What are Stimulants?

Stimulants are drugs that increase—or "stimulate"—activities and processes in the body. This increased activity can boost alertness, attention, and energy. It also can raise your blood pressure and make your heart beat faster. The most common stimulants are cocaine, methamphetamine, and prescription stimulants.

National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2017-2018 Methamphetamine Use MapNational Survey on Drug Use and Health 2017-2018 Cocaine Use Map

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug made from the leaves of the coca plant native to South America. Cocaine comes in two forms:

  • Powder cocaine is a white powder (which scientists call a hydrochloride salt). Street dealers often mix cocaine with other substances like cornstarch, talcum powder, sugar or other drugs.
  • Crack is a form of cocaine that has been processed to make a rock crystal that people smoke. The term “crack” refers to the cracking sound the rocks make when they are heated.

Cocaine is often mixed with things like cornstarch, talcum powder, or flour. It may also be mixed with other drugs such as amphetamine or the synthetic opioid fentanyl. These mixes can be lethal if a person is unaware that that the cocaine may contain other substances.

Methods of Use

Cocaine can be snorted, rubbed into the gums or dissolved in water and injected. Crack can be smoked.

Alternative Names

  • Blow
  • Coke
  • Crack
  • Rock
  • Snow 

 Health Effects from Use

  • euphoria
  • mental alertness
  • sensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • irritability
  • paranoia
  • constricted blood vessels and dilated pupils
  • higher body temperature
  • higher blood pressure and faster heartbeat, leading to higher risk of heart attack or stroke
  • feeling sick to the stomach
  • restlessness
  • changes in weight
  • inability to sleep
  • overdose and death 

 Effects from Repeated Use

  • snorting: loss of sense of smell, nosebleeds, nasal damage, and trouble swallowing
  • smoking: cough, asthma, and lung damage
  • consuming by mouth: damage to intestines (between the stomach and anus) caused by reduced blood flow
  • needle injection: higher risk for HIV and hepatitis (a liver disease) through shared needles
  • all methods: poor nutrition and addiction

For more information, read the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) Cocaine factsheet.


What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a stimulant. It is a white, odorless, bitter-tasting, crystalline powder. It is sometimes in large rock-like chunks. Powder can flake off, making it look like small shards of glass. It can also be made into a white pill. Methamphetamine is highly addictive. A person can develop addiction after only one use.

Methods of Use

Methamphetamine is mostly used in its illicit form, and can be swallowed, injected with a needle, snorted, or smoked. In some cases, legal forms of methamphetamine (such as the prescription stimulant Desoxyn) can be prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Alternative Names

  • Chalk
  • Crank
  • Crystal
  • Glass
  • Ice
  • Meth
  • Tweak
  • Speed
  • Go-Fast
  • Uppers
  • Tina

Health Effects from Use

  • very awake and active
  • fast heart rate and irregular heartbeat
  • higher blood pressure
  • higher body temperature
  • increased risk for HIV/AIDS or hepatitis (a liver disease) from unsafe sex and shared needles
  • lethargy
  • irritability
  • depression
  • aggression
  • addiction

Effects from Repeated Use

  • paranoia
  • anxiety
  • panic
  • hallucinations
  • repetitive behavior
  • obsessive scratching of skin, causing skin sores
  • severe changes in weight
  • psychosis
  • dental problems
  • convulsions
  • problems with thinking, emotion, and memory
  • heart failure
  • brain damage
  • stroke
  • mood swings
  • suicide
  • overdose
  • death

What are the Signs of Methamphetamine Production?

Methamphetamines can be made using common household chemicals and over-the-counter cold medicines. Methamphetamine production labs can be found in neighborhoods. Here are some warning signs of methamphetamine production:

  • unusual, strong odors
  • unusual number of chemical containers, jars, bottles or jugs
  • exhaust fans in windows and/or walls

For more information, read the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) Methamphetamine factsheet.

What to Do If You Suspect Production

Methamphetamine production is extremely dangerous. If you suspect methamphetamine production in your neighborhood - call 9-1-1 immediately. Do not go inside and stay away from the location. Methamphetamine production uses toxic chemicals than can explode. For more information visit the Vermont State Police Clandestine Laboratory Enforcement Team.


Prescription Stimulants

What are Prescription Stimulants?

Prescription stimulants are medicines generally used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy—uncontrollable episodes of deep sleep. Prescription stimulants increase—or "stimulate"—activities and processes in the body. This increased activity can boost alertness, attention, and energy. It also can raise your blood pressure and make your heart beat faster. When prescribed by a doctor for a specific health condition, they can be relatively safe and effective. However, dependence and addiction are still potential risks when taking prescription stimulants. These risks increase when these drugs are misused. Taking someone else's prescription drugs or taking them not as prescribed can have serious health risks.

Methods of Use

Most prescription stimulants come in tablet, capsule, or liquid form, which a person takes by mouth. Misuse of a prescription stimulant means:

  • taking medicine in a way or dose other than prescribed
  • taking someone else's medicine
  • taking medicine only for the effect it causes—to get high

When misusing a prescription stimulant, people can swallow the medicine in its normal form. Alternatively, they can crush tablets or open the capsules, dissolve the powder in water, and inject the liquid into a vein. Some can also snort or smoke the powder.

Common Prescription Stimulants

  • dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®)
  • dextroamphetamine/amphetamine combination product (Adderall®)
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Concerta®)

Alternative Names

  • Bennies
  • Black Beauties
  • Hearts
  • Roses
  • Skippy
  • Speed
  • Study Drugs
  • The Smart Drug
  • Uppers
  • Vitamin R 

Health Effects from Use

  • increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • increased breathing
  • decreased blood flow
  • increased blood sugar
  • opened-up breathing passages
  • dangerously high body temperature
  • irregular heartbeat
  • heart failure
  • seizures
  • death

Effects from Repeated Use

  • addiction
  • psychosis
  • anger
  • paranoia

For more information, read the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) Prescription Stimulants factsheet.


Repeated use of stimulants can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward circuit and other brain systems, which may lead to addiction. The reward circuit eventually adapts to the extra dopamine caused by the drug, becoming less sensitive to it. This leads people to take stronger and more frequent doses to feel the same high they did initially to obtain relief from withdrawal.

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • depression
  • fatigue
  • changes in appetite
  • unpleasant dreams
  • insomnia
  • slowed thinking

VT Helplink logo - - 802-565-LINKTreatment is Available

If you or someone you know needs help with stimulants – treatment is available! Treatment is effective and people can recover.

For free and confidential alcohol and drug support and referral services, call 802-565-LINK (5465) or visit

Talking With Your Kids

It’s never too early to start a conversation with your kids about drugs and alcohol. When young people have supportive adults in their lives, they are much less likely to use drugs. Open, honest conversations are the best way to influence their behavior.

Parent Up VT .org logoHere are some tips!

  • Start the conversation early to get ahead of the conversation.
  • Be clear, direct, and specific.
  • Have an ongoing, two-way dialogue.
  • Focus on their goals and explain how drugs can get in the way.
  • Stay positive.

For more tips visit

For more information visit:

Data and Related Resources

Data and Reports: Information on stimulant use, misuse and dependence in Vermont.

How We Are Doing: Learn more about goals and outcomes being tracked in Vermont.