Exploring Myths: Analyzing the Impact of Stimulant Medications on Addiction, Heart Disease, and Methamphetamine Withdrawal

Jay Getten | Mar 14, 2024 | 7 min read


There is a lot of healthcare information out there, and not all of it is accurate or helpful. Myths and misconceptions about stimulant medications often circulate, creating unnecessary worry and confusion. Stimulants are praised for their effectiveness in treating attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but also feared for alleged risks of addiction and heart disease. This blog examines these concerns, using evidence-based research to dispel common myths surrounding stimulant medications.

Understanding Stimulant Medications

ADHD and narcolepsy are mainly treated with methylphenidate and amphetamines. These drugs raise the levels of important brain chemicals (dopamine and norepinephrine) that help with concentration, and reduce impulsiveness and hyperactivity, allowing people with ADHD to manage their symptoms better and improve their well-being. They stop dopamine and norepinephrine from going back into the neurons and make them release more of these chemicals into the space outside the neurons. This way, stimulants enhance the effects of these chemicals. This not only helps with attention and focus, but also regulates movement and emotional responses, making these medications very helpful for people with ADHD.

Even though their effectiveness is well-established, some patients and caregivers are reluctant to use them because of false beliefs about their side effects. The worry of becoming addicted or experiencing other negative outcomes often ignores the substantial benefits these medications can offer. However, a careful look at scientific evidence shows a different picture, one where the benefits of stimulant medications are much greater than the possible risks for most patients.

The Myth of Increased Addiction Risk

Some people think that stimulant medication for ADHD makes addiction easier, but this is false. Studies have shown that stimulants do not raise the risk of substance use disorders. In fact, they lower it. This is because stimulants help with ADHD symptoms like inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, so people are less likely to use illegal substances to cope. This shows how important stimulants are as part of a full treatment plan for people with ADHD.

Stimulant Medications and Heart Disease: What Does the Evidence Say?

A recent JAMA Network Open systematic review and meta-analysis, encompassing over 3.9 million individuals from 19 studies, found no significant link between stimulant medication and cardiovascular disease risk in various age groups. This finding clarifies concerns about cardiovascular safety, suggesting that while careful monitoring is prudent, especially for those with existing heart conditions, the risk of heart disease should not discourage the appropriate use of stimulants for ADHD treatment.

Addressing Methamphetamine Withdrawal with Stimulants

Two recent studies highlight the potential of Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine or LDX) to manage acute methamphetamine (MA) withdrawal, suggesting it’s safe, tolerable, and feasible for clinical use. This marks progress in addiction treatment, showcasing LDX’s versatility and opening new avenues for treating substance use disorders with stimulant medications.

Beyond the Myths: The Efficacy of Stimulant Medications

Research consistently shows that stimulant medications are key in enhancing ADHD management and aiding in substance withdrawal without increasing addiction or heart disease risks. Navigating mental health and addiction treatment, it’s vital to rely on solid science over myths. Ongoing studies on stimulants promise safer, more effective patient care, highlighting the need for increased commitment to evidence-based practices for optimal health outcomes.


Stimulant medications, under proper medical guidance, provide substantial advantages. Embracing an evidence-based perspective allows for the appreciation of their effectiveness, tailored treatment, and vigilant oversight. Dispelling myths enhances informed healthcare choices. Follow our blog for ongoing, research-based mental health insights, as we cultivate an informed, empathetic community attuned to healthcare’s intricacies.

Annotated Bibliography

  • Acheson, L. S., Ezard, N., Lintzeris, N., Dunlop, A., Brett, J., Rodgers, C., Gill, A., Christmass, M., McKetin, R., Farrell, M., Shoptaw, S., & Siefried, K. J. (2022). Trial protocol of an open label pilot study of lisdexamfetamine for the treatment of acute methamphetamine withdrawal. PLOS ONE, 17(10), e0275371. Link
    • Annotation: This study protocol outlines an innovative approach to addressing methamphetamine withdrawal using lisdexamfetamine (LDX), exploring its safety, tolerability, and feasibility. This pioneering research contributes significantly to understanding potential treatments for methamphetamine withdrawal, offering hope for more effective management strategies in the future.
  • Boland, H., DiSalvo, M., Fried, R., Woodworth, K., Wilens, T., Faraone, S. V., & Biederman, J. (2020). A literature review and meta-analysis on the effects of ADHD medications on functional outcomes. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 123, 21–30. Link
    • Annotation: This comprehensive literature review and meta-analysis examines the effects of ADHD medications on functional outcomes. The study offers valuable insights into the benefits of ADHD medications beyond symptom control, highlighting their role in improving overall life quality for individuals with ADHD.
  • Chang, Z., Lichtenstein, P., Halldner, L., D'Onofrio, B., Serlachius, E., Fazel, S., Långström, N., & Larsson, H. (2013). Stimulant ADHD medication and risk for substance abuse. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 55(8), 878–885. Link
    • Annotation: This research investigates the relationship between stimulant ADHD medication and the risk of substance abuse, providing essential evidence that challenges the notion that ADHD medication use leads to increased substance use disorders. The study is crucial for understanding the implications of ADHD treatment on long-term substance use.
  • Ezard, N., Clifford, B., Dunlop, A., Bruno, R., Carr, A., Liu, Z., Siefried, K. J., & Lintzeris, N. (2021). Safety and tolerability of oral lisdexamfetamine in adults with methamphetamine dependence: A phase-2 dose-escalation study. BMJ Open, 11(5), e044696 Link
    • Annotation: This phase-2 study assesses the safety and tolerability of oral lisdexamfetamine in adults with methamphetamine dependence, marking an important step in exploring alternative treatments for addiction. The findings contribute to the growing body of literature on the potential of ADHD medications in addiction treatment contexts.
  • Magon, R., & Müller, U. (2012). ADHD with comorbid substance use disorder: Review of treatment. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 18(6), 436–446. Link
    • Annotation: This review delves into the complexities of treating ADHD in the presence of comorbid substance use disorders, offering a critical examination of current treatment approaches and highlighting the need for integrated treatment strategies that address both conditions simultaneously.
  • Wilens, T., M.D. (2007, March 27). Does stimulant medication cause drug dependence? ADDitude. Link
    • Annotation: In this informative article, Dr. Wilens tackles the common concern that stimulant medication for ADHD may lead to drug dependence. Through a careful review of evidence, the article dispels myths about addiction risk and emphasizes the therapeutic value of stimulants in managing ADHD.
  • Zhang, L., Yao, H., Li, L., Du Rietz, E., Andell, P., Garcia-Argibay, M., D’Onofrio, B. M., Cortese, S., Larsson, H., & Chang, Z. (2022). Risk of cardiovascular diseases associated with medications used in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. JAMA Network Open, 5(11), e2243597 Link
    • Annotation: This systematic review and meta-analysis investigate the association between ADHD medication use and the risk of cardiovascular diseases, providing a comprehensive overview of cardiovascular safety concerns. The study's findings offer reassurance about the cardiovascular risks of ADHD medications, contributing to informed decision-making in ADHD treatment.

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