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What Are Amphetamines?
What are amphetamines? How are they used? Are they addictive? What are the signs and symptoms of amphetamine addiction? These are all questions that you need to ask while trying to understand amphetamines and their effects. In this guide, you will learn just about everything there is to know about amphetamines.
The simplest answer to the "what are amphetamines?" question is that these are stimulant substances that will cause you to feel euphoric, alert, and awake. As such, doctors typically prescribe them to people with such mental health disorders as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
However, amphetamines are like other intoxicating and mind altering substances in the sense that some people misuse them and end up forming an amphetamine addiction. When this happens, the most effective way these people can be helped is through intensive detox and rehabilitation at an outpatient or inpatient/residential addiction treatment center.
That said, amphetamines are often sold as small tablet that might be light or dark blue. Some users cut these pills into quarters or halves before using them - because they can be quite potent if taken in full.
Amphetamines are also debossed with textual information for easy identification. For instance, 5 mg Adderall pills - which are always light blue in color - have M A5 of them to show the formulation.
As we mentioned earlier, amphetamines are stimulant substances with the ability to stimulate the ability to pay attention and focus on certain tasks. As such, they are commonly prescribed for the management of ADHD symptoms. However, these drugs can wake the brain up, meaning that doctors sometimes prescribe them for the treatment of narcolepsy.
There are also amphetamine salts, which are a mixture of amphetamines that are used to create generic Adderall. These drugs have been given this name because the combination of chemicals used to manufacture Adderall for medical uses are considered to be salt.
However, some people abuse amphetamines because of their ability to boost the levels of feel good chemicals in the brain. Although high school and college students are infamous for their misuse of Adderall - which is in the amphetamine class of drugs - to improve their ability to stay awake and focus while studying through the night, they are not the only demographic that abuses these drugs. In fact, people from all age groups and backgrounds can misuse the substances and end up developing an addiction to them.
Due to this form of misuse, amphetamines are likely many other intoxicating and mind altering substances in the same that they have many different nicknames on the street. People who abuse these drugs or sell them use these street names to ensure that they do not attract any attention. The most common of these names include:
- Pep pills
- Wake Ups
Varieties Of Amphetamines
Amphetamines also come in a wide variety of different formulations - each of which either contains the chemical levoamphetamine or dextroamphetamine or even both. Irrespective of the type of formulation, you should remember that every prescription amphetamine in the United States is an oral medication.
Most of these drugs have also been around for so long that there are generic variations of them. However, some of the newer drugs - including Vyvanse - are still new and can only be found in the brand-name formulation.
That said, only about 6% of the total number of people who use amphetamines after getting a prescription use these brand-name drugs. This means that the remaining 94% uses generic formulations of these substances.
Some of the most popular brand names of amphetamines and their various modes of use or delivery methods include:
- Zenzedi: Sold as an oral tablet
- Vyvanse: Sold as an oral capsule
- Ritalin: Sold as a chewable tablet and an oral capsule
- ProCentra: Marketed in the form of an oral solution
- DextroStat: Sold as an oral tablet
- Dexedrine: Sold as an oral tablet Available as an oral tablet
- Dexedrine Spansule: Marketed and prescribed as an extended-release capsule for oral use
- Desoxyn: Sold as an oral tablet
- Adderall: Sold as an oral tablet
- Adderall XR: Marketed and prescribed as extended-release capsules for oral use
While answering the "what are amphetamines?" question, you also need to learn a little about amphetamine addiction - which is always a possibility for anyone who takes these drugs, either as prescribed by their doctor or without a legal and valid prescription.
In fact, amphetamines are some of the most addictive of all mind altering and intoxicating substances currently on the US market. As a direct result, they have been classified under the Controlled Substances Act as Schedule II drugs by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration.
This classification basically means that amphetamines have very limited medicinal uses due to their high potential for leading to chemical dependence, tolerance, and addiction. This addictive potential means that the DEA has directed doctors against refilling amphetamine prescriptions. Instead, they must issue a new prescription every time a patient needs to get another bottle of the drugs.
These prescriptions must also be on printed on a hard copy and specially marked paper. Doctors are also legally mandated to append their signature to every prescription for amphetamines as well as call the pharmacy you are going to so that they can confirm that the prescription is valid and legal. Even with so many legal barriers that make it difficult to get amphetamines illicitly, people who are addicted to the drugs still manage to buy them.
That said, it is easy to develop chemical dependence and addiction to these drugs - even if you use them under your doctor's instruction and supervision. Recent studies have found that even people who are managing conditions like narcolepsy and ADHD also have a high likelihood of becoming addicted to amphetamines - a likelihood that is similar to those without such conditions.
