Stimulant Drug Use in the United States: Trends in Consumption

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

The use of stimulants is on the rise in America. This lesson will examine trends in the consumption of stimulants in the United States and will end with a short quiz to test your knowledge.

What are Stimulant Drugs?

Do you drink coffee? If you are like over half of the adults in America, you do. By all accounts, coffee consumption is on the rise as coffee shops seem to be popping up on every corner. Think about the way you feel when you drink a cup of coffee.

Most people state that coffee helps them wake up or stay awake. It increases attention and alertness. How does a cup of coffee do this? Coffee contains caffeine, the most widely used stimulant in the world.

Coffee Contains Caffeine, the Most Widely Used Stimulant in the World

Stimulants are drugs that temporarily speed up the central nervous system. They also increase heart rate, respiration, energy levels, and cognitive processing speeds. This is why people report feeling more alert or awake when under the influence of stimulants.

Types of Stimulant Drugs

Caffeine is just one type of stimulant. It is an example of an over-the-counter (OTC) drug because you do not need a doctor's permission to consume it. OTC drugs do not require a prescription. A prescription is an order from a doctor for medication. Obtaining prescription medicines requires an order from a doctor.

OTC and prescription stimulants are legal substances. It is important, however, to understand that there are also illegal stimulants. These are usually produced and sold on the streets.

Now, let's take a look at some examples of each type of stimulant drug.

  • Examples of OTC Stimulant Drugs

Besides caffeine, there are many common OTC stimulants. Nicotine, the active chemical in many tobacco products, is a stimulant. Pseudoephedrine, a drug that is used in many cold medications, is also an OTC stimulant. Each of these drugs increases the stimulation of the central nervous system.

  • Examples of Prescription Stimulant Drugs

Amphetamines and methylphenidate medications are two commonly prescribed forms of stimulants. Some brand names you might recognize include Adderall, an amphetamine, and Ritalin, a methylphenidate medication. Both of these stimulants are frequently prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder as they help increase focus and mental clarity.

Adderall is a Commonly Prescribed Stimulant
prescription stimulant

  • Examples of Illegal Stimulants

Illegal stimulant drugs work like other stimulants in that they increase activity in the central nervous system, but they do not have any approved medicinal use. Cocaine, a stimulant that is harvested from the coca plant, is one example of an illegal stimulant drug. Methamphetamine, or crystal meth as it is known on the street, is another example of an illegal stimulant drug.

Now that we know a bit more about how stimulant drugs work along with some specific examples of the different types of stimulants, let's take a closer look at the trends in consumption of these drugs in the U. S.

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