Learn More About Stimulants

Central nervous system stimulants are a type of drug that increases brain activity. They are used to temporarily increase alertness and awareness, reduce the need for sleep, increase energy, and improve mood. There are both legal and illegal forms of central nervous system stimulant drugs, and many of both kinds are addictive and can be dangerous. Central nervous system stimulant drugs include, but are not limited to caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescriptions (such as Adderall, Ritalin, etc. for the treatment of ADD/ADHD). Below is a little more information about each of these popular stimulant drugs.


You might be surprised to learn that caffeine is considered a drug. Caffeine is easily the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, as many people consume caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate, and soda every day. Many enjoy the energy and alertness that caffeine can provide, but heavy use of caffeine can cause anxiety and insomnia. Caffeine is addictive, and withdrawal symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, and irritability.


Similar to caffeine, you might be surprised that the nicotine found in cigarettes and other tobacco products is a stimulant drug. This is doubly surprising because many users report feelings of relaxation or calmness after use, rather than the increased energy stimulant drugs are typically known for. Nicotine is one of the top three most used psychoactive drugs in the world, although there are no medical uses for it. As recently as a few decades ago smoking was considered safe and even healthy, and smoking was glamorized in the media. Since then, more research has been done, and we now know the true consequences of smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2014 that about 17% of adults in the United States, or around 40 million people, smoked cigarettes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse claims that tobacco is one of the top preventable causes of illness and death in the United States. Cigarette use reportedly leads to more than 480,000 premature deaths each year.


Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca tree. It was once used as a form of therapy, and even as an anesthetic. It used to be legal and available for purchase over the counter, until doctors realized the harmful and addictive qualities of cocaine, leading to the discontinued use of cocaine in medical practices and its illegalization. The body quickly absorbs cocaine, whether it is snorted, inhaled, or injected. Users report a rush, or euphoria, combined with feelings of invincibility and power. It is a common and popular party drug at nightclubs and raves and is even used in the workplace by some for increased alertness and creativity.


Methamphetamine, or meth, is one of the most commonly used illegal stimulants. Meth is highly addictive and particularly damaging to the body as it destroys brain tissue and can lead to brain damage. Meth use can cause paranoia and skin picking, and one of the most obvious symptoms of meth use is wounds and scabs on the face and arms from picking while under the influence.

Prescription Stimulants

Prescription stimulants used to be popular and common loss treatments, but their addictive properties have caused them to be rarely used today for that purpose. Prescription stimulants are still used to treat some disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Some of the most common prescription stimulants are Ritalin, Adderall, and Focalin.