Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that are commonly misused to get high or increase mental alertness and focus.
Amphetamines such as Adderall and Desoxyn are prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and to aid weight loss.
There are also forms of amphetamines that are illegal, such as methamphetamine (meth) and any nonmedical use of prescription amphetamines.
Misusing any form of amphetamine by taking high doses or using it without a prescription can lead to addiction, as well as increased risk for lasting health consequences.
Millions of people in the United States are estimated to misuse prescription stimulants each year, and more still report abusing illegal forms of stimulants like meth.
Despite widespread misuse, very few people who struggle with amphetamine abuse or addiction go on to seek professional treatment.
Understanding the risks, dangers, and signs of amphetamine abuse can be an important step towards identifying when professional treatment may be needed.
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Types Of Amphetamines
Amphetamines are available in a variety of forms with some variances in chemical structure. They can be prescribed by a doctor or acquired illegally in the form of pills, tablets, powder, paste, and liquid.
Commonly abused amphetamines include:
- dextroamphetamine (e.g. Adderall, Dexedrine)
- methamphetamine (liquid form)
Amphetamines can also be referred to by a number of slang terms. Common slang terms for amphetamines include speed, uppers, black beauty, and dexies.
How Are Amphetamines Abused?
Amphetamine abuse refers to any use of amphetamines that are not prescribed by a doctor. This can include taking higher doses than prescribed or taking them more frequently.
Other methods of amphetamine abuse include:
- taking pills from a friend or family member’s prescription
- injecting, smoking, or inhaling amphetamines
- taking amphetamines with other drugs, such as alcohol
- dabbing the drugs on the gums
Symptoms Of Amphetamine Abuse
Amphetamines are prescribed for people with specific physical and mental conditions. They produce effects by increasing the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.
By acting on these neurotransmitters, amphetamines are able to increase certain cognitive functions and produce a rush of energy. This can help people stay awake, improve focus, and increase mental alertness.
Misusing amphetamines, however, can lead to additional adverse side effects, including negative effects on behavior and heightened risk for addiction.
Side effects and symptoms of amphetamine abuse can include:
- a rapid rush of energy
- feelings of pleasure and relaxation
- speaking very fast
- a heightened sense of alertness and focus
- dilated pupils
- decreased appetite
- fast heart rate
- high body temperature
- increased blood pressure
- weight loss
- lowered inhibition
- dry mouth
- twitching muscles
Depending on the type of drug used, amphetamines can affect people in different ways. For instance, despite being chemically similar to prescription amphetamines, meth is more potent in small doses and can have longer-lasting effects.
Other factors that can impact amphetamine side effects include the method of use (e.g. smoked, swallowed, injected), dosage, and personal factors.
Signs Of Amphetamine Abuse And Addiction
Abusing substances like amphetamines can cause significant changes in how a person behaves and functions in their day-to-day life.
For some, amphetamine abuse can begin as a single or infrequent occurrence, but over time become more regular as they become addicted to the drug’s effects. This can lead to physical dependence on amphetamines, as well as a psychological addiction.
Many people who abuse drugs become more secretive or will avoid friends and family more often in order to hide their drug use or to get high. The behavioral changes can affect a person’s work, relationships, and social life.
Signs that someone has become addicted to amphetamines:
- strong drug cravings
- continuing to take amphetamines despite harmful effects on relationships with friends, family, or health
- feeling like you have to take amphetamines just to feel “normal”
- being unable to reduce or stop taking amphetamines
- withdrawal symptoms
Long-Term Health Risks From Amphetamine Abuse
The greatest dangers of amphetamine abuse are the risk of addiction and the lasting health consequences of long-term drug abuse.
Taking high doses of amphetamines over months or years has the potential to cause lasting damage to several organs in the body, including the brain. This can lead to severe effects on physical, emotional, and mental health.
