Is your doctor prescribing stimulants rather than sedatives for a calming effect? This can be a little confusing, as you’d think that stimulants will only lead to more hyperactivity.

So, you might find yourself wondering, why do stimulants calm me down?

Stimulants are perfect for calming down people who have ADHD! If you have ADHD or other attention-deficit disorders, stimulants are the first-line treatment. They increase your ability to concentrate and might help you stay calm.


Keep on reading to find out exactly how stimulants work and how they affect ADHD brains!

Why Do Stimulants Calm Me Down?

Stimulants can calm you down if you have ADHD. While these excitatory drugs can arouse most brains, they have a paradoxical effect when it comes to ADHD.

Stimulants actually excite your brain cells if you have ADHD. You may think this would lead to even more hyperactivity and loss of focus. However, in this case, stimulants lead to enhanced brain function and help you relax.

What Is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that results in impulsivity, short attention span, and difficulty regulating emotions. The most common drugs that help regulate ADHD are stimulants.

Before understanding how stimulants can calm you down, you should know how your brain works.

Neurons (brain cells) communicate with each other in an incredibly complex way. The neurons aren’t connected to each other. Instead, there’s a junction between them called the synapse.

For the nervous system to properly function, each neuron releases chemicals into the synapse, interacting with the following neurons. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters.

While scientists have yet to discover the exact cause of ADHD, the two main chemicals that affect people with ADHD are norepinephrine and dopamine.

You probably know these two neurotransmitters are the fight-or-flight and happiness hormones. ADHD brains don’t produce enough hormones or lack the genes allowing them to respond to dopamine.

In other words, the neurons of people with ADHD are constantly under-stimulated, which is why they respond well to stimulants!

Stimulants and ADHD

Now that you know why stimulants calm you down, you might want to learn how they do so!


There are two main types of stimulant drugs used in managing ADHD: methylphenidate and amphetamine. They help improve your attention span and reduce any behavioral problems associated with ADHD. Each one might affect you differently, depending on the severity of your ADHD.

Here’s how each of them works:


Methylphenidate is a norepinephrine/dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI). It restricts the reuptake process of the hormones by the neurons.

In simple terms, this stimulant suppresses nerve cells’ ability to absorb the hormones after they’re released. This way, both chemicals remain in the nerve junction for longer. Then, they’ll continue arousing the under-stimulated neurons.

Typically, methylphenidate is available under the trade names Ritalin and Concerta. The chemical is milder than amphetamine, so it’s the first-line choice for ADHD in children.

Some side effects of taking methylphenidate include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Tingling
  • Frequent tics


Amphetamine is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). It also works by increasing the duration of norepinephrine and dopamine in the nerve synapse.

Yet, amphetamine does this by preventing the degradation of the hormones. For this reason, it’s a much more potent drug and should be used carefully.

Since amphetamine is highly efficient and fast-acting, Adderall, which contains amphetamine, is one of the most popular stimulants for ADHD on the market.

It does come with some side effects, though, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Blurred Vision
  • Hallucinations

What You Should Know Before Taking Stimulants

Even though stimulants are excellent for controlling ADHD, you must only use them under your doctor’s supervision. Additionally, a combination of both medication and therapy is the best option for treating ADHD.

doctor’s supervision

Before taking stimulants, it’s important to realize that they can have severe side effects. For example, Adderall might cause minor growth suppression in children.

In some extreme cases, stimulants might significantly impact your health.


Stimulant dependence is a pretty common problem. After all, these ADHD medications enhance dopamine levels, causing euphoria and addiction.

In addition, taking stimulants for a long time might cause tolerance. The brain basically adapts to the extra hormones. This means that for the drugs to work again, increasing the dosage would be necessary.

This vicious cycle results in many people misusing and depending on stimulants. Some people can even go as far as taking stimulants just to study and improve their concentration.

That’s why it’s crucial to monitor how the stimulants affect you. You should also report any change in symptoms you might experience while on ADHD drugs to your doctor.

Serotonin Syndrome

Stimulants, particularly Adderall, might result in serotonin syndrome. The reason is that amphetamines don’t just reduce the metabolism and degradation of dopamine, but they also impact other chemicals, such as serotonin.

You might think serotonin is just another happiness hormone. Yet, this chemical plays an important role in regulating muscles, blood pressure, and memory.

Serotonin syndrome can happen if you overdose on Adderall or take other antidepressants. You should consult your doctor immediately if you suspect an overdose.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tremors and twitching of muscles
  • Loss of coordination
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat

Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Generally, stimulants are safe if prescribed by a doctor. Still, studies show that children taking Adderall should be carefully monitored for any cardiac event.

That’s only natural, as Adderall interferes with hormones other than dopamine and norepinephrine. In fact, even an increase in norepinephrine can raise heart rate and blood pressure.

So, doctors usually modify the dose of Adderall in children and avoid using the extended-release formulation.


Why do stimulants calm me down?

Stimulants might be ideal for calming you down if you have ADHD. This seemingly paradoxical effect is due to the ADHD brain being constantly under-stimulated!

Particularly, people with ADHD lack the excitatory effect of dopamine and norepinephrine. That’s why stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall), can balance the brain’s chemicals, leading to relaxation and enhanced concentration.

All medications have side effects. Unfortunately, the side effects of stimulants can be extreme. Stimulants should only be taken under the supervision of a professional to reduce the risk of dependence, serotonin syndrome, and cardiac arrest.

Published on: 2023-03-06
Updated on: 2024-04-14