Stimulant Use Disorder

Stimulant use disorder (StimUD) is a substance use disorder involving any of the class of drugs that include cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulants. Stimulant use is increasing the United States. According to the most recent data available from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2020, an estimated 5.1 million people aged 12 or older misused prescription stimulants in the past year. Young adults aged 18 to 25 had the highest percentage of prescription stimulant misuse in the past year. Approximately 2.6 million people aged 12 or older used methamphetamine in the past year, an increase of over 36% from 2018. 1.8 million people aged 12 or older used cocaine in the past year, which represented a significant decrease from 2018.

Stimulant Use Disorder Resources


Get the facts on Stimulant Use Disorder

Stimulant use disorder (StimUD) is a substance use disorder involving any of the class of drugs that include cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulants.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Stimulant Use Disorder

Information on stimulant use disorder from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Stimulant Abuse: Signs, Effects, and Treatment Options

This medically reviewed and evidence-based information from American Addiction Centers contains a broad overview of stimulants, including various types and effects, their addictive potential, and treatment options for stimulant misuse.

Good Samaritan Law

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act of 2015 prevents punitive actions against health professionals and any person who administers naloxone or calls 911 to assist someone who may be overdosing on opiates. It also provides immunity to persons seeking medical treatment for an opioid overdose for themselves or someone else.

Tools & Resources

This TIP reviews what is known about treating the medical, psychiatric, and SUD-related problems associated with the use of cocaine and methamphetamine, as well as the misuse of prescription stimulants. The TIP offers recommendations on treatment approaches and maximizing treatment engagement and retention, and strategies for initiating and maintaining abstinence.

This guide supports health care providers, systems, and communities seeking to treat stimulant use disorders. It describes relevant research findings, examines emerging and best practices, identifies knowledge gaps and implementation challenges, and offers useful resources.

Developed by ASAM and AAAP, this guideline focuses on the identification, diagnosis, treatment, and promotion of recovery for patients with stimulant use disorder, stimulant intoxication, and stimulant withdrawal.

This guide will answer some common questions about stimulants, stimulant use, stimulant overdose, and stimulant overdose prevention strategies developed by harm reduction experts. Straightforward and concise answers are provided in an effort to convey the same key information to a variety of audiences. This document does not contain medical advice, nor should it be referred to in case of emergency. It is purely informational.


This resource is the first to provide evidence-based information and strategies for APRNs and PAs who work with individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs). Written in a concise, bulleted style for easy access to critical information, the reference addresses often-undiagnosed medical and psychiatric conditions which may accompany SUDs and the ethical considerations of working with affected patients and families.

Leeman RF, Sofuoglu M. Stimulant Use Disorders. In: Ebert MH, Leckman JF, Petrakis IL. eds. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Psychiatry, 3e. McGraw-Hill Education; 2019. Accessed April 19, 2024.

Avellaneda-Ojeda, A., Murtaza, S., Shah, A. A., & Moukaddam, N. (2018). Stimulant use disorders. Psychiatric Annals, 48(8), 372–378. 

In this audio slideshow, Dr. Rawson explains how meth affects the brain’s dopamine receptors, causing the intense pleasure associated with a meth rush and yet eventually making it impossible for the user to experience an pleasure at all. Richard A. Rawson, Ph.D is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles.

Posters & Infographics

Stimulant Trifold Brochures

Stimulant Trifold Brochures

Stimulant Information Brochures for Providers or Consumers help educate on stimulants, including the effects of stimulants use, pregnancy and stimulant use, and treatment options for persons using stimulants.
Download or request free hard copies
What are Stimulants? Stimulants speed up the body’s systems. This class of drugs includes: Prescription drugs such as amphetamines [Adder- all® and Dexedrine®], methylphenidate [Concerta® and Ritalin®], diet aids [such as Didrex®, Bontril®, Preludin®, Fastin®, Adipex P®, Ionomin®, and Meridia®] and other illicitly used drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, methcathinone, and other synthetic cathinones that are commonly sold under the guise of “bath salts.” Street Title Bennies, Black Beauties, Cat, Coke, Crank, Crystal, Flake, Ice, Pellets, R-Ball, Skippy, Snow, Speed, Uppers, Vitamin R How are they abused? Stimulants can be pills or capsules that are swallowed. Smoking, snorting, or injecting stimulants produces a sudden sensation known as a “rush” or a “flash. Abuse is often associated with a pattern of binge use - sporadically consuming large doses of stimulants over a short period of time. Heavy users may inject themselves every few hours, continuing until they have depleted their drug supply or reached a point of delirium, psychosis, and physical exhaustion.During heavy use, all other interests become secondary to recreating the initial euphoric rush. What is their effect on the body? Stimulants are sometimes referred to as uppers and reverse the effects of fatigue on both mental and physical tasks. Therapeutic levels of stimulants can produce exhilaration, extended wakefulness, and loss of appetite. These effects are greatly intensified when large doses of stimulants are taken. Taking too large a dose at one time or taking large doses over an extended period of time may cause such physical side effects as: Dizziness, tremors, headache, flushed skin, chest pain with palpitations, excessive sweating, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. When used as drugs of abuse and not under a doctor’s supervision, stimulants are frequently taken to: Produce a sense of exhilaration, enhance self-esteem, improve mental and physical performance, increase activity, reduce appetite, extend wakefulness for prolonged period, and “get high”. Chronic, high-dose use is frequently associated with agitation, hostility, panic, aggression, and suicidal or homicidal tendencies.Paranoia, sometimes accompanied by both auditory and visual hallucinations, may also occur. What are their overdose effects? In overdose, unless there is medical intervention, high fever, convulsions, and cardiovascular collapse may precede death. Because accidental death is partially due to the effects of stimulants on the body’s cardiovascular and temperature- regulating systems, physical exertion increases the hazards of stimulant use.

