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CNS stimulants

Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Apr 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 Reviews Avg. Ratings
Prelu-2
Generic name: phendimetrazine
0 reviews
10
Suprenza (Pro)
Generic name: phentermine
1 review
10
Phentercot
Generic name: phentermine
2 reviews
9.7
Desoxyn (Pro)
Generic name: methamphetamine
33 reviews
9.5
ProCentra (Pro)
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
2 reviews
9.5
Cylert (Pro)
Generic name: pemoline
9 reviews
9.3
Dextrostat (Pro)
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
3 reviews
9.2
Adipex-P (Pro)
Generic name: phentermine
595 reviews
9.0
Tenuate
Generic name: diethylpropion
57 reviews
9.0
Methylin ER
Generic name: methylphenidate
11 reviews
8.7
Dexedrine (Pro)
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
92 reviews
8.6
Phendiet
Generic name: phendimetrazine
2 reviews
8.5
Methylin (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
19 reviews
8.4
Daytrana (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
70 reviews
8.3
Ionamin (Pro)
Generic name: phentermine
13 reviews
8.2
Adderall (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine / dextroamphetamine
368 reviews
8.1
Adderall XR (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine / dextroamphetamine
185 reviews
8.1
Ritalin LA (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
17 reviews
8.1
Phentride
Generic name: phentermine
1 review
8.0
Vivarin
Generic name: caffeine
10 reviews
7.9
Bontril Slow Release (Pro)
Generic name: phendimetrazine
36 reviews
7.7
Provigil (Pro)
Generic name: modafinil
160 reviews
7.7
Focalin XR (Pro)
Generic name: dexmethylphenidate
92 reviews
7.6
Vyvanse (Pro)
Generic name: lisdexamfetamine
810 reviews
7.6
Metadate ER (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
1 review
7.5
Nuvigil (Pro)
Generic name: armodafinil
242 reviews
7.5
Didrex (Pro)
Generic name: benzphetamine
11 reviews
7.4
Metadate CD
Generic name: methylphenidate
41 reviews
7.4
Aptensio XR (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
10 reviews
7.3
NoDoz
Generic name: caffeine
15 reviews
7.3
Concerta (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
361 reviews
7.1
Fastin
Generic name: phentermine
78 reviews
7.1
Ritalin (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
155 reviews
7.1
Bontril PDM
Generic name: phendimetrazine
4 reviews
7.0
Jornay PM (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
1 review
7.0
Ritalin-SR
Generic name: methylphenidate
5 reviews
7.0
Stay Awake
Generic name: caffeine
0 reviews
7.0
Evekeo (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
32 reviews
6.8
Tenuate Dospan
Generic name: diethylpropion
12 reviews
6.8
Dyanavel XR (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
26 reviews
6.6
Focalin (Pro)
Generic name: dexmethylphenidate
85 reviews
6.3
Adzenys XR-ODT (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
49 reviews
6.0
Cotempla XR-ODT (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
7 reviews
6.0
Wakix (Pro)
Generic name: pitolisant
6 reviews
5.8
Quillivant XR (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
19 reviews
5.7
Mydayis (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine / dextroamphetamine
109 reviews
5.5
Strattera (Pro)
Generic name: atomoxetine
407 reviews
5.4
Adzenys ER (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
1 review
3.0
Liquadd
Generic name: dextroamphetamine
1 review
1.0
Adhansia XR (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
0 reviewsAdd rating
Atti-Plex P
Generic name: phentermine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Cafcit (Pro)
Generic name: caffeine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Dopram (Pro)
Generic name: doxapram
0 reviewsAdd rating
Evekeo ODT (Pro)
Generic name: amphetamine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Fendique ER
Generic name: phendimetrazine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Fintepla (Pro)
Generic name: fenfluramine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Lucidex
Generic name: caffeine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Melfiat
Generic name: phendimetrazine
0 reviewsAdd rating
NoDoz Maximum Strength
Generic name: caffeine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Obezine
Generic name: phendimetrazine
0 reviewsAdd rating
Phendiet-105
Generic name: phendimetrazine
0 reviewsAdd rating
QuilliChew ER (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
0 reviewsAdd rating
Relexxii (Pro)
Generic name: methylphenidate
0 reviewsAdd rating
Tepanil
Generic name: diethylpropion
0 reviewsAdd rating
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.