Stimulant drug addiction is a growing concern across the UK, particularly among teenagers and young adults.

Learn more about the various types of stimulant drugs, both legal and illegal, as well as the effects of these substances and how a stimulant drug addiction can be successfully treated at rehab.

Facts about stimulant drugs

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What are stimulant drugs?

There is a class of drugs that can make you feel alert, confident, happy and focused, and these are known as stimulant drugs.

There are both illegal and legal types of stimulant drugs, and some are more common than you think. Even your morning cup of coffee is a form of stimulant drug.

If you take too much of a stimulant drug, even if it is legal, you may experience anxiety as well as nausea, headaches, stomach cramps and paranoia.

Prescription stimulant drugs are used to treat certain medical conditions, while over-the-counter stimulant drugs are primarily used recreationally.

Illegal stimulant drugs may be sold on the streets or over the internet, and many people use them for the intense high that they produce.

How do stimulant drugs work?

Both legal and illegal stimulant drugs interact with the part of your brain that deals with reward.

They can increase your dopamine and norepinephrine levels, which can make you feel happy and euphoric. This can trigger a cycle in which your brain constantly begins seeking out a reward in the form of stimulants.

Stimulant drugs also increase the amount of a brain chemical called catecholamine, which makes you feel more alert and focused. [1]

These effects are part of the reason why stimulant drugs are potentially addictive.

Are stimulant drugs legal?

Many stimulant drugs are legal and are prescribed to treat specific medical conditions.

If you have been prescribed a stimulant drug, it is important that you take it only as directed and let your doctor know if you experience any side effects.

Other stimulant drugs are legal and can be purchased over-the-counter, including caffeine and nicotine.

However, some stimulant drugs are illegal. They are not prescribed to treat medical conditions and cannot be purchased over-the-counter, as there is no safe way to take them.

Are stimulant drugs addictive?

Both legal and illegal stimulant drugs are addictive, with the potential for misuse.

This is because they can change the chemistry of your brain, causing you to crave them even when you do not need them.

Over-the-counter stimulants are also addictive – think about how hard it is to give up smoking, or the headaches you get when you skip your usual cup of coffee in the morning.

Even if you have been prescribed a stimulant drug, this does not mean that it is safe. You must only take it as directed, and never adjust your dosage before speaking to your doctor.

You should also never use someone else’s prescription stimulants – just because they are suitable for them to use, does not mean that they will be safe for you.

Being prescribed stimulant drugs

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What are prescription stimulants?

Prescription stimulants are a type of medication that can only be obtained through a licensed medical doctor.

They can be effective at treating a range of physical and mental health conditions and are relatively safe if used correctly.

Prescription stimulants are often prescribed to treat the following medical conditions:

Most prescription stimulants come in liquid or pill form and are taken orally. Never crush and snort, smoke or inject any form of prescription stimulant.

Do prescription stimulants make you smarter?

Often nicknamed ‘smart pills’, prescription stimulants have gained a reputation for being able to increase your intelligence.

This has led to many people using them illegally in an attempt to become smarter.

In reality, is it not possible for prescription stimulants to increase your intelligence or make you smarter?

All they can do is temporarily increase your focus and alertness, but even this is not always the case.

In fact, if you are taking prescription stimulants when you don’t need to, studies have shown that they can actually decrease your cognitive abilities.

Only people who struggle with attention spans or other specific conditions will benefit from the effects of prescription stimulants.

Can you become addicted to prescription stimulants?

You may be surprised to learn that you can become addicted to prescription stimulant drugs.

The risk of addiction is lowered drastically when you are using these drugs under the supervision of a doctor for a short period of time, but it can never be fully removed. [2]

Unsurprisingly, you are more likely to become addicted to prescription stimulants if you are using them in a way that is not intended.

This may include using someone else’s prescription stimulants, using more than prescribed or using them more frequently than prescribed.

What are the different types of prescription stimulant drugs?

There are various different types of prescription stimulant drugs available, including the following:


Adderall is primarily used to treat ADHD and can help you to feel more focused and improve your attention span.


Another medication that is effective at treating ADHD is Ritalin. It can make you feel alert and able to concentrate more easily.


Dexedrine is a stronger form of prescription stimulant and is therefore not as commonly prescribed as Adderall and Ritalin, as the potential for addiction is increased.

Using illegal stimulant drugs

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What are illegal stimulant drugs?

Illegal stimulant drugs are substances that have been manufactured to sell to people without a prescription.

They are most commonly used on a recreational basis, and produce a feeling of euphoria and pleasure as well as a rush of energy.

The most common illegal stimulant drugs include:

Most illegal stimulants are classified as a Class A drug, which means that if you are caught using them you could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison.

If you produce or sell illegal stimulants, you are risking life in prison.

