Amphetamines are a type of stimulant that speeds up the body and its response to stimuli. Amphetamines are widely prescribed for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), and their widespread use has made amphetamine addiction, abuse, and treatment an issue. The side effects of amphetamine addiction and abuse is similar to that of cocaine, but amphetamines stay in the system longer.
Amphetamines are commonly used throughout the US, with some 3 million Americans using amphetamines recreationally each year. While the usage numbers have stabilized, addiction reports are on the increase, as are those seeking treatment for stimulant drugs, indicating that amphetamine addiction has become a public health issue.
A recent NIDA report indicated that stimulant use among college-aged young adults has doubled in recent years, highlighting the scope of the problem among young users. This is particularly worrisome given the potential of stimulant abuse to lead to harder drug use or unsafe practices such as self-injecting.
Amphetamines are generally taken in tablet form, and are sometimes ground up and injected. Users of ice, or crystalized methamphetamine, may also smoke the drug.
Common Street Names for Amphetamines
Amphetamines have a wide variety of street names, including:
- black beauties
They may also be known by their prescription drug names, such as Ritalin, Adderall and Dexedrine.
Amphetamines are a class of synthetic psychoactive drugs. In the US Amphetamines are a controlled Schedule II substance, a classification that recognizes their potential for abuse and addiction. Amphetamines are available only with a prescription.
Drug History and Trends in Usage
The first amphetamine epidemic was reported in the US in the late 1920’s, when amphetamines began to be used in decongestant medications. At that point the drug was available over the counter, and soon became a popular choice as an antidepressant; it was also prescribed for military servicemen. As amphetamines became more widely prescribed to manage attention-based disorders, they have grown to be abused by students, truck drivers and those working long hours. Their ability to suppress the appetite and to improve wakefulness has also led to their use in weight control and in the club scene.
Side effects of Amphetamine Addiction and Abuse
Amphetamines activate nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, temporarily improving mental focus, the ability to stay awake and concentration. These effects usually last several hours. Short term effects of amphetamines include increased temperature, dilated pupils, twitching, euphoria, increased respiration and heart rate, and a heightened sense of competence and strength. At high doses, the increased blood pressure caused by the drug use can raise the risk of cardiovascular problems, and may even lead to stroke.
The side effects of chronic amphetamine abuse can be disturbing. Users may begin to exhibit psychosis, with symptoms including paranoia, picking at the skin, and hallucinations. Amphetamine addiction can result in erratic or violent behavior, with individuals doing harm to themselves and others.
Taking amphetamines can also lead to physical problems associated with injectable drugs such as collapsed veins and the risk of hepatitis. Increased blood pressure, a raised pulse, insomnia, weight loss and exhaustion are also side effects that can take a toll on the body.
Withdrawal symptoms of Amphetamine
Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of cocaine, but last longer and are more extreme. They include a sense of dysphoria, as well as fatigue, insomnia or extreme lethargy, twitching, increased appetite and vivid nightmares. Irritability, aches and pains, depression and difficulty functioning socially are also common withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms such as mood disturbances may last as long as a year.
Treatment for Amphetamine Addiction and Abuse
While self-detoxification seems to be on the rise with those struggling with amphetamine abuse and treatment, amphetamine addiction can be a challenge to break without help. This is particularly the case when individuals are dealing with protracted withdrawal symptoms that may last far longer than those associated with other drugs.
Individuals who have suffered from psychosis when taking amphetamines may do so again, and given the psychological, physical and emotional challenges associated with detoxing, it is recommended that users do so under medical supervision.
Detoxification programs offering expert treatment for stimulant drugs can play a vital role in helping individuals who are experiencing amphetamine addiction or dependence. The provision of a structured environment along with counseling and medical treatment where needed can offer the support and boundaries needed by those dealing with the complexity of amphetamine abuse and treatment.