Therefore, whether you take amphetamines medically or for recreational purposes, you can be sure that such regular use will increase your risk of developing addiction to the drugs. This is because such an addiction is a condition that affects the brain since these drugs might alter the normal structure of your brain. Consequently, if you abuse amphetamines for a long time, the drugs might cause changes in the chemical makeup of your brain, leading to long lasting adverse effects.
Seeing as how common amphetamine abuse and addiction is, you might want to learn more about the frequency of such drug abuse. Consider the following statistics related to amphetamine addiction:
- A recent study showed that over 90% of all the college students who use Adderall for recreational purposes also engage in binge drinking on a regular basis
- After cannabis, amphetamines are the 2nd most commonly abused drugs
- Amphetamines might stay in the system for anywhere between 1 and 3 days after you last use them
- Approximately 15% of all high schoolers in grades 10 through 12 have abused amphetamines at least once in their lifetimes
- More than 13 million people in the United States have abused these drugs
- People who have been abusing Adderall have a higher likelihood of starting on other intoxicating and mind altering substances
But what happens when you mix amphetamines with other substances? Even if you have a legal and valid prescription, you might still suffer adverse consequences if you mix these drugs with any other intoxicating and mind altering substance - especially if you are already an addict.
If you mix amphetamines with antidepressants like MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), these two drugs might react poor to produce toxic effects on your nerves. To this end, you can be sure that it is never a good idea to mix amphetamines with any other drug unless you have already spoken with your doctor and received their approval.
Other dangerous combinations that are still common and persistent among users and addicts involve amphetamines with alcohol or Adderall with Xanax. The danger arises from the fact that both Xanax and alcohol are depressants. This means that they work to effectively slow the CNS (central nervous system) down. Therefore, such mixing might increase the risk of your developing an addiction to both substances.
You should also remember that amphetamines are designed to speed up and stimulate the CNS. This means that when you combine them with other drugs, you may suffer dangerous consequences like extremely high body temperature and high blood pressure.
Such drug mixing might also increase your risk of overdosing on both drugs. This will happen because amphetamines - also known as the upper drug - will camouflage the fact that you might have taken the downer drug, such as Xanax or alcohol, in excess.
When you start realizing that you might have taken excess amounts of the downer drug, it might be too late for you to get the help you require to overcome the overdose. In fact, in most of the tragic cases of amphetamine mixing, users might die even before they realize that they are in a precarious and dangerous situation.
Signs And Symptoms Of Amphetamine Abuse And Addiction
As we mentioned above, amphetamines are in the stimulant class of drugs. As such, the work on the CNS - which is responsibility for every bodily function. However, the drugs can also alter the chemistry of your brain. This means that they might cause mental health problems like depression and anxiety, or exacerbate them when they already exist. If you have a personal or family history of mental health issues, then you might be particularly vulnerable to these adverse effects.
Despite these adverse effects, doctors sometimes prescribe amphetamines to both adults and children when they display medical conditions like narcolepsy, obesity, Parkinson's disease, and ADHD. However, these drugs come with euphoric effects, meaning that some people may start abusing them for recreational purposes. In most cases, this eventually leads the user to develop an addiction.
When you use these drugs, your brain will receive a sudden and rapid surge of dopamine, which are feel good chemicals. With time and repeated use, your brain might continue receiving this unusual and artificial burst of dopamine - meaning that it may get used to this chemical rush. Eventually, you might develop physical dependence on amphetamines. When this happens, you may experience severe withdrawal if you decide to cut out the drugs or lower your normal dose.
Although amphetamines come with some legitimate medical uses since they are Schedule II drugs, they also carry a relatively high potential for abuse, tolerance, physical and psychological dependence, and addiction. As such, these drugs are quite dangerous especially if you decide to abuse them without receiving express instructions and prescriptions from your doctor.
Still, even those people who use amphetamines for medical purposes and while following a valid and legal prescription might still experience additional problems, such as addiction.
Once you start abusing these drugs, however, you may display certain tangible and noticeable signs and symptoms. The drugs, for instance, can suppress your appetite and cause you to lose weight. This means you will start wearing smaller clothing as well as leaving your meals untouched and your snacks unfinished.
In the same way, most amphetamines are manufactured and sold as tablets designed for oral consumption. However, some addicts might abuse them through alternative modes of delivery to ensure that the high they generate is faster and more intense.
For instance, they may crush the pills and snort the resulting powder. Others might mix this with water and inject it straight into their bloodstream to increase the effects they feel from their substance abuse.
Since both of these modes of use involve crushing the tablets, you might find powdery remnants of the crushed pills on handheld mirrors, bathroom sinks, and other surfaces. The powder is usually dark blue, light blue, or white - depending on the formulation of the particular drug that was abused.
