What Are Amphetamines?
Amphetamines are a classification of drugs that include illegal drugs sold on the streets as well as drugs that are prescribed to treat certain conditions.
Any amphetamine, regardless of its legal or medical status, is a central nervous system stimulant. When someone uses amphetamines, it speeds up most of the functions of the brain and body.
In terms of prescription use, amphetamine might be given to help treat the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or less commonly symptoms of narcolepsy or obesity.
When someone uses amphetamine, it can create feelings of increased energy and wakefulness. It can also improve cognitive function and control and can reduce symptoms of fatigue.
- Amphetamine itself
- Dextroamphetamine (this is an ADHD medication, but it’s often used illegally for recreational purposes)
- Methamphetamine (this is also known as crystal meth)
- Liquid methamphetamine
Illegal amphetamines come in different forms including pills, capsules, powders, crystallized form, and as a liquid. These drugs can be recreationally abused by swallowing them, snorting them, smoking them or injecting them into the veins.
Brand-name amphetamine drugs include Adderall, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse, and there are also a variety of generic ADHD medications.
General symptoms of amphetamines, including when they’re used by prescription, can include:
- Problems with coordination
- Heart palpitations
- Blurred vision
Signs and Symptoms of Recreational Amphetamine Abuse
When someone uses amphetamines, it affects their central nervous system. These stimulants will speed up how messages move between the brain and body. Someone on amphetamines may feel more alert and more cognitively and physically active. When they’re used, it can also create a euphoric high because they release dopamine into the brain.
Dopamine is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the brain that creates pleasurable feelings. Signs of recreational amphetamine abuse can include:
- Euphoria or extreme joy
- A rush of energy
- Loss of inhibition
- Increased self-confidence
- Increased sociability
Amphetamine abuse tends to be most common among younger people and in particular college students. College students might use amphetamine drugs as a way to stay awake for longer and study more.
While many students and even young professionals may see Adderall as a performance booster, it tends to be the opposite. Research shows that students who regularly abuse Adderall or other similar amphetamine-based drugs actually perform worse over time.
Along with the positive effects of amphetamine recreational use, some of the other signs that someone is abusing these stimulant drugs can include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Weight loss and decreased appetite
- Insomnia and sleep disturbances
- Digestive problems
- Changes in mood and rapid mood swings
- Panic attacks
The symptoms of methamphetamine abuse can be even more pronounced and severe. Methamphetamine, also referred to as meth or crystal meth, is a highly addictive and deadly drug. Signs of methamphetamine abuse can include skin sores, severe weight loss, and dental problems.
Signs and Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction
Abusing amphetamine doesn’t necessarily mean someone is addicted. Addiction is a chronic disorder, and it can be diagnosed as is the case with other medical conditions. It is possible to become addicted to amphetamine with repeated exposure.
Essentially, when someone uses amphetamine and it triggers an unnatural release of dopamine into the brain, this creates a reward response. That reward response means that the continual use of the substance creating it is reinforced by the brain. In this case, it’s amphetamine.
If someone is addicted to amphetamine, their use is compulsive and no longer in their control. Signs and symptoms of amphetamine addiction can include:
- Someone with an addiction may keep using amphetamine despite negative health effects or consequences in their lifestyle
- Amphetamine use is a top priority above other things in a person’s life
- Someone who is addicted to amphetamine will usually have least one serious but failed attempt to cut down or stop using it
- Relationships may be damaged as the result of a person’s amphetamine use
- Someone with an addiction to amphetamine may start to show declines in performance at school or work
Along with amphetamine addiction, dependence is possible with this class of stimulant drugs as well. Tolerance indicates that someone will need higher doses to get the same effects they once did with the drug. When this occurs, it’s very likely someone is also dependent on amphetamines.
If you’re dependent on a substance and suddenly you lower your dosage or stop taking it, you may go through withdrawal. Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms can include fatigue, changes in mood, panic attacks, hunger, depression and sleep disturbances.
Long-Term Effects of Amphetamine Abuse
Over time, there can be significant damage to a person’s health if they abuse amphetamines or are addicted to them. Some of the possible long-term effects of abusing amphetamines can include:
- Risk of injury because of engaging in dangerous activities
- Problems with sleep
- Dangerous weight loss
- Increased risk of cardiovascular problems including heart attack, heart failure, and stroke
- Problems experiencing pleasure naturally because of damage to the pleasure receptors in the brain
- Suicidal ideation
Amphetamine Use and Abuse Statistics
Some statistics related to amphetamine abuse and in particular, the use of prescription amphetamines like Adderall include the following:
- Full-time college students are twice as likely to abuse Adderall as people the same age who aren’t in college
- In one survey, more than half of the young people who responded said they got Adderall from a friend
- The use of amphetamine drugs makes it more likely that someone will also abuse other substances—for example, non-medical Adderall users in college were eight times more likely to have also used cocaine
- One survey found that 60 percent of people aged 18 to 28 got stimulant medications from friends who were prescribed to use the drug
If you or someone you love is struggling with amphetamine abuse, addiction or dependence, help is available. There are resources available through Amethyst Recovery Center, and we can help you learn more about the right options for you.