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CNS stimulants

Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on April 26, 2018.

What are CNS stimulants?

CNS stimulants (CNS stands for central nervous system) are medicines that stimulate the brain, speeding up both mental and physical processes.

They increase energy, improve attention and alertness, and elevate blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. They decrease the need for sleep, reduce appetite, improve confidence and concentration, and lessen inhibitions.

Experts aren’t exactly sure how CNS stimulants work, although they suspect they increase levels of one or more neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, or serotonin. They may also have other effects, depending on the actual drug. For example, phentermine possibly indirectly increases leptin levels – leptin is a substance that tells us we feel full.

What are CNS stimulants used for?

CNS stimulants may be useful for the treatment of certain conditions characterized by symptoms such as prolonged fatigue, inability to concentrate, or excessive sleepiness. CNS stimulants may also be used to help with weight loss in people who are morbidly obese. CNS stimulants have been used for the following conditions:

Unfortunately, some people misuse CNS stimulants for their ability to increase energy levels. Some CNS stimulants also create a brief feeling of euphoria or temporarily increase self-confidence.

What are the differences between CNS stimulants?

CNS stimulants differ in their ability to increase levels of certain neurotransmitters which determines what effect they have in the body and their side effects.

There are also differences in the length of time they act for in the body and how quickly they start to work. Some CNS stimulants have been modified to improve their effect, for example, a methyl group was added to amphetamine to make methamphetamine which lasts longer than amphetamine, penetrates the brain better, and is less likely to detrimentally affect the heart.

Are CNS stimulants safe?

CNS stimulants have many unpleasant side effects and deaths have resulted from their misuse.

They are widely abused and highly addictive. Withdrawal symptoms can be very harsh which encourages repeated and frequent misuse to maintain the high. Addiction can happen quickly after just a few uses; or in some cases, one use. Tolerance occurs, which means more of the substance needs to be taken to maintain the desired high.

Misuse of CNS stimulants can cause severe paranoia and psychosis, severe depression and suicidal thoughts. It can lead to a break down in relationships and affect a person’s ability to keep a job. Drug seeking behavior can take over a person’s life to the extent that their nutrition suffers. Illness and sexual dysfunction are also common in people who misuse CNS stimulants.

What are the side effects of CNS stimulants?

CNS stimulants are associated with a number of severe and undesirable side effects such as:

In addition, a dry mouth, unpleasant taste in the mouth, or gastrointestinal disturbances (nausea, diarrhea, or constipation) may also occur.

For a more extensive list of side effects, click on the individual drugs.

List of CNS stimulants:

View by  Brand | Generic
Drug Name Avg. Rating Reviews
Vyvanse (Pro)
Generic name: lisdexamfetamine
7.5
887 reviews
Adipex-P (Pro)
Generic name: phentermine
8.9
606 reviews
Adderall (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine / dextroamphetamine
7.9
426 reviews
Concerta
Generic name: methylphenidate
6.9
396 reviews
Nuvigil (Pro)
Generic name: armodafinil
7.3
244 reviews
Adderall XR
Generic name: amphetamine / dextroamphetamine
8.0
223 reviews
Ritalin
Generic name: methylphenidate
7.0
188 reviews
Provigil
Generic name: modafinil
7.6
163 reviews
Mydayis (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine / dextroamphetamine
5.5
125 reviews
Focalin (Pro)
Generic name: dexmethylphenidate
5.9
123 reviews
Dexedrine (Pro)
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
8.7
112 reviews
Focalin XR (Pro)
Generic name: dexmethylphenidate
7.3
106 reviews
Fastin
Generic name: phentermine
7.2
81 reviews
Daytrana (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
8.3
74 reviews
Tenuate
Generic name: diethylpropion
9.0
58 reviews
Adzenys XR-ODT (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
6.1
53 reviews
Metadate CD
Generic name: methylphenidate
7.4
42 reviews
Desoxyn (Pro)
Generic name: methamphetamine
9.4
40 reviews
Bontril Slow Release (Pro)
Generic name: phendimetrazine
7.8
38 reviews
Evekeo (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
7.0
34 reviews
Dyanavel XR (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
6.6
26 reviews
Zenzedi (Pro)
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
8.3
23 reviews
Quillivant XR (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
5.5
20 reviews
NoDoz
Generic name: caffeine
5.9
20 reviews
Methylin (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
8.4
20 reviews
Ritalin LA (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
8.1
17 reviews
Tenuate Dospan
Generic name: diethylpropion
7.2
14 reviews
Wakix
Generic name: pitolisant
6.1
13 reviews
Ionamin (Pro)
Generic name: phentermine
8.2
13 reviews
Methylin ER
Generic name: methylphenidate
8.7
11 reviews
Didrex (Pro)
Generic name: benzphetamine
7.4
11 reviews
Cylert (Pro)
Generic name: pemoline
9.5
11 reviews
Aptensio XR (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
6.8
11 reviews
Vivarin
Generic name: caffeine
7.9
10 reviews
Cotempla XR-ODT (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
6.0
7 reviews
Azstarys (Pro)
Generic name: dexmethylphenidate / serdexmethylphenidate
9.2
7 reviews
Ritalin-SR
Generic name: methylphenidate
7.2
6 reviews
Bontril PDM
Generic name: phendimetrazine
6.3
5 reviews
Jornay PM (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
8.2
4 reviews
Dextrostat (Pro)
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
9.2
3 reviews
Adhansia XR
Generic name: methylphenidate
6.7
3 reviews
ProCentra (Pro)
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
9.5
2 reviews
Phentercot
Generic name: phentermine
9.7
2 reviews
Phendiet
Generic name: phendimetrazine
8.5
2 reviews
Xelstrym
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
8.0
1 review
Suprenza (Pro)
Generic name: phentermine
10
1 review
QuilliChew ER (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
2.0
1 review
Metadate ER (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
7.5
1 review
Liquadd
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
1.0
1 review
Adzenys ER (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
3.0
1 review
Tepanil
Generic name: diethylpropion
No reviews
Stay Awake
Generic name: caffeine
7.0
No reviews
Relexxii
Generic name: methylphenidate
No reviews
Prelu-2
Generic name: phendimetrazine
10
No reviews
Phentride
Generic name: phentermine
No reviews
Phendiet-105
Generic name: phendimetrazine
No reviews
Pep-Back Peak Performance
Generic name: caffeine
No reviews
Obezine
Generic name: phendimetrazine
No reviews
NoDoz Maximum Strength
Generic name: caffeine
No reviews
Melfiat
Generic name: phendimetrazine
No reviews
Lucidex
Generic name: caffeine
No reviews
Fintepla (Pro)
Generic name: fenfluramine
No reviews
Fendique ER
Generic name: phendimetrazine
No reviews
Evekeo ODT (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
No reviews
Dopram
Generic name: doxapram
No reviews
Cafcit (Pro)
Generic name: caffeine
No reviews
Atti-Plex P
Generic name: phentermine
No reviews
Alert
Generic name: caffeine
No reviews
For ratings, users were asked how effective they found the medicine while considering positive/adverse effects and ease of use (1 = not effective, 10 = most effective).

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.