What Are Amphetamines?
Amphetamines are a class of drugs that are stimulants. They speed up the processes of the central nervous system, and some amphetamines are used by prescription. There are also illegal amphetamines sold on the black market.
Prescription amphetamines can be used to treat certain medical conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, which is a sleep disorder. The amphetamine that’s most commonly sold on the streets and doesn’t have a medical use is crystal methamphetamine, often just called crystal meth or meth. Two well-known brand-name stimulants are Adderall and Ritalin. Both of these amphetamines are used for the treatment of ADHD.
When someone uses amphetamine since it speeds up the central nervous system it can also create feelings of euphoria and loss of appetite. Some people abuse amphetamine as a way to stay awake for long periods, study or work more, and to lose weight. The euphoria created by amphetamine is the result of the activation of certain receptors in the brain that triggers the release of dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine, in particular, is linked to feelings of pleasure.
There can be risks of prescription or recreational amphetamine use. Some of these risks include changes in blood pressure, rapid heart rate, extreme weight loss, and psychological effects. Some of the psychological effects that can occur with amphetamine use include anxiety, irritability and rapid mood swings.
In rare and severe cases, some people who use amphetamine by prescription or recreationally may experience psychosis, although when it’s used at a therapeutic dose and as prescribed, this risk is fairly low.
As with anything that affects brain neurotransmitters and dopamine, amphetamines can be addictive. When someone uses an amphetamine stimulant drug, and it triggers a flood of dopamine, it can also create a reward cycle in the brain. This reward cycle is what can lead to addiction. An addiction to a drug like Adderall or any amphetamine is characterized as compulsive and out-of-control use of that substance.
Amphetamine Dependence and Withdrawal
Along with addiction, which is a diagnosable, chronic disorder, continual usage of an amphetamine can lead to dependence. Dependence occurs when someone regularly uses a substance, and their brain starts to rely on it to function in a certain way. For example, in response to repeated exposure to an amphetamine, the brain may make less of its own dopamine naturally.
If someone is dependent on an amphetamine and they stop using it suddenly, their brain and central nervous system will struggle to return to a normal level of functionality. Withdrawal symptoms can occur during that time. Withdrawal symptoms from most substances are often the exact opposite of the symptoms of using the substance.
For example, with central nervous system depressants, a person may experience stimulant-like effects when they stop using the substance, such as insomnia and increases in heart rate and blood pressure. The opposite is true with a stimulant drug such as an amphetamine.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
There are a lot of factors that play a role in amphetamine withdrawal symptoms. Some of these factors include:
- How long someone used amphetamines
- The type of amphetamine used
- How the drug was used (for example, was it taken orally or was it snorted)
- The dosage a person was regularly using
- Whether other substances were being used simultaneously
Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms can be physically and mentally unpleasant and uncomfortable, but not usually life-threatening. Some of the primary signs of amphetamine withdrawal can include depression, low energy, and lethargy or a lack of motivation.
The biggest risk that often comes with amphetamine withdrawal and detox is depression. Depression can become severe because the drugs have significantly depleted dopamine in the brain. This can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors. This requires professional treatment and in many cases, medication. Depression can last for months after someone stops using amphetamine.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Timeline
Just as the specific symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal can depend on the individual and their substance use, the specific timeline of withdrawal symptoms can vary based on these factors as well. A general amphetamine withdrawal timeline could look like the following:
- As soon as the effects of amphetamines start to wear off, which could be relatively soon after the last dose is used, the person may start to experience crash symptoms. This crash can include symptoms such as agitation, cravings, anxiety and a sense of sadness or lethargy.
- Once the initial crash phase has ended, someone going through the amphetamine withdrawal timeline may start to experience exhaustion, insomnia and this is also when depression could occur.
- The symptoms of amphetamine withdrawal may continue for anywhere from four days to several weeks, and in some people, psychological symptoms can last for months, as can drug cravings.
What Is an Amphetamine Detox Program?
When someone is dependent on any substance, before they can receive addiction treatment, they have to detox fully. Detoxing refers to the substance being fully eliminated from the system of the user. There are different ways to go through detox.
Some people may go through detox on their own at home. The risks with this option are high, however. If complications occur, the person doesn’t have a medical provider nearby.
Another option is a medically-supervised detox done on an outpatient basis. There is also the option to go to an inpatient amphetamine detox program. During an inpatient amphetamine detox, there is a doctor and a team of medical professionals on-hand.
The symptoms of amphetamine detox and withdrawal can be carefully managed. When necessary, over-the-counter or prescription medications may be administered for physical and psychological side effects of withdrawal.
Antidepressants are commonly used during detox from amphetamines, because of the high risk of depression during this time.
If someone is going to participate in inpatient addiction treatment, the facility they choose may have an onsite detox program as well.
If you are interested in learning more about amphetamine withdrawal and detox, as well as choosing a treatment center for amphetamine addiction and detox, please contact Amethyst Recovery Center.