Module 2: Basic Pharmacology of Controlled Drugs and Substances

Lesson 1

Psychostimulants/amphetamines – Common adverse effects

Many of the side effects associated with methylphenidate and amphetamines are mild, of short duration and reversible with adjustments to the dose or dosing interval. The occurrence of side effects is similar with methylphenidate and amphetamines. Undesirable effects are the extremes of the therapeutic indications, including anorexia or appetite disturbance (80%), sleep disturbances (3 to 85%), and weight loss (10 to 15%).  Less common side effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, headache, social withdrawal, nervousness, irritability, stomach pain, and rebound irritability or moodiness. Deceleration of linear growth may occur, but adult height is not affected (Poole Arcangelo & Peterson, 2013).

Chronic use can result in tolerance to the mood-elevating effects of these drugs but does not appear to develop to the beneficial effects in treatment of ADHD or narcolepsy. Amphetamines can produce very powerful psychological dependence leading to compulsive patterns of use (Canadian Pharmacists Association, 2014). Patients should be encouraged to have regular follow-up to monitor reaction to the medications.


  • Canadian Pharmacists Association. (2014). E-Therapeutics. Ottawa: Author.