Health risks associated with long-term amphetamine abuse include:
- brain damage
- losing touch with reality (psychosis)
- skin disorders
- heart arrhythmias
- mood problems such as depression and hostility
- increased suicide risk
- breathing difficulties
Several of these long-term effects mimic symptoms of mental disorders like schizophrenia, which is characterized by excessive paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations.
Other effects, such as reduced gray matter in the brain, can make it difficult to stop using amphetamines. This can make it more difficult to recover from amphetamine addiction and may require a longer and more intensive treatment process.
Amphetamine Overdose: Signs And Symptoms
Drug overdose is the body’s reaction to too much of one or more drugs in a person’s system, resulting in adverse physical and mental symptoms.
An amphetamine overdose can occur by:
- taking a toxic amount of amphetamines in a single sitting
- mixing high doses of amphetamines with other drugs or alcohol
Overdosing on amphetamines is rarely fatal when taken alone, but can become more dangerous if other drugs are involved. Any overdose, however, is a cause for concern and may require medical treatment.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the following overdose symptoms after taking amphetamines, seek medical attention right away:
- overactive reflexes
- rapid breathing
- panic attack
- abnormally high or low blood pressure
- muscle pains
Severe symptoms such as heart attack, seizures, and coma can also occur in the event of an overdose. Taking other drugs with amphetamines may increase the risk of severe and life-threatening symptoms.
Chronic amphetamine abuse can cause a person to develop drug tolerance. This means that a person will have to increase their dose to experience the same intensity of effects.
Continuing to increase how much you take can cause the body to become dependent on amphetamines, resulting in withdrawal symptoms once the effects of the drugs have subsided.
Withdrawal refers to a set of physical and psychological symptoms that can occur in people who become drug-dependent. These symptoms can begin within 24 hours after a person’s last dose, requiring more of the drug to prevent or alleviate symptoms.
Symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal may include:
- strong drug cravings
- difficulty sleeping
- increased appetite
- mood swings
- rebound anxiety symptoms
For people who have become dependent on amphetamines, undergoing the withdrawal process is a necessary step to remove the drugs from their system. This removal process is called detox.
Amphetamine withdrawal is not known to be dangerous. However, it is recommended that anyone who has become addicted to amphetamines seek professional support when attempting to detox.
This can reduce the chance of relapse and connect people to additional treatment services for overcoming addiction.
Amphetamine Detox Programs
Most drug and alcohol rehab centers offer medically supervised detox services for people who need to detox before beginning an inpatient rehab program.
The length of amphetamine detox can depend on several factors, including the severity of a person’s dependence, whether they abuse other drugs and the detox setting.
Entering a medical detox program for amphetamine withdrawal can help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and may reduce how long they last.
Most withdrawal symptoms last no longer than 10 days. However, some symptoms— such as low mood, cravings, and insomnia— may persist for a month or longer. These can be treated outside of detox within a rehab program through the use of medications and counseling.
Treatment For Amphetamine Abuse And Addiction
Addiction is not an easy problem to face alone. For most people, overcoming addiction is the hardest challenge they will ever face.
Entering a treatment program for amphetamine abuse or addiction is the most effective way to overcome addiction and learn healthy coping skills for staying sober.
At Vertava Health of Massachusetts, our treatment specialists understand the unique challenges each person faces as they begin their path toward recovery from addiction. Our individualized approach to treatment means that each patient’s treatment plan is tailored to meet their specific needs.
What we offer within our treatment program:
- 24-hour supervision and support
- individual counseling
- trauma therapy
- group therapy
- skill-learning groups
- medication-assisted treatment
- dietician services
- expressive therapies
- adventure therapy
Acknowledging that you need help is just the first step. Let us help you or a loved one overcome amphetamine addiction and begin the path towards a more balanced future today.
Contact us today to learn more about amphetamine abuse and addiction treatment options at Vertava Health of Massachusetts.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Substance use - amphetamines
- Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) — Amphetamines
- National Institute on Drug Abuse — DrugFacts: Prescription Stimulants
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)