CNS Stimulants: Uses, most common brand names, and safety information
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Amphetamine was discovered as a drug in the late 1920s, and over the next 25 years, its pharmacological effects were studied. An amphetamine derivative called methamphetamine became a popular medication during the 1940s and 1950s and was used successfully as an antidepressant and weight loss drug. It was also during this time that Ritalin (methylphenidate) was discovered and marketed as a treatment for chronic fatigue and depression. By the 1960s, the adverse effects and high potential for abuse of these stimulant drugs were being recognized, so they were included in the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. Today, there are several central nervous system stimulants that are used in patients with conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and obesity.
The list below includes the most common CNS stimulants and pricing:
List of CNS stimulants
Adderall is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Mydayis is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Adderall XR (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine)
Adderall XR is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Ritalin is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
Ritalin LA (methylphenidate)
Ritalin LA is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
Methylin is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Metadate CD (methylphenidate)
Metadate CD is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Aptensio XR (methylphenidate)
Aptensio XR is used in the treatment of ADHD.
Concerta is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Quillichew ER (methylphenidate HCl)
Qullichew ER is used in the treatment of ADHD.
Quillivant XR (methylphenidate HCl)
Qullichew XR is used in the treatment of ADHD.
Daytrana (methylphenidate transdermal)
Daytrana is used in the treatment of ADHD.
Focalin is used in the treatment of ADHD.
Focalin XR (dexmethylphenidate)
Focalin XR is used in the treatment of ADHD.
Bontril PDM (phendimetrazine)
Bontril PDM is used in the treatment of obesity.
Desoxyn is used in the treatment of ADHD and as a short-term treatment of obesity.
Dexedrine is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Zenzedi is used in the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy.
Xelstrym (dextroamphetamine transdermal)
Xelstrym is used in the treatment of ADHD.
Vyvanse is used in the treatment of ADHD and binge eating disorder.
Adipex-P is used in the treatment of obesity.
Lomaira is used in the treatment of obesity.
Provigil is used in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and sleep disorders.
Nuvigil is used in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and sleep disorders.
Azstarys is used in the treatment of ADHD.
What are CNS stimulants?
CNS stimulants, which are also called sympathomimetic drugs, have chemical structures that are almost identical to neurotransmitters in your brain such as norepinephrine and dopamine. They stimulate adrenergic receptors to increase the levels of these neurotransmitters in your brain which can lead to improved alertness, attention, and energy.
CNS stimulants are typically used to treat the symptoms of ADHD such as difficulty focusing, impulsivity, and restlessness. They are also used to treat the excessive sleepiness that occurs with narcolepsy and other sleep disorders. Caution must be used when using these medications as they have a high potential for abuse.
CNS stimulants are available in several dosage forms, including oral tablets, chewable tablets, capsules, liquids, and transdermal patches. They are also available as short-acting (immediate-release) and long-acting (extended-release) formulations.
How do CNS stimulants work?
CNS stimulants work by increasing the availability of catecholamines, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, or serotonin in your brain. CNS stimulants are thought to accomplish this by increasing the release of these neurotransmitters and by blocking their reuptake in your brain. Dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are thought to help regulate emotions and are involved in high-level mental processes such as attention and organization. This makes them ideal ADHD medications.
In addition to improving ADHD symptoms such as lack of focus, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, CNS stimulant use can lead to increased heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia.
What conditions are CNS stimulants used to treat?
CNS stimulants are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat:
Are CNS stimulants safe?
When taken as prescribed, CNS stimulants can be safe and effective. There is a high potential for drug abuse and dependency on stimulant medications, so it is important to take it exactly as your healthcare provider tells you to.
Make sure your healthcare provider is aware of your health conditions as well as the prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications and supplements you are taking. These can include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart defects
- High blood pressure
- Mental health problems such as psychosis, mania, or depression
- Tics or Tourette’s syndrome
- Substance abuse or illicit drug use
- Are taking certain medications such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), blood thinners, or cold medicines that contain decongestants
Can you take CNS stimulants while you are pregnant or breastfeeding?
CNS stimulants like Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate) are considered pregnancy Category C medications. A Category C means that animal studies showed risk but human studies were not available to make a definitive conclusion on the effects these drugs might have on the fetus. You should use these medications with caution if the benefits outweigh the risks.
While there are no controlled studies on the safety of stimulant use during lactation, the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks in most mothers with ADHD.
What are the common side effects of stimulants?
CNS stimulants are typically given orally or via a transdermal patch. Some common side effects of these medications include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Stomach ache
CNS stimulants can sometimes cause severe adverse effects from long-term use, including:
- Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat)
- Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
- Chest pain
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Increased body temperature
- Heart failure
- Delayed growth in adolescents
- Withdrawal symptoms if stopped suddenly
This is not a complete list of side effects and we encourage you to consult with your healthcare provider for a complete list of side effects.
How much do CNS stimulants cost?
CNS stimulants are very expensive with an average cost of around $100,000 per year. The mAbs used for cancer can be even more than the average while other conditions can be lower, but still cost about $20,000 per year.
You can purchase CNS Stimulants for $49 per month with the help of NiceRx if eligible for assistance. Prices at the pharmacy vary by location, strength, and quantity, as well as your insurance status.
Related resources for CNS stimulants
The content on this website is intended for information purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice. The information on this website should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always speak to your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of any treatment.