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Stimulant ADHD/ADD Medications

Stimulant medication prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention-deficit disorder (ADD) has been abused as a "study drug" to increase productivity and focus, as well as recreationally ("to get high"). Abuse may peak during exams and/or major projects. Often acquired and used illegally, Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta have dangerous effects.

How Rx stimulants affect the brain

Stimulants work by increasing the level of dopamine in the brain. This neurotransmitter is involved in pleasure, movement, and attention. Treatment of ADHD/ADD involves the gradual increase and acclimation of the brain's chemistry to increases in dopamine; enabling the patient to reach a therapeutic level effective in management of ADHD/ADD symptoms. Abuse of stimulant medications induces a surge of dopamine in the brain that elicits feelings of euphoria, playing into the brain's natural reward circuit and heightening risks of dependence.

Adverse side effects

Abuse of stimulant medications can lead to potentially dangerous and life-threatening side effects. Common side effects of stimulant use include increased blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and decreased sleep and appetite. Additionally, stimulants may cause agitation, anxiety, tremors, muscle twitches, seizures, confusion, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Dependence or addiction to stimulant medications need not precipitate withdrawal symptoms associated with stimulant use. Some general withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, depression, and disturbance of sleep patterns. Repeated abuse of some stimulants (sometimes within a short period) can lead to feelings of hostility or paranoia, even psychosis.

Overdose dangers

Taking high doses of a stimulant may result in dangerously high-body temperature and an irregular heartbeat. There is also the potential for cardiovascular failure or seizures.

Getting help

Call 911 if there is any suspicious of overdose, signs of seizures, and/or cardiovascular failure.

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Boynton Health

410 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, MN, 55455

P: 612-625-8400 | F: 612-625-1434