This page covers the basics of:

  • What are stimulants?
  • What is stimulant use disorder?

What are stimulants?

Stimulants cause the brain to release chemicals that speed up heart rate, boost energy, and produce strong feelings of pleasure and excitement. Stimulants include cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA (“ecstasy”), and some prescription medications (e.g., Adderall, Ritalin). Learn more about stimulants here.

If you take large doses of stimulants or use them for a long time you can have serious mental health problems such as paranoia, anxiety, and psychosis as well as physical problems including serious cardiovascular disease. Methamphetamine can also lead to an overdose (often called “overamping”) that can involve very high body heat/heat stroke, heart failure, seizure, or stroke.

A stimulant overdose can be fatal. Learn more about stimulant overdose here.

What is stimulant use disorder?

Stimulant use disorder is a condition where someone continues to use stimulants even when that drug use causes serious problems. Often, you may try many times to stop but can’t. Like other substance use disorders, stimulant use disorder affects a person’s body, mind, and social connections and interferes with functioning. If you have these symptoms you may be diagnosed with stimulant use disorder:


  • Increased tolerance (needing more drug to get the same effect)
  • Withdrawal symptoms when use stops, like feeling depressed, or like nothing brings you pleasure.
  • Serious health problems from using (e.g., heart problems, abscesses, tooth loss)


  • Strong craving to use stimulants
  • Spending large amounts of time thinking about, finding, and using stimulants
  • Using more than planned
  • Desire and attempts to stop, but unsuccessful


  • Problems with friends, loved ones, home, school, or work
  • Using drugs in high-risk situations
  • Giving up other activities because of use

Learn more about the treatments for stimulant use disorder here and more about counseling and recovery supports here.