- What are stimulants?
- What are examples, types, and names of stimulants used to treat ADHD?
- What are the side effects of stimulants used for treating ADHD?
- What drugs interact with stimulants used for treating ADHD?
- What formulations of stimulants are available for treating ADHD?
- Are stimulants safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
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:
- Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine)
- Adderall XR (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine)
- Adzenys XR-ODT (amphetamine)
- Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
- Zenzedi (dextroamphetamine)
- Dyanavel XR (amphetamine)
- Evekeo (amphetamine)
- Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)
- Desoxyn (methamphetamine)
- ProCentra (dextroamphetamine)
- Aptensio XR (methyphenidate)
- Ritalin (methylphenidate)
- Ritalin SR (methylphenidate)
- Ritalin LA (methylphenidate)
- Concerta (methylphenidate)
- Daytrana (methylphenidate)
- Metadate (methylphenidate)
- Metadate CD (methylphenidate)
- Metadate ER (methylphenidate)
- Methylin (methylphenidate)
- Quillivant XR (methylphenidate)
- QuilliChew ER (methylphenidate)
- Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
- Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate)
What are the side effects of stimulants used for treating ADHD?
Common side effects of stimulants used for ADHD management include:
Other side effects of stimulants medications for ADHD include:
- Dry mouth
- Emotional irritability
Serious side effects of stimulants used for treating ADHD include:
Latest Mental Health News
Daily Health News
What drugs interact with stimulants used for treating ADHD?
- Amphetamines should not be taken with monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor drugs including phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and Zyvox.
- Antacids may increase absorption of amphetamine salts and increase their effectiveness and side effects.
- The effects of stimulants on the CNS can be additive when used with other chemicals and medications that stimulate the CNS, such as caffeine (found in coffee, tea, or cola drinks), and pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine (found in many cough-and-cold preparations).
- The combination of stimulants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), for example, isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), tranylcypromine (Parnate), and procarbazine (Matulane), should not be taken with a stimulant since a hypertensive crisis (severely high blood pressure) may occur. Use of amphetamine within 14 days of using MAO inhibitor drugs should be avoided.
- The blood pressure lowering effects of medications used to treat hypertension may be reduced by stimulants. As a result, blood pressure should be monitored when starting or stopping stimulants in patients who are receiving blood pressure medications.
What formulations of stimulants are available for treating ADHD?
Stimulants are available as immediate acting or long acting formulations and are available in the following formats:
- Tablets (for example, Adderall, Concerta)
- Capsules (for example, Adderall XR, Ritalin)
- Chewable tablets (for example, Quillichew ER, Methylin)
- Oral solution (for example, Methylin)
- Transdermal Patch (for example, Daytrana)
Are stimulants safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
- Stimulants have not been adequately evaluated in pregnant women. Available evidence suggests that amphetamine type stimulants do not increase the rate of birth defects when used at recommended doses. However, decreased birth weight has been seen in infants whose mothers received dextroamphetamine for weight control.
- There are no controlled studies of stimulants in women who are breastfeeding. There is every little information on the effect of methylphenidate on the developing fetus. Stimulants should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter
Stimulants are compounds (caffeine, nicotine, cocaine) or medications that stimulate the CNS or central nervous system. Stimulants increase blood pressure, mental alertness, energy, and heart rate. Approved medical uses for stimulants include ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and transient resistant depression obesity. Stimulants can be highly addictive so they are no longer recommended for treating nervous system disorders and asthma. Drug interactions, dosage, and pregnancy and breastfeeding safety should be reviewed prior to taking this medication.
Multimedia: Slideshows, Images & Quizzes
ADHD/ADD in Adults: Symptoms & Treatments in Pictures
Most people don't associate adults with the term ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) but it is a common disorder in...
ADHD Symptoms in Children
What is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)? Learn to recognize ADHD symptoms in children.
ADHD in Children: Better Parenting
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder seen in children. Parents can learn tips and techniques to...
Managing Concentration Killers: Smartphones, Social Media, and More
Finding it hard to concentrate? If you lack focus and attention, it may be internet addiction or the negative effects of social...
Childhood ADHD Quiz: Test, Symptoms & Medication
Find out causes, symptoms, and treatments for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a widespread behavioral condition...
Adult ADHD Quiz: Symptoms & Test
What are the symptoms of adult ADHD? Take this quiz to learn what it means for an adult to suffer from ADHD and what can be done...
Adult ADHD: Organization and Time-Management Tips in Pictures
Learn daily living tips for adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). If you have ADHD or you just need to get...
Related Disease Conditions
Obesity is the state of being well above one's normal weight. A person has traditionally been considered to be obese if they are more than 20% over their ideal weight. That ideal weight must take into account the person's height, age, sex, and build.
Depression in teenagers may be caused by many factors. Symptoms of teen depression include apathy, irresponsible behavior, sadness, sudden drop in grades, withdrawal from friends, and alcohol and drug use. Treatment of depression in adolescents may involve psychotherapy and medications.
Depression is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. The principal types of depression are major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disease (also called manic-depressive disease).
Depression in Children
Childhood depression can interfere with social activities, interests, schoolwork and family life. Symptoms and signs include anger, social withdrawal, vocal outbursts, fatigue, physical complaints, and thoughts of suicide. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
13 Tips for Parenting a Teen With ADHD
Parenting a teenager who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be challenging. Parents can use specific strategies to help their teen cope with school and homework. Special care should be taken to help an ADHD teen drive safely and avoid alcohol and drug use.
Childhood ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) causes the following symptoms in children: excessive activity, problems concentrating, and difficulty controlling impulses. There are three types of ADHD: the predominantly inattentive type, the predominantly hyperactive/impulsive type, and the combined (inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive) type. Stimulant medications are the most common medication used to treat ADHD.
Adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
About 2%-6% of adults have ADHD, a common behavioral problem. Symptoms include impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention. Treatment may involve ADHD education, attending a support group, skills training, and medication.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Teens
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in teens is a disruption of neurocognitive functioning. Genetics contribute to ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD in teens include inattention, hyperactivity/impulsivity, or a combination of these. Treatment may include cognitive behavioral therapy, behavior therapy, medication, or alternative therapies.
Parenting a Child With ADHD
ADHD is a behavioral condition with characteristics that include hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. Parenting a child with ADHD presents a variety of challenges. Treatment options for children with ADHD include medication and behavioral therapy.
Treatment & Diagnosis
Medications & Supplements
- Lexapro vs. Wellbutrin: Differences between Side Effects and Uses
- Adderall vs. Ritalin (Differences and Similarities)
- Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)
- Adderall vs. Concerta
- methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Methylin, Daytrana)
- dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
- Adderall vs. Dexedrine
- Atomoxetine vs. Adderall
- Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)
- methamphetamine hydrochloride - oral, Desoxyn
- dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine, Dextrostat, ProCentra, Zenzedi)
- dextroamphetamine sustained-action capsule - oral, Dexedrine
Prevention & Wellness
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
FDA approved prescribing information for ADHD medications.
Humphreys C, Garcia-Bournissen F, Ito S, Koren G. Exposure to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician. 2007;53(7):1153-1155.