Models of intervention and care for psychostimulant users, 2nd edition - monograph series no. 51

Chapter 3: Pharmacology of psychostimulants

Page last updated: April 2004

Angela Dean
Department of Psychiatry, University of Queensland

Key points:

  • Psychostimulants all act to increase activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin. MDMA and amphetamines act to enhance release of monoamines, whereas cocaine inhibits monoamine reuptake as well as blocking sodium channel activity.

  • Psychostimulants all produce euphoria, wellbeing, energy, wakefulness and alertness. Additionally, MDMA is known for producing a greater sense of closeness to others.

  • Psychostimulant use may lead to diverse toxicity presentations, including psychiatric, neurological, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and metabolic presentations. These are not always dose-related and identification of risk factors is not yet consistently possible.

  • Concurrent administration of psychostimulants and other drugs may alter desired drug effects and their toxicity profile.