Can you become addicted to illegal stimulant drugs?

Some stimulants are more addictive than others, but in general, illegal stimulant drugs are considered to be the highest risk.

This is because you have not been prescribed these substances by a doctor, so you may be using larger amounts more frequently than you should.

Over time, this can lead to an addiction.

Illegal stimulant drugs are often cut with other addictive substances, which can also increase your risk of addiction.

Much like prescription stimulants, the effects of these illegal stimulants can leave you wanting more and result in an endless chase for the next high.

The comedown from illegal stimulant drugs can be extremely uncomfortable, and many people combat this by taking another dose. This can become a vicious cycle that often results in addiction. [3]

What are the different types of illegal stimulant drugs?

There are various types of illegal stimulant drugs, all of which give similar effects.

They can make you feel alert, euphoric and full of energy, but they can also be extremely dangerous.

When you buy illegal stimulant drugs, you can never be completely sure what you are getting. Many drug dealers mix other substances into the batch to bulk it out, and this may include chalk, laundry powder, laxatives or even rat poison.

Additionally, the below drugs are not made in sterile environments. You run the risk of ingesting dirt and animal faeces when you use illegal stimulant drugs.


Speed is often taken recreationally as many people believe it helps them to focus. It provides a boost of energy but can leave you feeling exhausted and miserable afterwards.


Cocaine is commonly sold as a white powder which can be snorted. It is highly addictive and can induce intense cravings when the user attempts to stop.


Often known as ‘meth‘, methamphetamines are usually smoked or injected. It can cause an intense rush of euphoria followed by a slump which can cause users to take more of the drug.


Ecstasy is usually sold as a white pill which is often taken at parties or raves for an energy and confidence boost, but can be dangerous or even deadly.

You should never use illegal stimulant drugs. You are putting yourself at risk of addiction, overdose and serious illness, and in the worst cases even death.

Learn more about stimulant drug addiction

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What are the signs and symptoms of a stimulant drug addiction?

Common signs and symptoms of a stimulant drug addiction include:

A doctor will be able to make a professional diagnosis of addiction, or you can call OK Rehab on 0800 326 5559 for an over-the-phone assessment.

What are the short and long-term effects of a stimulant drug addiction?

Short-term effects of a stimulant drug addiction include:

  • Nausea
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Loss of appetite
  • Psychosis
  • Paranoia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Convulsions
  • Hyper-excitability

Long-term effects of a stimulant drug addiction include:

Is it possible to overdose on stimulant drugs?

Stimulants can speed up your bodily functions, and taking too much of them can be dangerous.

It is possible to overdose on both legal and illegal stimulant drugs and you will need urgent medical attention if you are in this situation.

Warning signs of a stimulant drug overdose include:

  • Loss of conciousness
  • Sweating
  • Severe headaches
  • Seizures
  • Becoming aggressive
  • Chest pains
  • Fast pulse
  • High temperature
  • Rigid limbs
  • Involuntary movements

It’s important to call 999 as soon as you spot the signs of a stimulant overdose, even if you are worried about getting into trouble.

Paramedics are not concerned about the legalities of what you have taken – they simply need to know the substance and dosage ingested so they can provide the most effective medical care.

Stimulant drug rehab

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Where can I get treatment for a stimulant drug addiction?

You do not need to struggle with a stimulant drug addiction by yourself.

Help is available for you, and the best place to get treatment is at a rehab clinic that specialises in treating stimulant drug addiction.

You can attend as an inpatient or an outpatient depending on the severity of your addiction – the main difference being that inpatients live at the clinic while outpatients continue to live at home.

Stimulant drug rehab provides a calming and stable environment where you can detox from substances and learn how to live your life without them.

What happens at stimulant drug rehab?

If you have never attended rehab before, you may be unsure of what to expect from stimulant drug rehab.

After you have been assessed and provided with your personalised treatment programme, you will begin a detox under medical supervision.

This helps your body to gradually flush out the drugs while you recover physically and go through withdrawal symptoms in a safe medical environment.

You will then attend counselling sessions, usually for a minimum of three weeks. These may be individual sessions or group therapy sessions.

Before leaving stimulant drug rehab you will compile everything you have learned into a relapse prevention plan to help you stay sober once you are back out in the world.

This may include worksheets, inspirational quotes and contact details for local support groups or counselling services.

How long does stimulant drug rehab take?

The most common length of time to remain at stimulant drug rehab is 30 days.

This gives you enough time to detox, attend a minimum of three weeks of counselling and prepare for life outside the rehab clinic.

You may also be offered a 60 day programme or even a 90 day programme depending on your needs and budget.

Only you know how much time you need at stimulant drug rehab – consider your options carefully so you can make an informed decision.