Stimulants, also known as uppers, temporarily induces alertness, wakefulness, speech and motor activity, and mood, and decreases appetite. Two commonly used stimulants are nicotine, found in tobacco products, and caffeine, an active ingredient in coffee, tea, some soft drinks, and many non-prescription medicines. Some of these controlled substances are available by prescription for legitimate medical use in the treatment of obesity, narcolepsy, and attention deficit disorders.  

Although the use of these products has been an accepted part of U.S. culture, the recognition of their adverse effects has resulted in a proliferation of caffeine-free products and efforts to discourage cigarette smoking. A number of stimulants, however, are under the regulatory control of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). They are recognized as among the most potent agents of reward and reinforcement that underlie the problem of dependence. 

As drugs of abuse, stimulants are frequently taken in order to:

  • produce a sense of exhilaration

  • enhance self esteem

  • improve mental and physical performance

  • increase activity

  • reduce appetite

  • produce prolonged wakefulness

  • to "get high."


Drug Name Street Names Chemical Classification Forms
Cocaine Coke, Snow, Nose Candy,
Flake, Blow, Big C, Lady,
White, and Snowbirds; Crack, rock, freebase
[1R-(exo,exo)]-3-(Benzoyloxy)-8-methyl-8-azabicyclo[3.2.1]octane-2-carboxylic acid methyl ester stimulant leaves, white powder, solid residue (freebase), solid rock (crack)
Speed, Uppers, Ups, Black beauties, Pep pills, Copilots, Bumblebees, Hearts, Benzedrine, Dexedrine, Footballs, Adderall, and Biphetamine
(±)-alpha-Methylbenzeneethanamine stimulant Capsules, pills, tablets
Methamphetamine Crank, Crystal meth, Crystal methadrine, and Speed
(S)-N,a-Dimethylbenzene-ethanamine stimulant White powder, pills, rock that resembles a block of paraffin
Additional pharmaceutical stimulants
Ritalin, Cylert, Preludin, Didrex, Pre-State, Voranil, Sandrex, and Plegine
too varied to list stimulant Pills or capsules
amphetamine analogs MDMA (Ecstasy, XTC, Adam, Essence), MDM, STP, PMA, 2, 5-DMA, TMA, DOM, DOB, MDE (EVE)
3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) hallucinogenic amphetamine White powder, tablets, or capsules
Caffeine coffee, tea, chocolate (along w/Theobromine), NoDoz, Vivarin, various soft drinks (Coke, Mountain Dew, Jolt, Red Bull 3,7-Dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione stimulant liquid, tablets, or capsules
Nicotine cigarettes, tobacco, gum, dermal absorption patches (S)-3-(1-Methyl-2-pyrrolidinyl)pyridine adc adc

Stimulants can be taken orally, sniffed, smoked, or injected. Smoking, snorting, or injecting stimulants produces a sudden sensation known as a "rush" or a "flash." Abuse is often associated with a pattern of binge use-sporadically consuming large doses of stimulants over a short period of time. Heavy users may inject themselves every few hours, continuing until they have depleted their drug supply or reached a point of delirium, psychosis, and physical exhaustion. During this period of heavy use, all other interests become secondary to recreating the initial euphoric rush.

Tolerance can develop rapidly; and both physical and psychological dependence occur. Abrupt cessation, even after a brief two or three-day binge, is commonly followed by depression, anxiety, drug craving, and extreme fatigue known as a "crash." Therapeutic levels of stimulants can produce exhilaration, extended wakefulness, and loss of appetite. These effects are greatly intensified when large doses of stimulants are taken.

Physical side effects include:

  • dizziness
  • tremors
  • headache
  • flushed skin
  • chest pain with palpitations
  • excessive sweating
  • vomiting
  • abdominal cramps

Psychological effects include:

  • agitation
  • hostility
  • panic
  • aggression
  • suicidal or homicidal tendencies
  • Paranoia
  • auditory and visual hallucinations

In overdose, unless there is medical intervention, high fever, convulsions, and cardiovascular collapse may precede death. Because accidental death is partially due to the effects of stimulants on the body's cardiovascular and temperature-regulating systems, physical exertion increases the hazards of stimulant use.

Last Updated: 8/17/16