Consider the following alternative modes of amphetamine abuse:
a) Intravenous Use
To inject or shoot up amphetamines into the bloodstream, drug abusers often crush the pills and dissolve the resulting powder into liquids - such as water - before filling syringes with this solution. Therefore, you might find mixing materials such as cups as well as injecting paraphernalia such as belts, rubber hoses, and needles. Additionally, the drug user might have needle and track marks on the points where they inject the drug - such as the inner parts of their arm.
Most drug users who smoke amphetamines may use glass pipes. Some of them might also choose to melt the drugs on a metal spoon before inhaling the resulting smoke. Therefore, if you have noticed unusual smells or have seen glass spoons and pipes with dark burn marks, then it is highly likely that there is a drug user in your household.
While snorting amphetamines, drug addicts might use various tools to make such mode of use easier - including but not limited to tightly-rolled money bills, straws, and mirrors. This method of deliver also causes the user to nosebleed on a frequent basis.
Consider the following addiction signs and symptoms of amphetamine use and abuse:
1. Physical Symptoms
Amphetamines come with significantly adverse side effects that might affect both your body and mind. However, the most commonly visible signs of amphetamine use are physical in nature. They include but are not always limited to:
a) Energy Changes
You might notice that the suspected drug user often has frequent bursts of extreme energy that may be difficult to explain and could last anywhere between 1 to 4 hours. These changes in energy often occur immediately after injecting or smoking amphetamines or around 40 minutes after snorting or ingesting the drugs. Once these energy effects wear off, however, they may experience a crash immediately.
b) Fast Breathing and Increased Heart Rate
Amphetamines are also known as speed on the street because they may speed up most of your normal body processes - particularly those that are controlled by the CNS. These functions include heart rate and breathing, which might quicken after you use these substances.
Since amphetamines cause a surge in brain activity, it might be difficult for your body and brain to quiet down. Therefore, you may experience insomnia as a direct result of the stimulant effects of the drugs.
In the same way, amphetamines might raise your energy to extreme levels, thereby causing restlessness. This restlessness might be so high that you may experience physical tremors and constant leg and limb shaking. It may also be manifested through repeated scratching and itching (that could result in skin problems) as well grinding and clenching your teeth.
e) Weight Loss
Since amphetamines suppress appetite, abusing them over the long haul might lead to significant and noticeable weight loss.
f) Heightened Sexual Behavior
In some cases, abusing these drugs might cause you to experience a surge in your sex drive. This is because amphetamines increase the levels of dopamine inside the brain.
At times, these substances might prove dehydrating - and you may have a hard time managing to drink enough water to deal with these adverse effects. If you abuse these drugs in relatively large doses, this problem might continue growing and case even further symptoms such as dry mouth and headaches arising from the dehydration.
It might be hard to quit amphetamines once you start abusing them. However, doing so in the long term might lead to addiction, which is a grave and chronic condition that affects the brain.
As your body continues adjusting to having these drugs in the system, it might develop greater need for the drugs as you try seeking other pleasurable effects like euphoria. This state is referred to as tolerance and might eventually give way to dependence.
Once you become chemically dependent on amphetamines, this class of drugs might force you to continue abusing them if only to escape the pain and discomfort that comes with withdrawal symptoms when you quit or reduce your normal dosage.
Other additional physical effects of amphetamine abuse and addiction in the long term might include:
- Chronic insomnia
- Contracting illnesses related to your immune system
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Extreme weight loss
- Heat injury
- High body temperature
- Higher risk of experiencing cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and stroke
- Higher risk of infections related to needle use and sharing among intravenous drug users
- Higher risk of suffering disorders related to dopamine, including Parkinson's disease
- Inability to experience pleasure and happiness from normal, everyday things if you are not abusing amphetamines
- Kidney complications
- Lung problems
- Repetitive motor activity
- Skin problems, including infected open sores resulting from skin scratching as well as acne
- Tooth decay
- Tooth loss
- Vitamin deficiency
2. Psychological Symptoms
Abusing amphetamines - especially in the long term - might also lead to a slew of adverse psychological problems. These psychological symptoms may include but are not limited to:
- Amphetamine-induced depressive disorder
- Behavioral disorders
- Decreased cognitive abilities
- Inability to concentrate
Although you might not develop amphetamine addiction, dependence on this class of drugs often leads to a variety of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms whenever you reduce the dosage you have become accustomed to or you stop taking these drugs altogether.
Undergoing detox can also cause you to experience amphetamine withdrawal, often marked by symptoms like:
- Apathy or dysphoria
- General loss of energy
- Inability to feel happy or pleasurable
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too little or too much)
- Slowed motor activity
- Suicidal ideation
- Unexplained weight gain
- Vivid nightmares
Amphetamines are much like most other intoxicating and mind altering substances in the sense that they can lead to an overdose if you take these drugs in excessive and toxic amounts. Since this class of drugs are stimulants, they raise body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure - all of which might prove dangerous if they get to extremely high levels.
