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What Are Amphetamines? | Amphetamine Abuse & Addiction

Published on October 13, 2021
What Are Amphetamines? | Amphetamine Abuse & Addiction

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs. They speed up your central nervous system, causing a rush of energy, confidence, and euphoria (intense joy).

Due to these positive effects, some people abuse amphetamines. Amphetamine abuse can lead to amphetamine addiction and substance use disorder. 

Types Of Amphetamines

There are two main types of amphetamines: legal amphetamines and illegal amphetamines. 

Legal Amphetamines

Legal amphetamines are also called prescription amphetamtmentines. Doctors prescribe these substances to treat health conditions such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and obesity. Popular prescription amphetamines include:

Illegal Amphetamines

Methamphetamine (or “meth”) is the most powerful type of amphetamine. While it’s sometimes prescribed as the prescription drug Desoxyn, it’s also sold as an illegal street drug. 

On the street, it likely appears as a white powder. Some people cook the powder into a smokable, rock-like form called crystal meth. Others mix the powder with liquid and inject it into their veins. 

Another popular street drug is MDMA (also called Molly or ecstasy), which is a derivative of amphetamine. Like other amphetamines, MDMA has stimulant effects, such as increased energy. It can also have hallucinogenic effects, such as hallucinations and time distortions. 

What Is Amphetamine Abuse?

Amphetamine abuse occurs when you use amphetamine in a manner not prescribed by a doctor. For example, you might:

  • use a prescription amphetamine without a prescription
  • use a prescription amphetamine more frequently than prescribed
  • crush prescription amphetamines and snort them
  • use an illegal amphetamine

Getting High

Many people abuse amphetamines to achieve an intense feeling of happiness (also called a “high”). Amphetamines make you feel happy by boosting dopamine, which is a brain chemical that regulates pleasure. 

Boosting Performance Or Mood

In addition, since amphetamines increase energy and concentration, some people abuse them to boost academic or athletic performance. Other people abuse them to feel more social and confident. 

Short-Term Effects Of Amphetamine Abuse 

Some short-term effects of amphetamine abuse may include:

  • mood swings
  • aggression
  • dry mouth
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • twitching
  • increased body temperature, blood pressure, or breathing rate
  • increased breathing rate
  • increased heart rate
  • irregular heartbeat
  • decreased appetite and weight loss

Psychosis

Amphetamines can also cause psychosis. The term “psychosis” refers to a temporary disconnection from reality. Symptoms may include:

  • incoherent speech
  • isolation
  • paranoia 
  • hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there)
  • delusions (holding beliefs that aren’t based in reality)

Overdose

Additionally, amphetamine abuse increases your risk of overdose. Common signs of overdose include:

  • restlessness
  • shakiness
  • anxiety and panic
  • increased body temperature, blood pressure, or breathing rate
  • blurry vision
  • chest pain
  • trouble breathing

If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek emergency health care services. When left untreated, an amphetamine overdose can cause health problems that can turn fatal.

Long-Term Effects Of Amphetamine Abuse

Long-term side effects of amphetamine abuse may include:

  • breathing problems
  • mood and behavioral changes
  • cardiovascular problems, including heart attack
  • malnutrition 
  • seizures
  • severe dental problems
  • skin sores
  • memory loss
  • trouble sleeping
  • damaged relationships
  • job loss

Addiction

As mentioned above, amphetamine abuse can also lead to amphetamine addiction. This mental health disease makes you feel unable to control your use of amphetamines despite negative consequences.  

