Amphetamines are powerful stimulant drugs, which come in several forms, most of which are currently synthesized for the treatment of narcolepsy or ADHD.
Amphetamines have been a large part of drug abuse in the United States pharmaceutical landscape for decades, dating as early as the 1940’s, when the drug was widely marketed for increased focus, to combat depression, and for weight loss.
Additionally, amphetamines were given to U.S. and British military airmen, for general use to promote activity and “extra vision,” as it was referred to, during World War II.
As it has been with many psycho-active pharmaceuticals, widespread abuse of amphetamines happened quickly, although it was not realized until it had become an epidemic in the United States. Problematic in the military and on the home-front, amphetamine abuse has remained a social and health concern to this day.
Amphetamine abuse, especially among school-aged Americans, continues to occur at alarming rates, even compared to opioid painkillers. According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), high school seniors reported the past-year non-medical use of the stimulant drug Adderall® at 6%, compared to 2% for the opioid painkiller Vicodin®, in 2017.
Although amphetamine prescriptions have proven effective in many who suffer from narcolepsy and ADHD, for individuals who are not diagnosed with one or both of these conditions, misuse can have dangerous effects.
Why Amphetamines Are Abused Non-Medically
Since they first became mainstream prescriptions, amphetamine drugs have been identified as heightening awareness and alertness, as well as increasing energy and stamina. This is one of the main reasons the drug was administered to airmen in the military during World War II. Amphetamines continued to be prescribed for depression and weight loss, as they still are today, but on a much more infrequent and discriminatory basis.
Most often occurring with high school and college aged youth, the reported misuse of amphetamine drugs usually begins with “honorable” reasons, for increased study and concentration abilities. Contrarily, data compiled by the National Institute on Health, from the 2001-2002 Monitoring the Future Survey showed that non-medical amphetamine abuse in 8th-12th grade adolescents who had no plans to complete four years of college, accounted for more than twice the number of their counterparts who did have plans to complete four years of college.
Yet, the non-medical use of amphetamine drugs is nearly double in college aged students, than in high school students. The paradoxical data suggests that high school students may abuse amphetamines more for fun and experimentation, than for study purposes.
The study also noted that individuals aged 25 or older, reported almost no abuse of prescription amphetamines, further supporting the highest prevalence of abuse in high school and college aged youth.
The most commonly reported reasons for non-medical amphetamine use include sensation seeking, fun/experimentation, perfectionism, and study aide.
Dangers of Amphetamine Abuse
Despite many who claim to experience significant benefits from the non-medical use of these drugs, amphetamines are not indicated for the general population, and can have serious effects on the body and brain of those who are not clinically indicated to benefit from them.
Some of the most common effects of the non-medical use of amphetamines include, but are not limited to:
- Acne or rash
- Tics (involuntary movements)
- Increased risk of seizure
- Heightened or lowered blood pressure
- Raised temperature
- Rapid or irregular heart beat
- Abdominal pain
- Mood swings
- Increased agitation
- Lowered libido
- Increase in, or development of obsessive behaviors
- Hallucinations or psychosis in extreme cases of abuse
- Increased anxiety
Many of the physical effects of amphetamine abuse are drastically increased in individuals who may suffer from medical problems relating to the heart, blood pressure, lungs, and mental health issues like anxiety.
Although they are stimulants, which are not particularly addictive when they are taken as instructed for the treatment of ADHD, depression or narcolepsy, amphetamines can be extremely addictive in those who abuse the drugs.
Many people do not consider amphetamines to pose the same addiction risk as their counterpart, methamphetamine. This is largely because clandestine labs, and super labs overseas have brought the drug to dangerously high levels of potency, which far exceed any safe or therapeutic levels. However, when scrutinizing the effects of medical dosages of pharmaceutical methamphetamine versus amphetamine, researchers found very little difference in the potency of the two drugs, and were unable to reach conclusions which support the generalization that methamphetamine is a more potent psycho-stimulant.
