What Are Amphetamines?
Amphetamine addiction has become a major challenge facing the people of our nation. Prescription stimulants like Adderall and Dexedrine, along with illicit amphetamines like methamphetamine and ecstasy, are highly addictive and disruptive when used as recreational drugs. Amphetamine effects tend to be very serious. Understanding more about these medications and drugs and how they work in the body creates an ability to recognize the signs of addiction, so individuals can learn how to get help in treating this challenging issue.
Amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. Its use results in an increase in certain types of brain activity, resulting in a feeling of higher energy, focus, confidence, and in a dose-dependent manner, can elicit a rewarding euphoria. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, amphetamine was first synthesized in Germany in the late 1800s; however, its stimulant properties were not discovered until about the 1930s, when it began to be used to treat nasal congestion.
As time went by, amphetamine began to be used to treat a variety of conditions, from alcohol hangovers to weight loss. It was also used to treat two conditions for which it is still known today: hyperactivity in young people (including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy, a condition in which people fall asleep suddenly. Occasionally, it is used to treat depression.
Types of Illegal Amphetamines
There are different kinds of street amphetamines. Common ones and some of their slang terms are:
- Amphetamine: goey, louee, speed, uppers, whiz
- Dextroamphetamine (ADHD medicine used illegally): dexies, kiddie-speed, pep pills, uppers; black beauty (when combined with amphetamine)
They can be used in different ways:
- Dabbed onto the gums
- Inhaled through the nose (snorted)
- Injected into a vein (shooting up)
Illegal amphetamines come in different forms:
- Pills and capsules
- Powder and paste
Amphetamine Effects, Addiction And Abuse
Amphetamine is abused in several ways. Of course, it is possible just to take the pills and experience a mild high that way. However, some people crush the pills and snort them, creating a faster, stronger high. One of the quickest ways to get high from amphetamine or methamphetamine is to dissolve the powder in water and inject it. This method gets the drug into the bloodstream and to the brain almost immediately, creating an intense high.
Students often abuse amphetamine through off-label use as a study aid. These individuals consider that the high energy and focus that result from using the drug can help them perform better on tests and in school. However, an article from TIME discusses a study that showed
students who use amphetamines do not perform any better; in fact, they often perform worse. Nevertheless, the drug does make people feel like they can focus more and do better even if the opposite is true. More significantly, this level of abuse can lead to more severe, illicit use of the drug to get high.
The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that about 4.8 million people in the US abused prescription amphetamine medications that year, equivalent to about 1.8% of the population that is 12 and older. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, on the other hand, reports that about 1.2 million people use methamphetamine; this is about 0.4% of the population.
Signs of Amphetamine Addiction
There are multiple ways of recognizing amphetamine addiction, including physical and mental symptoms and changes in behavior as described here:
- Visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations
- Inability to keep up with work, school, or home responsibilities
- Much of the person’s time spent seeking or using the drug
- Missing pills from a prescription
- Changes in groups of friends and difficulties with relationships
- Loss of interest in previous activities
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Digestive upset
- Mood swings
- Paranoia and anxiety
In the case of methamphetamine, dental problems, skin sores, and severe weight loss are highly visible signs that the drug is being abused, as described by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Amphetamine Effects on Your Brain
Amphetamines are stimulant drugs. They make the messages between your brain and body move faster. As a result, you are more alert and physically active. Some people use amphetamines to help them stay awake on the job or to study for a test. Others use them to boost their performance in sports.
Amphetamine also causes the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that is involved with mood, thinking, and movement. It is also called the feel-good brain chemical. Using this drug may cause pleasurable amphetamine effects such as:
- Joy (euphoria, or “flash” or “rush”) and less inhibition, similar to being drunk
- Feeling as if your thinking is extremely clear
- Feeling more in control, self-confident
- Wanting to be with and talk to people (more sociable)
- Increased energy
How fast you feel the amphetamine effects depends on how they are used:
- Smoking or injecting into a vein (shooting up): Effects (the “rush”) start right away and are intense and last a few minutes.
- Snorting: Effects (the “high”) start in 3 to 5 minutes, are less intense than smoking or injecting, and last 15 to 30 minutes.
- Taken by mouth: Effects (“high”) start in 15 to 20 minutes and last longer than smoking, injecting, or snorting, depending on how much is taken.
Harmful Amphetamine Effects
Amphetamine effects 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
- 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)
- Memory loss problems thinking clearly, and stroke
People who use these drugs, especially methamphetamine, have a high chance of getting HIV and hepatitis B and C. This can be through sharing used needles with someone who has an infection. Or, it can be through having unsafe sex because drug use can lead to risky behaviors. Amphetamines can cause birth defects when taken during pregnancy. Also, street drugs are not safe during breastfeeding.
Amphetamines can be Addictive
You usually do not get addicted to prescription amphetamines when you take them at the right dosage to treat your health condition. Addiction happens when you use amphetamines to get high or improve performance. 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.
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:
- A 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.
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 returning to using (relapsing).
You may need to stay at a live-in treatment program if you have severe withdrawal symptoms. There, your health and safety can be monitored as you recover. Currently, no medicine can help reduce the use of amphetamines by blocking their effects. But, scientists are researching such medicines.
Your Ongoing Recovery
As you recover, focus on the following to help prevent relapse:
- Keep going to your treatment sessions.
- Find new activities and goals to replace those involving your drug use.
- Spend more time with family and friends you lost touch with while using. Consider not seeing friends who are still using.
- Exercise and eat healthy foods. Taking care of your body helps it heal from the harmful effects of drug use. You will feel better, too.
- Avoid triggers. These can be people you use drugs with. They can also be places, things, or emotions that can make you want to use them again.
Reclaim Your Life From Amphetamine Effects
Amphetamine addiction is a chronic disease that can cause significant health, social, and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Washington can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this condition with a professional and safe mental health treatment and ease amphetamine effects. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
We Level Up Washington Mental Health Center: Primary Mental Health Treatment with Secondary Co-Occurring Treatments
At We Level Up Washington, our primary focus is providing comprehensive mental health treatment for individuals with conditions like cocaine addiction. While we do not directly provide detox services, we offer secondary treatment programs that address co-occurring addiction-related mental health disorders.
Our evidence-based approach to mental health treatments aims to improve your overall well-being and help you overcome the challenges of cocaine addiction. Contact us today for a complimentary mental health evaluation and take the first step towards a transformative recovery journey.
Inpatient medical detox and primary addiction treatment services may be available at affiliated facilities within the We Level Up Treatment Centers network.