • increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • increased alertness
  • talkativeness
  • reduced appetite.1, 2

Higher doses may result in: 

  • anxiety
  • tension
  • increased body temperature
  • nausea
  • tremor
  • seizures
  • coma
  • death. 1, 2

Using stimulants with other drugs

The effects of taking stimulants with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:

  • Amphetamines + some antidepressants: elevated blood pressure, which can lead to irregular heartbeat, heart failure and stroke.3
  • Amphetamines + alcoholcannabis or benzodiazepines: the body is placed under a high degree of stress dealing with the conflicting effects of each drug, which can lead to an overdose.4
  • Ice + speed or ecstasy: enormous strain on the heart and other parts of the body, which can lead to stroke.5
  • Ice + alcohol, cannabis or benzodiazepines: enormous strain on the body, and more likely to overdose. The stimulant effects of ice may mask the effects of depressant drugs like benzodiazepines and can increase the risk of overdose.

Medical uses

Stimulants have been used in medicine for many conditions including obesitysleep disordersmood disordersimpulse control disordersasthmanasal congestion and, in case of cocaine, as local anesthetics.[24] Drugs used to treat obesity are called anorectics and generally include drugs that follow the general definition of a stimulant, but other drugs such as cannabinoid receptor antagonists also belong to this group.[25][26] Eugeroics are used in management of sleep disorders characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, such as narcolepsy, and include stimulants such as modafinil.[27][28] Stimulants are used in impulse control disorders such as ADHD[29] and off-label in mood disorders such as major depressive disorder to increase energy, focus and elevate mood.[30] Stimulants such as epinephrine,[31] theophylline and salbutamol[32] orally have been used to treat asthma, but inhaled adrenergic drugs are now preferred due to less systemic side effects. Pseudoephedrine is used to relieve nasal or sinus congestion caused by the common cold, sinusitis, hay fever and other respiratory allergies; it is also used to relieve ear congestion caused by ear inflammation or infection.[33][34]



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