What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants (also often referred to as psychostimulants or colloquially as uppers) is an overarching term that covers many drugs including those that increase activity of the central nervous system and the body,[1] drugs that are pleasurable and invigorating, or drugs that have sympathomimetic effects.[2] Stimulants are widely used throughout the world as prescription medicines as well as without a prescription (either legally or illicitly) as performance-enhancing or recreational drugs. The most frequently prescribed stimulants as of 2013 were lisdexamfetaminemethylphenidate, and amphetamine.[3] It was estimated in 2015 that the percentage of the world population that had used cocaine during a year was 0.4%. For the category “Amphetamines and prescription stimulants” (with “amphetamines” including Amphetamine and Methamphetamine) the value was 0.7%, and for Ecstasy 0.4%


Classifying stimulants is difficult, because of the large number of classes the drugs occupy, and the fact that they may belong to multiple classes; for example, ecstasy can be classified as a substituted methylenedioxyphenethylamine, a substituted amphetamine and consequently, a substituted phenethylamine.[citation needed]

When referring to stimulants, the parent drug (e.g., amphetamine) will always be expressed in the singular[according to whom?]; with the word “substituted” placed before the parent drug (substituted amphetamines).

Major stimulant classes include phenethylamines and their daughter class substituted amphetamines.

A chart comparing the chemical structures of different amphetamine derivatives

Medical Use

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. Continue Reading…

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