UT University Health Services

Prescription Stimulant Misuse

What are Prescription Stimulants?

Stimulants are medications that “speed up” the body’s functions and include medications such as:  

  • ADHD medications, like Adderall, Ritalin, Vyvanse, Focalin, Concerta and Dexedrine
  • Weight loss medications, like phentermine
  • Narcolepsy medications, like armodafinil (Nuvigil) and modafinil (Provigil)

How do Prescription Stimulants Work?

Prescription stimulants act on parts of the brain to increase the release of certain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine. Elevating the levels of these chemicals can cause a significant impact on energy and attention levels, mood, behavior and overall body chemistry. Prescription stimulants help the brains of people with diagnosed health conditions to function normally, rather than to enhance performance. 

Side Effects

Some common side effects from stimulant medications include:

  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased heart rate

If you are taking a prescription stimulant, it is important to let your provider know if you experience any unusual symptoms or side effects.

Why do People take Stimulants?

There are a variety of reasons people may use stimulant medications. Some take stimulant medications prescribed by a medical provider to treat health conditions, such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. Some take them to experience euphoria (a feeling or state of intense excitement and happiness), to experiment, to enhance or aid in socialization, to lose weight or to intensify the effects of other drugs. Others take stimulants for their perceived benefits, such as improving academic performance.

Do Prescription Stimulants Improve Grades?

Non-medical use of prescription stimulants has not been shown to improve academic performance in those without a diagnosis of ADHD. There is no evidence that supports the misconception that taking a stimulant medication without a prescription from a doctor will improve an individual’s grades.1

If a student has academic concerns, the Sanger Learning Center offers tutoring and help with study strategies and time management. If a student is struggling with concerns related to mental health, the Counseling and Mental Health Center can help with academic concerns, anxiety, stress and other mental health issues.

1Faraone, S. V., Rostain, A. L., Montano, C. B., Mason, O., Antshel, K. M., & Newcorn, J. H. (2020). Systematic Review: Nonmedical Use of Prescription Stimulants: Risk Factors, Outcomes, and Risk Reduction Strategies. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 59(1), 100–112.  

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Alcohol Overdose and the Recovery Position
Prescription Drug Misuse
Prescription Stimulant Misuse
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