Learn more about Amphetamine Side Effects

Signs Of Amphetamine Abuse & Addiction

Common signs of amphetamine abuse and addiction may include: 

  • avoidance of family and friends
  • loss of interest in activities once enjoyed 
  • loss of motivation
  • secretiveness 
  • decline in personal hygiene
  • doctor shopping (visiting multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions for amphetamines)
  • frequently borrowing or stealing money
  • strong cravings for amphetamines 
  • tolerance (needing increasingly larger or more frequent amounts of amphetamines to feel the desired effects)

Dependence & Withdrawal

Another common sign of amphetamine abuse and addiction is physical dependence. When you’re physically dependent on amphetamines, your body can’t function properly without them. If you stop using them, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • confusion 
  • irritability
  • depression
  • increased appetite
  • fatigue and/or excessive sleeping
  • aches and pains
  • vivid dreams or nightmares
  • slowed reactions 
  • symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions

Treatment Options For Amphetamine Abuse & Addiction

To recover from amphetamine abuse and addiction, most people need professional treatment. 

Most treatment centers offer both inpatient care (in which you live at the treatment center) and outpatient care (in which you live at home while regularly attending the treatment center). 

Inpatient care is recommended for people with moderate-to-severe substance abuse issues, while outpatient care may work for people with milder issues and strong support systems at home. 

Whether inpatient or outpatient, most treatment programs offer the following services:

Medical Detox

A person with amphetamine addiction may experience intense withdrawal symptoms upon quitting the drug. You’re more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms if you quit amphetamines suddenly (also called “cold turkey”).

During medical detox, doctors will likely help you stop using amphetamines gradually so you can avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms. They may also prescribe medications to ease certain withdrawal symptoms. 

Therapy

Therapy is an essential part of substance abuse treatment. The most common types of therapy for amphetamine abuse and addiction include:

Aftercare Planning

Before you leave your treatment program, your doctors will likely help you design an aftercare plan to reduce your risk of relapse. Depending on your needs, your aftercare plan may include strategies such as:

Learn more about Amphetamine Addiction Treatment Options

If you or a loved one struggles with amphetamine abuse or addiction, please contact an Ark Behavioral Health specialist. Our addiction treatment centers offer comprehensive, personalized treatment services to help you or a loved one live a drug-free life.

Amphetamines FAQs

What Amphetamines Are Illegal?

The most popular illegal amphetamines are methamphetamine and MDMA. 

Methamphetamine (or “meth”) is a highly addictive stimulant drug that’s available as a powder or smokeable rock (also called “crystal meth”). MDMA is a stimulant and hallucinogen that’s available as a capsule, tablet, powder, or liquid. 

In addition, prescription amphetamines (such as Adderall and Vyvanse) are illegal when used without a prescription. 

To learn more, read List Of Amphetamines

What Are Amphetamine Salts?

Mixed amphetamine salts are stimulant medications categorized as schedule II drugs. Examples include Adderall, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse. 

Amphetamine salts are used to help treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and other sleep disorders. It should not be abused or taken with other controlled substances or by those who have a history of depression.

Learn more about Amphetamine Salts

What Is D-Amphetamine?

D-amphetamine is found in tablets or immediate-release capsules that help provide relief for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and other sleeping disorders. 

D-amphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that is habit-forming. 

Learn more about D-Amphetamine

What Is L-Amphetamine?

L-amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant that is used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity. It can also be a component in other medications.

Learn more about L-Amphetamine

Are Amphetamines Addictive?

Amphetamines are a controlled substance in the United States and have a high potential for abuse. Brain changes can occur after long-term amphetamine use that causes a person to lose control over how they use the drug. 

They may misuse it by using too much or using it in a way other than how it was prescribed (such as snorting or injecting). They may experience uncontrollable cravings that cause them to continue to use amphetamines regardless of the consequences. 

Learn more about the Signs Of Amphetamine Addiction

How Long Do Amphetamines Stay In Your System?

Amphetamines tend to stay in your system for about 2 days. Drug tests can find traces of amphetamines between 3 to 90 days after the last use, depending on the type of test.

To learn more, read How Long Do Amphetamines Stay In Your System?

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts
United States Drug Enforcement Administration - Amphetamines
United States National Library of Medicine - Amphetamine

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