Central Nervous System Stimulants

Medication is given to stimulate the central nervous system in order to induce a therapeutic response. These include medications that treat narcolepsy, attention deficit disorder (ADD), obesity, and reversal of respiratory distress.

There are four major groups of medications that stimulate the central nervous system. These are amphetamines, caffeine, analeptics, and anorexiants. Amphetamines stimulate the cerebral cortex of the brain. Caffeine also stimulates the cerebral cortex and stimulates respiration by acting on the brain stem and medulla. Analeptics have an effect on the brain stem and medulla as caffeine does. Anorexiants inhibit appetite by stimulating the cerebral cortex and the hypothalamus.

Amphetamines, analeptics, and anorexiants are commonly referred to as "uppers" when used to prevent sleep. Anorexiants and amphetamines can produce psychological dependence and the body can become tolerant to its effect if abused. Abruptly discontinuing these medications may result in withdrawal symptoms including depression. Amphetamines are also taken to decrease weight and increase energy enabling the patient to perform work quickly without rest.

Analeptics are substances which stimulate breathing and heart activity. Methyl-phenidate (Ritalin) is an analeptic often prescribed for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADDHD).

Amphetamines, analeptics, and anorexiants stimulate the release of the neuro-transmitters norepinephrine and dopamine from the brain and from the peripheral nerve terminals of the sympathetic nervous system. The result is euphoria and increased alertness. The patient can also experience sleeplessness, restlessness, tremors, and irritability; cardiovascular problems (increased heart rate, palpitations, dysrhythmias and hypertension). Some examples of anorexiants and analeptics are benzphetamine (Didrex), deithylpropion (Tenuate), Mfluramine (Pondimin), and phentermine (Phentride). Caffeine is also a stimulant found in many beverages, foods, OTC drugs, and prescription drugs. Caffeine is found in many drugs including Anacin, Excedrin, Cafergot, Fiorinal, and Midol.

See amphetamine-like drugs provided in the Appendix. Detailed tables show doses, recommendations, expectations, side effects, contraindications, and more; available on the book's Web site (see URL in Appendix).

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