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Last updated : May 2, 2019
Stimulants are a class of drugs that speed up the messages between the brain and the body. They can make a person feel more awake, alert, confident or energetic.1
Large doses of stimulants can cause over-stimulation, causing anxiety, panic, seizures, headaches, stomach cramps, aggression and paranoia. Long-term use of strong stimulants can also cause a number of adverse effects. Stimulants include caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine.
Illicit stimulants usually are snorted, swallowed, smoked or injected. Prescribed stimulants are usually taken orally, and the duration of effects differs depending on the type.1,2
There is no safe level of drug use.
Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Stimulants affect everyone differently, based on:
Generally speaking, in small to low doses the following effects may be experienced:
Higher doses may result in:
The effects of taking stimulants with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
Use of stimulants is likely to be more dangerous when:
People who use stimulants regularly can develop dependence and tolerance to them. Tolerance means they need to take larger amounts of stimulants to get the same effect. Dependence on stimulants can be psychological, physical, or both. People who are dependent on stimulants find that using the drug becomes far more important than other activities in their life. They crave them and find it very difficult to stop using them. People who are psychologically dependent on stimulants may find they feel an urge to use them when they are in specific surroundings or socialising with friends. Physical dependence occurs when a person’s body adapts to the stimulants and gets used to functioning with the stimulant present.