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Adderall, Meth, and Other Stimulants

What Are Stimulants?

Stimulants, sometimes known as “uppers,” are a class of drugs that disrupt the natural functioning of brain activity. They can come in the form of a prescription drug or as a street drug, such as illegally made methamphetamine (meth).

Prescription stimulants are most commonly prescribed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder). They include amphetamines (such as Adderall and Dexedrine) and methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta).

Almost one-fifth of college students say they abuse prescription stimulants*

Meth (also known as crystal, ice, chalk, tweak, and crank) takes the form of clear, chunky crystals or a white, odorless, crystalline powder that can be smoked, snorted, injected, or taken orally.

Stimulants work by damaging brain cells that release dopamine in the brain. They increase–or over-“stimulate”–certain processes in the body, so users may feel more alert or anxious than usual. Stimulants are less risky when used as prescribed. When misused, stimulants cause significant damage to brain cells. Over time, people who abuse meth and other stimulants can lose the ability to feel pleasure when they are not using the drug. This is one of the reasons that they are highly addictive.

Meth and Stimulants Abuse and Effects

Prescription stimulants are a serious temptation to high school and college students who feel pressured at school and from their parents to study and perform well on tests. They are also a lure to people preoccupied with losing weight since they cause some users to lose interest in food . Because stimulants are prescribed by doctors these drugs are mistakenly believed to be safe. This belief is a risk factor for use.

Short-term effects include:

  • A sense of being on edge, anxious, and nervous
  • Inability relax or sleep
  • Increased body temperature and blood pressure, chest pain, and an irregular heartbeat
  • Dry mouth, and headaches

Long-term effects may include:

  • Insomnia, agitation, extreme mood swings
  • Extreme weight loss or physical “wasting”
  • Confusion, delusions, paranoia, psychosis, and suicidal thinking
  • Heart attacks, stroke, and collapse

Additionally, meth use can trigger itching and skin sores; rapid tooth decay, and aggressive or violent behavior.

Amphetamines and meth are the fourth-most-mentioned illicit drug in emergency room visits.

Signs that Someone Needs Treatment for Stimulants/Methamphetamine

Here are questions to ask if you’re concerned that you or someone you love—a spouse, child, parent, or friend—may have a problem with stimulants:

  • Have they experienced a dramatic drop in weight or a lack of appetite?
  • Are they showing prolonged alertness or unusually high levels of energy, sometimes mixed with periods of extreme fatigue (“crash”)?
  • Are they sleeping less—staying awake for longer periods, even days?
  • Are they talking faster, rambling, and making less sense than normal?
  • Do they seem fidgety, nervous, or unexplainably anxious, excitable, or irritable?
  • Are they showing signs of confusion, aggression, or delusional or paranoid behavior?
  • Have they lost interest in personal grooming?
  • Have they experienced rapid tooth decay?

If the answer is “yes” to two or more questions, it is likely that a problem exists.


Whether a person is struggling with meth or prescription stimulant use, Phoenix House takes an individualized approach to treatment, focusing on each user’s psychological, neurological, social, and physical health needs.

For some individuals, care begins with withdrawal and stabilization (“detox”), which is offered at some Phoenix House facilities. For all, care is grounded in the most effective interventions, including cognitive behavioral therapy, in which users identify and practice research-verified skills to overcome negative behaviors.

Treatment, which includes group and individual therapy, may be completed on a residential or outpatient setting. We refer patients to doctors or dentists to address the physical damage of meth and long-term stimulant abuse, and we offer ongoing support to help clients successfully maintain recovery.


“I was addicted to methamphetamines, off and on, for more than 20 years. When you finally make the conscious decision to change your life, doors just open for you.”

Traci, Phoenix House Alum

Read my story

We Can Help

If you are concerned about your own or your loved one’s use of stimulants, our caring, qualified staff can provide a confidential evaluation to help you determine next steps based on your individual needs. We offer safe, affordable treatment in a variety of locations. Call us anytime: We are here to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

*Source: Health Day