Stimulants (ADHD)

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

What are stimulants?

Stimulants are medications or other compounds (including caffeine, cocaine and nicotine) that stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) in most individuals. Stimulants can be addictive and often are abused. Stimulants have similar effects as amphetamine. They stimulate the brain by increasing the level and effect of the natural neurotransmitters, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain (neurotransmitters are chemicals produced by nerves that are released and attach to other nearby nerves as a means of communication among nerves).

The effects of stimulants on the body may include

  • increased attention,
  • alertness, and
  • energy in many people without ADHD.

In people with ADHD, stimulants produce a paradoxical calming effect. This results in a reduction in hyperactivity and an improvement in attention span in many patients. Apart from form their effects on the brain they also increase blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, and open up breathing airways. Their exact mechanism of action in treating ADHD is unknown. This article will focus on those stimulants used to treat ADHD.

What are the medical uses for stimulants?

Approved medical uses for stimulants include

  • attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
  • narcolepsy, and
  • treatment resistant depression.
  • Some formulations are used for treating obesity.

Because of their addictive potential some stimulants are no longer recommended for treating asthma and other nervous system disorders.

What are examples, types, and names of stimulants used to treat ADHD?

Methylphenidate and or amphetamine derivatives are the two types of stimulants (phenethylamine and piperidine classes) used for treating ADHD. Medications used for treating ADHD are available only by prescription. There are no OTC (over-the-counter) stimulants approved for treating ADHD. The following is a list of many brand and generic names of stimulants used for treating ADHD in children and adults:

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/16/2016

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