The 2007 study published in the National Library of Medicine debunks the myth that methamphetamine is inherently more potent, but clearly indicates how much synthetic meth has been engineered, to reach its current potency and addictiveness.
Signs of Amphetamine Abuse and Addiction
The signs of amphetamine abuse often come in two forms; physical/psychological and behavioral. Behavioral signs of abuse tend to be very similar across all forms of substance and process (i.e. gambling, internet, gaming, pornography) addictions. Most involve significant and uncharacteristic changes in the behaviors of the individual, and can include the following:
- Sudden and severe mood changes
- Increased agitation
- Significant changes in sleep cycles, or extreme fatigue during normal waking hours
- Loss of interest in previously engaging activities
- Increased forgetfulness or indifference
- Changes in social groups or hangouts
- Increase in risky behaviors, due to lowered inhibition
- Inexplicable financial troubles
- Increase in amount and/or frequency of amphetamine dosage
- Drug-seeking behavior such as doctor shopping, stealing prescriptions, or buying pills illicitly
- Unrealistic hubris, especially involving abilities and leadership skills
Physical and psychological signs of amphetamine abuse often include health complications, especially in those who have previously diagnosed issues, whether physical or mental. Some of these common signs of amphetamine abuse include:
- Increased heart rate
- Hyper activity
- Chest pain
- Persistent skin disorders
- Tensing of muscles
- Severe dehydration
- Blurred vision
The presence and severity of these signs depend on the individual, his or her health and the circumstances of amphetamine abuse.
Typically, amphetamine addiction does not precipitate a physical dependence, which requires medical assistance in detoxification. However, a secured and medically monitored environment is recommended for any individual who detoxes from amphetamine abuse and addiction. The primary reason for this is the extreme and sometimes severe psychological effects which take place when amphetamine abuse is ceased. Just contrary to many of the effects of its abuse, amphetamine withdrawal can cause and individual to experience:
- Extreme depression
- Vivid and disturbing nightmares
- Severe anxiety
- Lack of ability to concentrate
- Memory loss
- Extreme agitation
- Severe and unmanageable fatigue
- Suicidal thoughts
While none of these symptoms present a specific physical danger, the mental state of an individual coming off of heavy amphetamine abuse, may be very dangerous, and should be closely monitored.
Amphetamine Abuse and Addiction Can Be Treated
Regardless of why an individual may have begun to abuse amphetamines, their addictive and dangerous nature can cause all of the destruction, as addiction to any other substance. When left untreated, amphetamine abuse can easily lead to a poly-substance addiction, in which many substances are being abused by one person. These are extremely common and even more dangerous, as multiple stimulants exacerbate the effects on the brain and body, sadly proving too overwhelming for many to survive.
Although rare, those for whom amphetamines have been legitimately prescribed for a medical condition, can also find themselves in the grip of an addiction to their medication. Even in these circumstances, they too can get back on track with a non-abusive way in which to maintain and manage their medication.
Amphetamine addiction requires a detoxification process, followed by intensive treatment with counseling, therapy and supplemental approaches, which are best tailored to how each individual can healthfully life his or her life, free of addiction.
The best approach will vary between individuals, and there are a wide array of treatment programs, which offer one or more approaches, to fit the unique needs of each individual.
If you, or someone you love is struggling with abuse of, or addiction to amphetamines, the struggle does not need to continue. The path to recovery is just one phone call away.
Our trained addiction counselors are standing by, right now to take your confidential call, and work with you, to understand your needs, and the goals of your recovery to find the program which best fits and compliments your journey to sobriety. There are over 14,000 addiction treatment programs and service providers in the United States, and searching through them, trying to figure out who offers what, and whether that is the right thing for you, can be overwhelming. We are here to take the guess work out of your search, and help you make the best decision, for you and your loved ones. Please don’t wait, the call is free, and the first step to a healthy life, free from amphetamine abuse and dependency. Call now. We are here to help.