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any substance that causes an increase in activity in various parts of the nervous systemnervous system,
network of specialized tissue that controls actions and reactions of the body and its adjustment to the environment. Virtually all members of the animal kingdom have at least a rudimentary nervous system.
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 or directly increases muscle activity. Cerebral, or psychic, stimulants act on the central nervous system and provide a temporary sense of alertness and well-being as well as relief from fatigue. Drugs such as caffeinecaffeine
, odorless, slightly bitter alkaloid found in coffee, tea, kola nuts (see cola), ilex plants (the source of the Latin American drink maté), and, in small amounts, in cocoa (see cacao). It can also be prepared synthetically from uric acid.
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 and the amphetaminesamphetamine
, any one of a group of drugs that are powerful central nervous system stimulants. Amphetamines have stimulating effects opposite to the effects of depressants such as alcohol, narcotics, and barbiturates.
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 belong in this category, and several groups of drugs chemically similar to antihistaminesantihistamine
, any one of a group of compounds having various chemical structures and characterized by the ability to antagonize the effects of histamine. Their principal use in medicine is in the control of allergies such as hay fever and hives.
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 and phenothiazinesphenothiazine
, any one of a class of drugs used to control mental disorders. Phenothiazines, along with other antipsychotic, or neuroleptic, drugs are used for such disorders as schizophrenia, paranoia, mania, psychosis resulting from mental deficiency, some forms of senility,
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 also act as mild psychic stimulants (see psychopharmacologypsychopharmacology
, in its broadest sense, the study of all pharmacological agents that affect mental and emotional functions. The term is usually applied more specifically to the study and synthesis of drugs used in the control of psychiatric illnesses, namely the
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). Cocainecocaine
, alkaloid drug derived from the leaves of the coca shrub. A commonly abused illegal drug, cocaine has limited medical uses, most often in surgical applications that take advantage of the fact that, in addition to its anesthetic effect, it constricts small arteries,
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, besides its effect as a local anesthetic, also stimulates the central nervous system, producing excitement and erratic behavior. The hallucinogenic drugshallucinogenic drug
, any of a group of substances that alter consciousness; also called psychotomimetic (i.e., mimicking psychosis), mind-expanding, or psychedelic drug.
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 are also central nervous system stimulants.

A second class of stimulants that affect the medulla and spinal cord includes derivatives of niacinamide (nicotinic acid amide) and other chemically diverse compounds; they are sometimes used to speed the return to wakefulness after anesthesiaanesthesia
[Gr.,=insensibility], loss of sensation, especially that of pain, induced by drugs, especially as a means of facilitating safe surgical procedures. Early modern medical anesthesia dates to experiments with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) by Sir Humphry Davy of England
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 or to counteract barbiturate poisoning. Ammonia, in smelling salts, is also a medullary stimulant; the alkaloid strychnine is a spinal-cord stimulant.

Other substances act mainly on the autonomic nervous system. Drugs that stimulate the parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system, such as pilocarpinepilocarpine
, naturally occurring alkaloid obtained from plants of the genus Pilocarpus (family Rutaceae). By mimicking the effects of acetylcholine, pilocarpine acts as a stimulant of the parasympathetic nervous system.
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, physostigmine, and neostigmineneostigmine
, drug used to mimic the effects of stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Along with several other drugs that have a similar mode of action, it inhibits the action of the enzyme cholinesterase, which destroys the substance acetylcholine at nerve endings.
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, cause contracted pupils, salivation and sweating, slowed heartbeat, and lowered blood pressure. Drugs such as norepinephrine, epinephrineepinephrine
, hormone important to the body's metabolism, also known as adrenaline. Epinephrine, a catecholamine, together with norepinephrine, is secreted principally by the medulla of the adrenal gland.
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, and other catecholaminescatecholamine
, any of several compounds occurring naturally in the body that serve as hormones or as neurotransmitters in the sympathetic nervous system. The catecholamines include such compounds as epinephrine, or adrenaline, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
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 and synthetic analogs stimulate the sympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system, resulting in dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, and increased blood pressure. Because the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems have opposing physiological effects, stimulation of one system amounts to depression of the other. Some of the alkaloids from the ergotergot
, disease of rye and other cereals caused by the fungus Claviceps purpurea. The cottony, matlike body, or mycelium, of the fungus develops in the ovaries of the host plant; it eventually turns into a hard pink or purple body, the sclerotium, or ergot, that resembles
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 fungus act by direct stimulation of smooth muscle, inducing contractions in uterine and intestinal muscle.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a medicinal preparation used therapeutically to stimulate the sensory nerve endings of the skin and mucosa. The group of stimulants includes substances that are different in origin and chemical structure, for example, ammonia water and such volatile oils as oil of mustard, camphor, menthol, and oil of turpentine.

Stimulants are rubbed into or applied to the skin to weaken the inflammatory process in myositis, neuritis, and arthralgia. Bitters such as tincture of wormwood (absinthium tincture) and centaury are taken orally to stimulate the appetite. The receptors of the oral cavity perceive the sensation of the bitter taste of bitters, which induces a reflex intensification of the excitability of the feeding center and a subsequent increase in appetite. Steam from ammonia water irritates the sensory receptors of nasal mucosa, which causes a reflex intensification of the tone of the respiratory and vasomotor centers.


Anichkov, S. V., and M. L. Belen’kii. Uchebnik farmakologii, 2nd ed. Leningrad, 1968.
Mashkovskii, M. D. Lekarstvennye sredstva, parts 1–2, 7th ed. Moscow, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A drug or agent that temporarily acts on muscles, nerves, or a sensory end organ, producing an increase in its state of activity.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. a drug or similar substance that increases physiological activity, esp of a particular organ
2. increasing physiological activity; stimulating
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In 2017, a total of 10,333 deaths involving psychostimulants occurred, representing 14.7% of drug overdose deaths and a 37.0% increase from 2016 (Table).
Here we report on mental health issues in a recent national sample of individuals who are regular psychostimulant users and typically report using multiple substances (Sindicich & Burns, 2015).
Perhaps the most controversial issues surrounding the treatment of adults with ADHD are abuse and diversion of psychostimulants. Abuse generally refers to misuse of the drug by the person prescribed the agent, whereas diversion refers to use of the drug by people for whom the drug was not intended--with or without the prescribee's knowledge.
(4) examine the evidence regarding psychostimulants in the management of MDD in both general and specific patient populations.
Gail's report cards during her fifth grade year, as well as from previous years, suggested she needed additional help beyond psychostimulant medication; specifically, with completing homework assignments.
Additionally, reasons for substance use affect treatment planning, as an individual who uses marijuana to escape emotional pain will require a different treatment approach than an individual who abuses psychostimulant medications in order to study for exams.
Despite the relevance of the hormonal condition on psychostimulant intake, the influence of the concomitant administration of progesterone and estrogen in females receiving repeated cocaine exposures is poorly understood.
(1) More than 90% of patients will have a positive response to one of the psychostimulants. (1) The beneficial effects of psychostimulants on inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are well documented.
Although NO has been known as a vasodilator and inflammatory mediator, it also plays a role in reinforcing effect of psychostimulants in brain.
College students' use of prescription psychostimulants has emerged as an important area of research.
Currently, methylphenidate and several other psychostimulants are preferred medications to help manage the disease.
DAT is the major target for psychostimulants such as cocaine (COC) and amphetamine (AMPH).