Understanding Amphetamine Abuse

Understanding Amphetamine Abuse

Amphetamine is a synthetic stimulant drug that is highly addictive in nature. Understand what is amphetamine, how it affects the body, and how you can get help for signs of abuse.

If you’ve heard the term “amphetamine”, chances are, you would assume that it isn’t as popular as other drugs such as heroin or meth. However, meth actually spelled out whole is “methamphetamine”, a derivative of the general class of drugs called amphetamines. The street names for meth are crystal, crank, speed, and chalk, among many others. People who use this drug illicitly may be familiar with these terms, ranking crystal meth as one of the commonly abused drugs in the 21st century.

Before we get into the specifics of amphetamine abuse, it is important to understand what kind of drug it is and its effects.

What’s An Amphetamine?

What is amphetamine? Amphetamine is a type of stimulant drug that targets the Central Nervous System (CNS). It is presently used to treat the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, and even obesity.

The drug was first discovered in 1887 when scientists originally found its purpose for treating nasal congestion and depression. However, since its effects are powerful and short-acting, it became a Schedule II type of drug and is now reduced to treating severe symptoms of ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity.

The effects of amphetamines range for increased brain activity, loss of appetite, changes in libido, and cognitive enhancements. However, misuse of the drug can result in several negative health effects which will be discussed later on.

Types Of Amphetamine

There are also various kinds of amphetamines. Basically, they differ in their purpose of treating several conditions. Below are examples of amphetamines:

  • Dextroamphetamine: For conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy
  • Levoamphetamine: For increased wakefulness and sharper focus
  • Dexedrine: For ADHD and controlling behavioral problems
  • Ephedrine: For preventing low blood pressure during spinal anesthesia, as well as treating asthma, nasal congestion, narcolepsy, and obesity
  • Methamphetamine: For treating obesity and ADHD, but not the recommended first-line of medication

Branded drugs such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Concerta belong to this general category. These types of amphetamine should be taken only via prescription. Taking any of these substances without professional recommendations will make individuals highly susceptible to abuse.

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Amphetamine Abuse

There are rising statistics of amphetamine abuse among college students. Although there’s a decrease in the use of street stimulants such as do-it-yourself crystal meth sold in the black market, college students have found a way to get prescriptions for drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin to help improve their focus on academic responsibilities.

Sadly, this trend has caused a lot of college-aged individuals to persist with amphetamine abuse. The trend also includes the general population who abuse the prescribed and illicit forms of the drug.

Amphetamine abuse statistics

  • In the US, the beginnings of the epidemic were from 1929-1971, when people began to use this drug nonmedically.
  • The latest survey showed that there are over 3,000,000 Americans who have misused amphetamines at some point in their lives.
  • There are cases of young adults who suffered from stroke due to excessive amphetamine abuse, something which is not common for the population.
  • A study published in the John Hopkins University magazine revealed that Adderall abuse is on the rise among young adults.

Signs of Amphetamine Abuse

Stimulant drug abuse has several hallmarks. In the case of amphetamines, the signs of abuse can range from mild to severe. This all depends on the extent of abuse and the overall health of the affected individual.

If you suspect someone with amphetamine abuse, here are some signs you may want to take note of:

Physical signs

  • Insomnia: The individual may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
  • Increased blood pressure: Stimulant drugs are known to increase heart rate and blood pressure, as a result, the person may feel dizzy or warm to the touch.
  • Dry mouth: Combined with a lack of appetite, amphetamines are also known to decrease salivary gland production.
  • Lack of appetite: In general, drug abuse causes weight changes due to the lack of appetite. The person no longer finds pleasure in food but rather seeks out the strong euphoric sensations fo amphetamines.
  • Headache: Increased blood pressure and heart rate cause headaches as the blood quickly pumps in the brain as well.
  • Withdrawal: The person experiences uncomfortable flu-like symptoms when trying to decrease or stop their amphetamine use.

