Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that act on the central nervous system. Often known as the ‘study drugs’ Adderall and Ritalin, amphetamines increase brain activity, resulting in higher energy levels, better focus, more confidence, and can create a feeling of euphoria.
Amphetamines act like adrenaline, which is one of the body’s natural stimulants, to speed up the central nervous system. Amphetamines include a group of three drugs: amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine Street Names
Amphetamines have a long history. They were first created in Germany in 1887 by the German chemist L. Edeleano. However, their ability to stimulate the central nervous system was not fully discovered until the 1930s. The very first use of amphetamines (around the 1930s) was as a nasal spray to treat nasal congestion; it was called Benzedrine. Shortly after, doctors began recommending the use of amphetamines for a range of issues such as alcohol hangovers, narcolepsy, depression, weight loss, hyperactivity in children, and for vomiting during pregnancy.
During this time, the use of amphetamines grew as their addictive properties were not yet known, and they were cheap and widely available. During the Second World War, military in the U.S. Great Britain, Germany, and Japan used amphetamines for their soldiers to increase their alertness and endurance. During the 1960s and 1970s, the abuse of amphetamines and amphetamine addiction became widespread as people started to inject amphetamines, which gave them an instant feeling of euphoria.
In their prescribed form, amphetamines are used to treat hyperactivity, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy (a condition that causes people to fall asleep suddenly and uncontrollably), Parkinson’s disease, obesity, and occasionally to treat depression.
Amphetamines reduce hunger, making them useful for weight loss, and they also increase breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. When used for ADHD and hyper-activity however, they have a calming effect.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, between two and four million children have been diagnosed with ADHD/hyperactivity disorder and have been legally prescribed amphetamines.
How Are Amphetamines Taken?
Amphetamines are white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powders. When prepared illegally, amphetamines can contain hints of gray or pink and may be in the form of powder, crystals, or chunks that look like shaved glass or rock salt.
Legal and prescribed amphetamines are typically found in a pill form that is swallowed, while illegal amphetamines are often injected, smoked, or sniffed. When amphetamines are used illegally and not as prescribed, they can be dangerous and pose the risk of addiction.
•Increased body temperature
•Increased heart rate
•Unrealistic feelings of confidence/power
•Increased blood pressure
Signs of Amphetamine Abuse
While amphetamine that is taken as prescribed by a doctor has a lower risk of addiction, amphetamine abuse can be very dangerous. Amphetamines are abused in several ways: the pills are crushed and snorted, resulting in feeling the effects more quickly and strongly. Amphetamine is also, at times, dissolved in water and injected straight into the bloodstream which can cause an immediate and very strong high.
In 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that approximately 4.8 million people aged 12 or older in the U.S. abused prescription amphetamine medications. This is the equivalent of approximately 1.8% of the population.
•Paranoia and anxiety
•Not fulfilling responsibilities
•A lot of time spent trying to obtain the drug
•Developing a tolerance to the drug/consuming higher doses
•Bing and crash cycles
•Missing pills from a prescription
•Problems with personal relationships
•Loss of interest in hobbies/activities
•Skin sores/picking at skin
•Severe weight loss/malnutrition
How does amphetamine addiction happen? Many people think that because amphetamines are prescribed medication, they cannot be addictive. That is simply not true.
Tolerance and Dependence
When amphetamine users abuse the drug regularly, they develop a tolerance to the drug. More and more must be taken to achieve the same effect. This creates a cycle of needing to take larger doses of amphetamine every time in a “binge and crash” cycle. When a person needs to keep taking more and more amphetamine to feel high, the body gets used to the drug. If they don’t take it anymore, they feel unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. This is how addiction occurs: the body and mind need to take an increasing amount of the drug to feel the effects.
Amphetamine Related Hospitalizations
A study conducted by researchers from 2003 to 2015 found that over that period, there were 1,292,300 amphetamine related hospitalizations. While amphetamine-related hospitalizations did decrease slightly between 2005 and 2008, they increased from 55,447 hospitalizations in 2008 to 206,180 hospitalizations in 2015, which is almost four times as many hospitalizations in the span of seven years. This shows that amphetamine use can be very dangerous, especially if the drug is abused.
When someone abuses amphetamines regularly, their body becomes used to functioning on amphetamines. When the user stops taking, they experience withdrawal symptoms because their body is not used to functioning without the drug.
Withdrawal symptoms may include:
•Body and muscle pain
•Lack of social functioning
•Loss of interest
•Cravings for the drug
While the worst of the withdrawal only lasts for 1-2 days, symptoms such as mood swings, sleep problems, low energy, and cravings can last for weeks.
Treatment for Amphetamine Addiction
Are Amphetamines and Methamphetamines Different?
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding amphetamines is that amphetamines and methamphetamines are the same things. While they are chemically similar, amphetamines and methamphetamines are very different. While amphetamines are most commonly associated with Adderall and Ritalin, methamphetamines are typically known as the illegal drug meth or crystal meth. Amphetamines are legal and prescribed by doctors for medical issues such as ADHD while methamphetamines are widely known to be more dangerous and are thus illegal worldwide.
While both drugs have addictive properties and can be dangerous, methamphetamines enter your brain faster and cause a stronger and quicker high. Although both amphetamines and methamphetamines are Schedule II drugs (meaning that the Drug Enforcement Administration has labeled them as having a high potential for abuse), methamphetamines are a more popular street drug and lead to higher rates of addiction. Although both have high potentials for abuse, amphetamine is a prescribed medication while methamphetamine is an illegal street drug.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that nationwide, overdose deaths related to the category of drugs that includes methamphetamines increased 7.5 times between 2007 and 2017. That is a huge increase in the number of deaths related to drugs such as methamphetamines.
Recovery from Amphetamine Addiction
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