Prescription Stimulant Drug Addiction

Prescription Stimulant Drug Addiction

By Suzanne Kane

In 2003, more than 6.3 million Americans reported current use of prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2004, by the Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Of this number, 1.2 percent reported nonmedical use of stimulants. What’s even more troubling is that about 15 million Americans said they used a prescription drug for nonmedical reasons at least one time during the year in 2003.

This article concentrates on two types of prescription stimulants – amphetamines and methylphenidate. Two other stimulants, codeine and methamphetamine, are covered in other Facts About articles.

Some reports indicate that many users of prescription students began their use while in college, believing that the drugs would improve their concentration and lead to higher academic performance. Users who were pre-college, however, often reported they used prescription stimulants to lose weight, get high, or just to experiment.

Prescription drugs are the number five leading threat in the U.S., according to figures released by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) in its National Drug Threat Assessment 2009.

What it is

Prescription stimulants are classes of drugs that stimulate and enhance the brain’s activity. Doctors historically prescribed them to treat conditions such as obesity, asthma, narcolepsy, various neurological disorders such as attention deficit and hyperactivity, and other ailments before they knew of the potential for abuse and addiction.

Today, stimulants are prescribed for just a few health conditions, including treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Short-term treatment of asthma and obesity may also include prescription for stimulants.

Common street names

Amphetamines carry brand names like Adderall, Biphetamine and Dexedrine. Street names include: bennies, black beauties, crosses, hearts, LA turnaround, speed, truck driver, and uppers.

Methylphenidate, whose brand names include Ritalin and Concerta, has various street names: JIF, MPH, R-ball, Skippy, the street drug, and Vitamin R.

How to identify it

Prescription stimulants come in capsules and tablets.

How prescription stimulants are used

Both amphetamines and methylphenidate are Class II drugs according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Amphetamines are injected, swallowed, smoked and snorted. Methylphenidate is injected, swallowed and snorted.

Effects of the drug

Effects of amphetamines include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, increased metabolism, feelings of euphoria and energy, and an increase in mental alertness.

Methylphenidate’s effects include increase or decrease in blood pressure, and psychotic episodes.

Why prescription stimulants are bad for you

High doses of prescription stimulants are extremely dangerous, resulting in irregular heartbeat, a dangerously high body temperature, and/or the potential for seizures and heart failure. Repeated use of stimulants in a short period of time can result in feelings of paranoia and hostility.

Stimulants should never be mixed with over-the-counter cold medicines containing decongestants, or anti-depressants.

When it comes to the prescription stimulant amphetamine, the following negative and potentially fatal consequences may occur:

• Rapid or irregular heart beat

• Reduced appetite

• Weight loss

• Heart failure

Methylphenidate’s negative consequences include problems with digestion, loss of appetite and weight loss, and sleep deprivation (leading to psychotic episodes).


Schedule II drugs, including the prescription stimulants amphetamine and methylphenidate, have a high abuse potential. They are available legally only by prescription (non-refillable). Injection of these Class II drugs can increase the risk of infection through needle contamination with HIV, hepatitis, staphylococci and other organisms.

Abuse of prescription stimulants often is associated with the abuse, misuse and use of other illegal substances, including cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and hallucinogens. In addition, binge drinking may accompany prescription stimulant use, misuse and abuse.

Withdrawal symptoms from prescription stimulants commonly include fatigue, depression and disturbed sleep patterns. The only way to overcome abuse or addiction to the prescription stimulants amphetamine and methylphenidate is through intensive treatment, either in-house or out-patient.

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