When you combine amphetamines with other drugs like alcohol and additional stimulants, the risk of overdose will be heightened. Some of the typical signs and symptoms of an overdose - which might eventually cause sudden death - include:
- Chest pains
- Extreme and uncontrollable anxiety
- Extreme shakiness
- Faster breathing
- Hypothermia, or extreme sweating
- Increase in heart rate
- Inexplicable anger
- Massive heart attack
- Paranoid delusions
- Slurred speech
- Stomach pains
- Unexplained aggression
When someone displays any or some of these amphetamine overdose symptoms, it is imperative that you call 911 and seek emergency medical assistance immediately. This is because such an overdose might lead to sudden death unless it is managed in the shortest time possible.
You might, however, be able to do something when you come across a case of amphetamine overdose. For instance, it is highly recommended that you use calming and stabilizing measures - like hydration and reassurance. You should also get them into the most calm atmosphere and environment you can manage.
Depending on how severe the overdose is, the treatment might require certain medications. In some cases, doctors administer such relaxing drugs as benzos (or benzodiazepines) to prompt immediate sedation.
If the overdosing individual displays psychotic symptoms, they may receive a prescription for antipsychotic medications. Additionally, beta-blockers, alpha-blockers, and calcium channel blockers might prove useful in mitigating any symptoms of a rapid heart rate.
Once you have developed chemical dependence on and addiction to amphetamines, you might assume that it would be impossible to continue living your life without this class of drugs. This is because you might already have become so used to having these drugs in your system.
However, you only need to remember the time before you were addicted to these intoxicating and mind altering substances to know that it is possible to continue living without them. In fact, a lifestyle free of drugs is always achievable - and it usually begins with detoxification.
Complete detox from amphetamine abuse and addiction may take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks. Therefore, you should never feel discouraged or want to give up if you do not feel any changes immediately.
When you undergo detox, however, your body might go into withdrawal mode. As a direct result, you will notice drastic changes in your mind as well as in your behavior. When amphetamines start leaving the body, this may alter your brain chemistry.
This is because this is a class of psychiatric drugs that effectively changes the brain's chemical makeup. When you continue growing in your addiction to amphetamines, therefore, your brain will get adapted and accustomed to the presence of the drugs as well as its resultant chemical effects.
Therefore, when you start weaning off of these substances, your brain might suddenly go into a shock you've never experienced before. At this point, it might not be used to working without these drugs present. As such, it might feel that something is not working as it should.
This is a difficult feeling and it makes amphetamine withdrawal quite difficult because you will be effectively trying to rework and rewire the brain. As you undergo withdrawal, therefore, you are highly likely to experience a wide variety of adverse side effects, including but not limited to:
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Intense cravings
- Lack of concentration
- Mood swings
- Muscle aches and tension
- Restless sleep
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
As you can possibly imagine, most of these symptoms are quite intimidating and overwhelming - which is why some addicts might opt to relapse and go back to using their preferred amphetamines. However, the symptoms you will experience and their severity will largely depend on a wide variety of factors, including the following:
- The dose of the amphetamines you were accustomed to taking
- The duration during which you have been abusing amphetamines
- The method you use for amphetamine detoxification, like quitting cold turkey, going on a tapering method, or checking into a medical facility
- Your age
- Your gender
- Your height
- Your state of physical health
- Your state of psychological health
Due to the severity and intensity of these amphetamine withdrawal symptoms, you might relapse. However, it is essential that you remember that setbacks are a normal - and sometimes expected - part of the road to full recovery after a period of dependence and addiction. Therefore, you should never give up.
In fact, it might end up taking you several rounds of intensive detox before you can finally recover fully from these drugs. This is particularly true if you decide to try detoxing at home - where you wouldn't get the proper medical supervision and assistance you need.
Trying to detox at home might also bring about other difficulties that you are unlikely to face when you check into a licensed, accredited, and tried and tested amphetamine detoxification facility. Although these facilities cost money to attend, they provide proper medical treatment complete with round the clock care from highly trained professionals. As a direct result, the safest, most effective way to detox from amphetamines is at such a facility.
Amphetamine Addiction Treatment
After a successful detox, you might also want to get treated for your addiction. Although no given method of treatment works better than others - apart from long term inpatient/residential rehabilitation - there are many options, including but not limited to:
- Inpatient rehab
- Outpatient rehab
- Intensive outpatient rehab
Since everyone is unique, you can be sure that your experience with amphetamine abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction will also be unique. It is for this reason that you need a personalized recovery and rehabilitation plan that is highly tailored to your particular needs and preferences to ensure you have the best, most effective, and most successful treatment. Overall, however, the most important thing is to ensure that you undergo treatment and rehabilitation before amphetamines continue plaguing your life and causing additional problems.