Robert D. McMullen, MD, a psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 30 years. Dr. McMullen went to Georgetown Medical School and did his residency at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York. Call (212) 362-9635



Do Stimulants Help with Depression?

Stimulants, such as those used for attention deficit disorder (ADD), can sometimes help a patient who are depressed.

With most people who are depressed, if they took a stimulant it might help their mood a little. It might lift their spirits but it wouldn’t bring them completely to normal. Therefore, there is a risk that some people will take more than they should, hoping that taking excessive amounts will help them get out of bed easier and function more fully.

A common and proper use of stimulants is when the patient that is already on anti-depressants which are not working 100%. That is, the medication they are taking now is not bringing them all the way to having normal moods. By adding a stimulant in this case, the patient often reaches the 100% mark or at least becomes a great deal better than they are.


Ritalin (methylphenidate) is the mildest stimulant and the one that a doctor would first prescribe. It may in be the immediate-release form, 5 mg pill, one or two times a day.

Gradually, it would be discovered if Retalin will work for that patient and how much is needed to be effective. If it turns out that the person need 20 or 30 mg a day, the doctor can be prescribed a slow release pill containing that amount.

Ritalin rarely raises a person’s blood pressure, even with people who have hypertension. However, it is possible that a stimulant could affect blood pressure so it must be monitored.


AmphetamineAmphetamines are another class of stimulants that are used to fight this illness. In particular, these are dexedrine (dextromphetamine), adreol (amphetamine salts) and Vyvanse (another form of dexedrine).

These are a little more potent and sometimes more effective than Retalin. They are slightly easier to abuse. However, Vyvanse is designed so it won’t work if it is injected so it can’t be abused intravenously.

Be aware that these drugs can raise blood pressure, especially in people who have existing high blood pressure, so this condition must be monitored carefully.

A Word about Addiction and Abuse

There are times when a person suffering from the illness has been prescribed a wide variety of anti-depressants and the only thing that works is a stimulant, namely methylphenidate or dexedrine.

Several decades ago, Donald Cline wrote the first textbook on psychopharmacology. He mentioned that he had patients who came in to the office, confessing that they have been on amphetamines for a long time. Sometimes they felt guilty because they had become dependent on them.

During their college years, they found a doctor who would give them samples of amphetamines to help them concentrate on their studies. Without them, they could not concentrate. It turned out that these people had chronic depression. When they are on this drug, they felt fine. Without them, they suffered from the illness and could not function normally.

When asked how much they were taking, they said 30 mg a day. Occasionally, if they had to go to a function when they were particularly tired, they would take a little extra chip to gain a bit more energy, but this was not done on a regular basis.

These people were not abusing this drug. They were using it as an anti-depressant in order to function normally. Furthermore, they only took only the set amount. They were addicted to it in the sense that they needed the drug to function but they were not abusing the drug by taking more to get high.

Therefore, if you are taking a prescribed anti-depressant and your symptoms are not entirely gone, you should consider requesting one of these stimulants from your doctor.

To determine what can be done to level out your moods, Call 212 362-9635 for an appointment in New York City. Offices in Manhattan and Mt. Kisco, NY, USA