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What to Know About Prescription Stimulant Abuse

a person looks sadly over a cold landscape thinking of prescription stimulant abuse

At Northpoint Recovery, we understand that the abuse of any type of drug, whether an illegal street drug or a prescription medication, can lead to addiction. That’s why we offer a comprehensive treatment approach that considers all aspects of the individual’s life, not just their drug use. We aim to help people achieve and maintain sobriety to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. Contact us online or by calling 888.296.8976 to learn more about our prescription drug addiction treatment programs.

Which Prescription Stimulant Medications Are Commonly Abused?

A couple of prominent stimulants are commonly abused—Adderall and Ritalin.


Adderall is typically prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. Long-term treatment with Adderall reduces brain structure abnormalities in patients with ADHD and helps improve brain function.

Recreationally, Adderall is abused because it boosts energy and can produce a euphoric high similar to cocaine. Adderall is also used non-medically as a performance-enhancing cognitive aid because it increases alertness, hand-eye coordination, and concentration. For that reason, it is popular as a study aid for college students and in the video gaming culture.


The other prescription stimulant medication that is commonly abused is Ritalin. Medically, Ritalin is also used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy. The United States consumes 80% of the global supply of Ritalin. When used recreationally, the “rush” is like a milder, shorter-lasting version of cocaine, another stimulant. But the most common non-medical use of Ritalin is to improve concentration and alertness when studying.

The Dangers of Prescription Stimulant Abuse

While the ability to focus and concentrate better may sound like a positive, the non-medical use of prescription stimulants is not without adverse side effects:

  • Increased blood pressure – Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can cause many severe conditions, including heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia, and aneurysm.
  • Elevated body temperature – Hyperthermia, or an abnormally high body temperature, can lead to heat stroke, dehydration, and organ damage.
  • Increased heart rate – Tachycardia, or an abnormally high heart rate, can cause palpitations, chest pain, lightheadedness, and fainting.
  • Anxiety, paranoia, and delusions – Prescription stimulants can cause feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and delusions.
  • Insomnia – People who abuse stimulants may have difficulty falling and staying asleep, which can lead to chronic fatigue.

In some cases, stimulant abuse can also lead to psychotic episodes characterized by paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. These episodes can last for days or weeks and may require hospitalization.

Some Stats About Prescription Stimulant Abuse

The nonmedical use of prescription stimulants is much higher among college students than you might otherwise suspect.

  • College students are twice as likely to abuse Adderall than other groups.
  • 15% of college students took a prescription stimulant last year.
  • Up to 40% of college students use Adderall and other stimulants during midterms and finals.
  • It is estimated that up to 95% of students fake ADHD symptoms to obtain prescriptions.
  • 90% of college students who take Adderall without a prescription also qualify as heavy drinkers and engage in binge drinking episodes.
  • 40% of teenagers think it is “safe” to abuse prescription medications.
  • 29% of teenagers think it is impossible to become addicted to prescription drugs.

College students using Adderall non-medically are:

  • Three times more likely to have used cannabis in the past year – 80% versus 27%
  • Eight times more likely to have used cocaine – 29% versus 3.6%
  • Eight times more likely to have used tranquilizers non-medically – 24.5% versus 3%
  • Five times more likely to have used pain pills non-medically – 45% versus 9%

If you or a loved one are struggling with prescription stimulant abuse, please reach out for help. There are many resources available to you, and recovery is possible.

The Bottom Line About Stimulant Abuse

The misuse of prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin does not exist in a vacuum—and also puts people struggling with addiction at a significantly increased risk of abusing other substances, creating a new set of dangers. The disease of addiction does not discriminate when it comes to the substance of choice. If the use of a prescription stimulant is a gateway to other drugs, then that alone is a reason to stop.

Prescription Stimulant Abuse Treatment at Northpoint Recovery

If you or someone you love is struggling with prescription stimulant abuse, Northpoint Recovery can help. We offer a variety of evidence-based treatment modalities, including individual and group therapy, 12-step support groups, and experiential therapies. Our goal is to help our patients build a foundation for long-term recovery that will last a lifetime.

For more information about our program, please contact us online or by calling 888.296.8976 today. We offer a free, confidential consultation and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.