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Facts & Risk Factors

Stimulants affect everyone differently. A person’s reaction will depend on their size, weight, and metabolism. Other factors include drug potency (which can vary significantly with illicit drugs), the amount taken, and use of other substances at the same time.

Lower doses of stimulants generally create feelings and reactions such as:
  • Greater well-being and euphoria
  • More alert
  • More talkative
  • Less appetite
  • Higher heart rate and blood pressure
Responses to higher doses of stimulants may include:
  • Tension and anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Higher body temperature
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

When taken with other drugs, stimulants present even greater risks. Using stimulants with prescription opioids or over-the-counter medication can be dangerous or even fatal.

  • Cocaine

    Cocaine is an illegal stimulant drug used regularly by about 5 million Americans. Made from the leaves of the South American coca plant, cocaine comes in two forms: powder and crack. Powder cocaine is white powder that people snort, inject, or rub on their gums. Crack cocaine is a rock crystal that people smoke by heating in a glass pipe and inhaling the vapors.

    Both forms of cocaine are highly addictive. In fact, some users become addicted after only a single use. Repeated cocaine use can lead to organ damage, mental disorders, and respiratory failure.


    1 in 5 overdose deaths in 2017 involved cocaine.

    – In 2018, 859 people ages 15–24 died from a cocaine overdose in the U.S.

    – Americans between the ages of 18 to 25 use cocaine more than any other age group.

    Cocaine use constricts blood vessels, which increases blood pressure and the risks of stroke and heart attack. Snorting cocaine can also cause serious damage to the nasal cavity.

    Mixing cocaine with alcohol or other drugs increases these dangers, including the risk of overdose and death. “Speedballs” (cocaine combined with heroin) increase the risk of death from an overdose. Mixing cocaine with other stimulants or synthetic opioids such as fentanyl can also be deadly. Most cocaine-related deaths also involve misuse of an opioid, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

  • Methamphetamine

    Methamphetamine (also called meth) is a highly addictive, illegal stimulant. Because it creates an intense high very quickly, it is more commonly used than many other stimulants and has a high risk of overdose and addiction. Meth is often sold in the form of “crystal” that looks like glass fragments or white rocks that are snorted, smoked, or injected.

    The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain makes it highly addictive. Meth overdose can lead to organ problems, stroke, or heart attack.

    Withdrawal symptoms may include intense cravings, anxiety, fatigue, severe depression, and psychosis. There are currently no FDA-approved medication treatments for methamphetamine use disorder.

    – 1.9 million people used methamphetamine in the U.S. according to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

    About 10,000 Americans who used meth suffered a fatal overdose in 2017.

    – In Arizona, 19.8% of people who sought treatment through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) in 2019 were seeking treatment for methamphetamine use disorder (higher than opiates at 19.4%).

    Taking more than one drug at the same time increases the risk of overdose. Heroin and methamphetamine are the most commonly combined drugs that result in overdose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2017, about 15% of all drug overdose deaths involved meth. 50% of those deaths also involved an opioid, half of which involved fentanyl. Because meth may have synthetic opioids added without the knowledge of the person using the substance, this can increase their risk.

Learn More About Stimulants
Signs & Symptoms Learn more
Treatment & Resources Learn more
About Stimulants Learn more

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