Drug Fact Sheet: Stimulants

This fact sheet from the DEA contains information on what stimulants are, common street names, how they are abused, their effect on the body, and their overdose effects.
Download the fact sheet
Meet the stimulants Stimulants can be prescription medications, including: Adderall Dexedrine Ritalin Concerta Desoxyn Ephedrine Or stimulants can also include illicit substances such as: The face of stimulant addiction: Who uses stimulants? (INFOGRAPHIC) Embed this infographic to your website An infographic from the team at Addiction BlogThe face of stimulant addiction: Who uses stimulants? (INFOGRAPHIC) cocaine crack crystal meth Misusing stimulants, whether prescription medications or illicit drugs, can lead to addiction. Addiction is when you continue to seek out and take stimulants even though you know it is damaging you health and life, ruining your relationships, and causing you problems in school or at work. How do they work? How do stimulants work? Stimulants work by acting on the central nervous system (CNS) to increase a user’s alertness and cognitive function. They make you feel more alert and focused. However, stimulants also raise your blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Who uses stimulants? In 2012, there were an estimated 1.2 million nonmedical users (aged 12+) of prescription stimulants in the United States. Stimulant abuse and addiction is most common among adults aged 26 and older. In fact, about 63% of stimulant users are older than 26 years…which means they represent a significant part of the country’s workforce. How many of these stimulant users are employed? Here is a breakdowns of statistics by employment status of stimulant users: 38% are employed 30% are only part-time employed 15% are unemployed 17% are out of the labor force Still, age is a factor for use. In 2011, less than one in ten adolescents reported using Ritalin or Adderall nonmedically during the year prior to being surveyed. Among adolescents, the nonmedical use of stimulant drug is either due to recreational reasons, or they use them as ‘smart drugs’ to improve performance in school. The nonmedical use of prescription stimulants is more common among college students than high school students. Studies have found that 4.1% to 10.8% of college students reported using prescription stimulants nonmedically during the past year. The face of stimulant addiction questions Think you’ve got a personal problem with stimulants? Know someone who needs help? You can contact your primary care physician or family doctor, a school counselor, your psychologist, or licensed psychiatrist for referral to adequate stimulant addiction treatment. OR Call our Helpline at 1-877-688-2356 to get free and confidential suggestions about rehab options. If you have any additional questions, feel free to post them in the comments section at the bottom of the page. We try to answer all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly, or we will refer you to professionals who can help.

The face of stimulant addiction: Who uses stimulants? (Infographic)

What does the typical stimulant user look like? In this infographic you can explore the age, gender, past year and past month meth use, polydrug use statistics, and emergency room visits.
View the infographic

Webinars & Online Learning

This recorded webinar from the PS ROTA-R provides an overview on the clinical considerations for assessing and treating stimulant use disorders in specific populations.

This recorded webinar from the PS ROTA-R provides an overview on the impact of stimulant use on non-metropolitan rural communities.

This recorded webinar from the PS ROTA-R provides an overview on the impact of stimulant use on non-metropolitan rural communities.

This online course from CASAT Learning offers 4 continuing education units and covers: changing trends on the use of stimulants and opiates; pharmacological properties of stimulants and the effects of stimulants on the central nervous system and the brain; specific treatment challenges associated with the use of opiates versus the use of stimulants; myths associated with stimulant use; potential biases about stimulant users; and the impact of agency policy on client access to care.

Current News & Research

Project AMPED

Drug overdoses involving methamphetamine increased 3.6-fold from 2011 to 2016 – surpassing the increase in heroin-related deaths during that period. Rates of cocaine-related deaths also doubled from 2011 to 2016. Methamphetamine use is largely concentrated in the Western US, and Nevada and New Mexico have been disproportionately burdened by the opioid epidemic and high rates of methamphetamine use. This is a multi-year, mixed methods study in Nevada and New Mexico is examining the patterns, reasons for, and health concerns related to methamphetamine use and opioid use. 

Published Papers
  • Harding, R.W., Wagner, K.T., Fiuty, P., Smith, K.P., Page, K., Wagner, K.D., (2022) “”It’s called overamping”: Experiences of overdose among people who use methamphetamine”. Harm Reduction Journal. 19(1): 1-11.
  • *Rhed, B.D., Harding, R.W., *Marks, C., Wagner, K.T., §Fiuty, P., Page, K., Wagner, K.D. (2022) Patterns of and rationale for the co-use of methamphetamine and opioids: Findings from qualitative interviews in New Mexico and Nevada. Frontiers Psychiatry, 13
  • Wagner, K.D., *Marks, C., §Fiuty, P., Harding, R.W., Page, K. (2023) A qualitative study of interest in and preferences for potential medications to treat methamphetamine use disorder. Addiction Science & Clinical Practice. 18:47
  • Wagner, K.D., Fiuty, P., Page, K., Tracy, E.C., Nocera, M., Miller, C.W., Tarhuni, L.J., Dasgupta, N. (2023). Prevalence of fentanyl in methamphetamine and cocaine samples collected by community-based drug checking services. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 252: 110985 
  • *Erinoso, O., *Daugherty, R., *Kirk, M.R., Harding, R.W., Etchart, H., Reyes, A., Page, K., Fiuty, P., Wagner, K.D. (accepted 9 May 2024) Safety Strategies and Harm Reduction for Methamphetamine Users in the Era of Fentanyl Contamination: A Qualitative Analysis. International Journal of Drug Policy. (COMING SOON)

Reduced drug use is a meaningful treatment outcome for people with stimulant use disorders (January 10, 2024)

NIH-supported findings suggest the need to expand definitions of addiction treatment success beyond abstinence.