Amphetamine Addiction

Amphetamine Addiction, Types, Effects & Treatment Options

What are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines, otherwise known as ‘speed’ on the streets, are psychoactive drugs that speed up the central nervous system (CNS). Its use increases certain types of brain activity, resulting in a feeling of higher energy, focus, and confidence [1]. The drugs are sold under street names or drug slang names such as Bennies, Black Beauties, Crank, Ice, Speed, Uppers. Amphetamine’s effect is similar to cocaine, but the slower onset and longer duration. It was also used to treat two mental health conditions attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a condition in which people fall asleep suddenly. Occasionally, it is used in depression treatment. As time went by, amphetamine began to treat various conditions, from alcohol headaches and hangovers to weight loss. 

Amphetamine Addiction
People who have a history of substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse, have an increased risk of developing an amphetamine addiction as well.

Side effects of this drug include increased body temperature, blood pressure, pulse rates, insomnia, loss of appetite, physical exhaustion. Amphetamine addiction produces a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia: paranoia, hallucinations, violent and erratic behavior. Overdose can be fatal. There is widespread use among younger generations who believe that these drugs are accessible and ‘safe’ compared to more potent drugs such as heroin. Despite this perceived positive image, the effects of an amphetamine addiction on your health and other aspects of your life can be equally as devastating.

Much like the abuse of other illegal stimulant drugs such as MDMA (ecstasy), which is a derivative of amphetamines, people who take amphetamines intending to suppress appetite or feel less tired can become trapped in a cycle of repeated use that can lead to dependence and, ultimately, addiction.

Types of Amphetamines

There are quite a few different types of amphetamines. Most are closely monitored prescription drugs, but some are illicit and have no medical use. 

Prescription Amphetamines

Prescription amphetamines are often used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy (sudden sleep attacks or difficulty staying awake) [2]. They include:

  • Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
  • Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
  • Methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin, Quillivant)
  • Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse)
  • Methamphetamine (Desoxyn)

Though these are prescriptions, you can buy them on the street, too. Some people fake ADHD to get a prescription or visit multiple doctors to obtain extra pills to sell.

Illicit Amphetamines

Though methamphetamine is sometimes prescribed, it’s also an illicit amphetamine. It’s sold on the street as a crystalline substance (crystal meth), powder, or liquid. 

Illicit methamphetamine is highly addictive. Many dealers or manufacturers cut it with other substances to stretch the supply. Cutting agents lower the quality of the drug and make it even more dangerous since you don’t know what’s in it.

Ecstasy (3,4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA) is an amphetamine that has no medical use. It alters your sensory perception, which means it may make you see colors differently or hear distorted sounds. It also gives you energy so you can stay up all night. 

MDMA (or “molly”—its powdered form) is commonly abused at raves and music festivals.

What is Amphetamine Salts Combo?

Amphetamine salt combo is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts. These salts are typically combined to create a pharmaceutical product known as Adderall XR™, which is a common treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Amphetamine Addiction
People taking amphetamines to lose weight are also susceptible to developing an amphetamine addiction because, in addition to experiencing a suppressed appetite, they may also notice a boost in energy and performance

Dextroamphetamine saccharate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, and amphetamine sulfate are the four salts present, in equal shares, within the Adderall XR amphetamine salt combo.

Amphetamines, including amphetamine salts, are in a class of psychostimulant drugs known as phenethylamines, which have the primary side effects of psychological and physiological stimulation. 

Although amphetamines are clinically proven to have therapeutic utility, there is a high potential for recreational abuse. Amphetamines are notoriously addictive because euphoria is one of their main side effects, especially over the recommended medical dosage. For this reason, medical practitioners typically refrain from prescribing this drug to patients who have a history of or are susceptible to substance abuse.

What are Amphetamine Pills?

Amphetamine diet pills are a supplement that is commonly used to help lose weight by reducing the levels of hunger throughout the day. These pills also give the user high amounts of energy, which also aids in the weight loss process because of the increase in activity levels. 

Unlike some pills available on the market throughout the world, amphetamines do not work directly on the fat within the body. Rather, they work with the brain’s specific parts that control the natural hunger response. These chemicals in the brain are eliminated by the amphetamine diet pills, making it possible to go an entire day, or even several days, without feeling any hunger pains.

These pills have been banned in many areas because many people abuse these products due to the side effects. However, on many street corners, these pills are bought and sold under the street name speed because they drastically increase the energy levels.

Amphetamine diet pills can be extremely dangerous to the user because of various different medical conditions that can result from taking them. People with high blood pressure and heart problems need to avoid them because they will cause serious complications. It can also cause various levels of insomnia, confusion, and sickness when coming down from them, and they can cause heart palpitations.

What is Amphetamine Used for?

Amphetamines are drugs. They can be legal or illegal. They are legal when they are prescribed by a doctor and used to treat health problems such as obesity, narcolepsy, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Using amphetamines can lead to addiction.

Amphetamines are illegal when they are used without a prescription to get high or improve performance. In this case, they are known as street, or recreational drugs, and using them can lead to amphetamine addiction. This article describes this aspect of amphetamine addiction [3].

Amphetamine Effects 

Amphetamines are stimulants. Like other stimulants, they increase the activity of certain neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain–namely, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters play a role in regulating attention, movement, and feelings associated with pleasure and rewards.

The doses of amphetamines that clinicians typically prescribe cause a slow and gradual increase of dopamine that mimics the way this neurotransmitter is normally activated in the brain.

