Abuse of Prescription Stimulants

A Review for Law Enforcement, First Responders and Health Care Personnel

Stimulants enhance brain activity; increasing alertness attention, and energy; raising blood pressure; elevating heart rate and respiration. Stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin®) and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®) are prescribed for the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and depression that has not responded to other treatments. They also may be used for short-term treatment of obesity.

Most prescription stimulants are Schedule 2 and 3 controlled substances.


Stimulants are prescribed as a tablet or capsule and on occasion as an oral solution. Abusers will either swallow the stimulant or they will crush the tablets/open the capsules to inhale or inject the stimulant.


Stimulants may produce decreased appetite. They may cause increased wakefulness and increased focus and attention. They may cause increased body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate.

Prescription Medication Sources

  • Medicine Cabinets
    • Adolescents, Adults
  • Neighbors, Schools, Dealers
  • Doctor Shopping
  • Forgeries
    • Prescribers leaving prescription blanks accessible
  • Thefts from pharmacies
    • Internal
    • Robberies

Product Urine Excretion (Metabolism)

  • Detection Windows:

    • Detection of Amphetamines by urinalysis is considered generally reliable for up to 3 days 

    • Detection of Amphetamine-like products by urinalysis is considered generally reliable for 1-2 days  
Commonly Abused Medications