Mental signs

  • Paranoia: You may notice that the person imagines scenarios that make them think they are endangered. These are mostly illogical types of reasoning which can be considered paranoia.
  • Hallucinations: Related to paranoia, these are things that the individual is imagining which are happening to them. In some situations, they tend to act out on these hallucinations.
  • Hyperalertness: Stimulant drugs are also known to keep the brain in an active overdrive, which makes the person very alert for abnormally long periods of time.

Behavioral changes

  • Isolation: Drug use has been associated with longer periods of isolation as the person becomes preoccupied with taking the addictive substances. You may notice that you or a loved one have less desire to interact with others.
  • Taking medications more than prescribed: Even when given a prescription, a sign of amphetamine abuse is taking higher dosages of the drug or drinking them more frequently than you should.
  • Irritability: Insomnia and hyperalertness causes the brain and body to be tired, which can result in irritability, frequent mood swings, and even relationship problems.
  • Strong cravings: Withdrawals are often accompanied by strong cravings of the drug, which makes it hard to focus on other things.

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Effects of Amphetamines on Health

Along with the signs mentioned above, there are also several health complications that could happen with persistent amphetamine abuse. Even without preexisting conditions, a person who has an amphetamine use disorder may suffer from these health problems:

Malnutrition

Lack of appetite causes the individual to lose interest in eating, therefore depriving their bodies of the much-needed nutrition. As a result, they may suffer from emaciation, weak bones, decreased immunity, and muscle atrophy.

Cardiovascular diseases

Another hallmark sign of amphetamine abuse is increased blood pressure. A lot of research has shown that hypertension is related to a myriad of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart failure, heart attack, and atherosclerosis.

Convulsions

Increased brain activity may also cause seizures, which are somewhat similar to the condition called epilepsy. When unattended, convulsions may be life-threatening and can cause brain cell death.

Mental health disorders

Misuse of this stimulant drug also causes a hostile type of paranoia, which can worsen especially if someone already has a dual diagnosis of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This also causes strained relationships with loved ones and the inability to perform daily responsibilities.

Treatment and Therapies for Amphetamine Abuse

If you or a loved one is suffering from amphetamine abuse, know that there is help available. It is not easy to take that first step towards seeking professional help, but it is often what’s needed in order to overcome addiction once and for all. Here is a step-by-step guide in getting treatment for amphetamine abuse:

  1. Contact a trusted rehab center: One of the most logical things you can do is to get in touch with a legitimate rehab center that offers help for amphetamine abuse. Addiction specialists will be ready to answer your questions regarding rehab, verifying your health insurance, and preparing you for an in-person assessment.
  2. Patient assessment: Once you’re set up for an assessment, you will go through a series of tests that will determine which treatment option is right for you. Customized rehab treatment is one of the key ways to ensure that you will be addiction-free.
  3. Medical detox: The effects of amphetamine stays in the body long after you’ve stopped taking the drug, which is why it causes withdrawal symptoms. Thus, having a medical detox will help get rid of the traces of the drug so that you can proceed to treatment proper.
  4. Treatment proper: These are a variety of programs you can avail following your medical detox. There’s 12-Step Rehab, Non-12 Step options, holistic care, SMART Recovery, Dual Diagnosis, or Luxury rehab–it all depends on the recommendations by the healthcare professionals as well as your personal choice.
  5. Aftercare: After the whole treatment program, you will be provided with a relapse prevention guide, nutritional plan, and plugging towards local support groups as well as therapies to ensure that you’ll remain sober after leaving the facility.

Sources:

  • Drugabuse.gov – “Commonly Abused Drug Charts”.
  • Medshadow.org – “Drug Classifications, Schedule I, II, III, IV”.
  • Accessdata.fda.gov – “Label for Adderall”.
  • Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “Nonmedical Prescription Stimulant Use among College Students: Why We Need To Do Something and What We Need To Do”.
  • Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “America’s First Amphetamine Epidemic”.
  • Pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “Stroke in Young Adults Who Abuse Amphetamines or Cocaine: A Population-Based Study of Hospitalized Patients”.
  • Hub.jhu.edu – “Adderall abuse on the rise among young adults, Johns Hopkins study suggests”.
  • Mind.org.uk – “About Paranoia”.
  • Medlineplus.gov – “Muscle Atrophy”.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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