However, dopamine levels increase sharply when amphetamines are taken over prescribed doses or are snorted or injected. As a result, the abuser may experience a disruption of normal brain activity.

Long-term Effects of Amphetamine Addiction

Amphetamines can harm the body in many ways, and lead to:

  • Appetite decrease and weight loss
  • Heart problems such as fast heart rate, irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, and heart attack
  • High body temperature and skin flushing
  • Memory loss problems thinking clearly, and stroke
  • Mood and emotional problems such as aggressive or violent behavior, depression, and suicide
  • Ongoing hallucinations and inability to tell what is real
  • Restlessness and tremors
  • Skin sores
  • Sleep problems
  • Tooth decay (meth mouth)
  • Death

Amphetamine Side Effects

Amphetamine may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Stomach cramps
  • Weight loss
  • Nose bleeding
  • Headache
  • Grinding or clenching teeth during sleep
  • Nervousness
  • Changes in sex drive or ability
  • Painful menstruation
  • Pain or burning when urinating

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section, stop taking amphetamine and call your doctor immediately:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness or numbness of an arm or leg
  • Motor or verbal tics
  • Believing things that are not true
  • Feeling unusually suspicious of others
  • Hallucinating (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
  • Mania (frenzied or abnormally excited mood)
  • Agitation, hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist), fever, sweating, confusion, fast heartbeat, shivering, severe muscle stiffness or twitching, loss of coordination, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Changes in vision or blurred vision
  • Blistering or peeling skin
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, or eyes
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Numbness, pain, or sensitivity to temperature in the fingers or toes
  • Skin color change from pale to blue to red in the fingers or toes
  • Unexplained wounds appear on fingers or toes.

This medication may also cause sudden death, heart attack, or stroke in adults, especially those with heart defects or serious heart problems. Call your doctor right away if you or your child has any signs of heart problems while taking this medication, including chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting.

Is Amphetamine Addiction Dangerous?

Because they are stimulants, amphetamines increase the heart rate and blood pressure. In a healthy person, this may not be particularly risky. Blood pressure and heart rate will return to normal when the drug is stopped. But in a person with a preexisting heart problem, the use of amphetamines can be serious or even fatal.

Amphetamine users are also increasing their risk of heart disease due to arterial blockage that restricts blood flow to the heart muscle or results in damaged or dead heart tissue. This damage outlives the drug use—meaning that if you stop using amphetamines, the damage is still done.

The tendency for amphetamines to create cerebrovascular problems is also well-known. This means that amphetamines increase the risk of stroke. It also means that if a person using amphetamines has a stroke, there is a higher risk of death than usual.

The most severe mental harm that has been shown to accompany amphetamine use is indeed dangerous and severe. Psychosis, depression, suicidal behavior, violence, delusions, hallucinations all can result from heavy amphetamine use. 

Common hallucinations can include feelings of paranoia visual or tactile impressions. At one time in the research of amphetamine effects, it was thought that all these symptoms were just brought out in a susceptible person by the amphetamine use. It has since been proven that heavy amphetamine use can cause these problems in a mentally healthy and stable person.

Amphetamine Addiction
Recovery from amphetamine addiction may require entry into an inpatient rehabilitation program.

Is Amphetamine Addictive?

Most amphetamines are Schedule II controlled substances. They have a high potential for abuse. Abusing them will likely lead to psychological addiction. Still, it’s legal to use them under medical supervision or prescription.

Amphetamine addiction happens when you use these drugs to get high or improve performance. Amphetamine addiction means your body and mind are dependent on the drug. You are not able to control your use of it and you need it to get through daily life.

Amphetamine addiction can lead to tolerance. Tolerance means you need more and more of the drug to get the same high feeling. And if you try to stop using, your mind and body may have reactions. 

These are called withdrawal symptoms, and may include:

  • Strong craving for the drug
  • Having mood swings that range from feeling depressed to agitated to anxious
  • Feeling tired all day
  • Not able to concentrate
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • Physical reactions may include headaches, aches and pains, increased appetite, not sleeping well

The destructive properties of these drugs make people who abuse them feel depressed and even suicidal when they are not using the drug. As a result, cravings to keep using the drug can be very strong, making it difficult to stop using.

Amphetamine Addiction Treatment

Treatment begins with recognizing there is a problem. Once you decide you want to do something about your drug use, the next step is to get help and support.

Treatment programs use behavior change techniques through counseling (talk therapy). The goal is to help you understand your behaviors and why you use amphetamines. Involving family and friends during counseling can help support you and keep you from going back to using (relapsing).

If you have severe withdrawal symptoms, you may need to stay at a live-in treatment program. There, your health and safety can be monitored as you recover.

Gaining lasting recovery after amphetamine addiction proves difficult and has a long road to wellness. You can achieve this wellness with the right help. You need an array of therapies, programs, and services, such as:

Inpatient drug rehab provides a drug-free place away from obstacles that could trigger your cravings. You typically stay in a treatment center for several weeks and participate in individual and group therapies. If you or a loved one is struggling with amphetamine addiction, We Level Up NJ addiction specialists are standing by to help.

Amphetamine Addiction
Participating in a dual diagnosis treatment program will help you recover from amphetamine addiction and co-occurring mental or physical health problems. It’s important that both conditions are treated accordingly or else the risk of relapse increases.

Sources:

[1] NIH – https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a616004.html

[2] NIH – https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000792.htm

[3] DEA – https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Amphetamines-2020_0.pdf