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What Are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are a class of drugs known as stimulants. They significantly increase the rate at which messages are transmitted between the brain and body, boost activity in the central nervous system, and lead to desirable feelings such as increased energy, concentration, and euphoria.

More specifically, amphetamines stimulate the release of the neurotransmitters serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

Amphetamines also inhibit monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that destroys these neurotransmitters, thus further increasing their levels in the brain. A surplus of these chemicals leads to excess energy and feelings of well-being, but regular use, however, impairs the brain’s ability to function normally.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter most impacted by amphetamines and is most responsible for their desired effects, as well as unwanted psychological disturbances such as repetitive behaviors, severe anxiety, and psychosis.

Many amphetamines are prescribed by healthcare providers primarily for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (characterized by excessive sleepiness.)

Other amphetamines such as speed, however, are made and sold illicitly. Crystal meth is a particularly powerful form of amphetamine and is covered in-depth here.


Recent statistics on amphetamine use in the United States reveals the following:

  • Approximately 13 million Americans use amphetamines recreational (without medical supervision.)
  • An estimated 15 percent of 10th and 12th graders have used amphetamines without a prescription at least once.
  • Toxicology screenings performed in emergency departments revealed amphetamines present in around 2 percent of cases.

Amphetamine Forms And Appearance

Amphetamines can be found in a variety of forms, which include tablets, capsules, powder, and crystal-like rocks. They are sometimes packaged in aluminum foil, plastic bags, or balloons.

Capsules and tablets can significantly differ in both size and color. Powdered amphetamine can vary in color from white to brown and can have hints of pink or grey. The smell of this powder is typically pungent and has a bitter taste.What are the side effects?

Amphetamines are most commonly ingested orally (swallowed), but they can also be snorted, smoked or injected for faster, more intense results.

Side effects may include, but are limited to the following:

  • Talkativeness
  • Repeating motor actions such as itching and scratching
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heartbeat and breathing
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)
  • Poor or reduced appetite
  • Excessive sweating

Snorting amphetamines can also damage the nasal passage and induce nosebleeds.

Injecting amphetamines and sharing non-sterile needles can increase the risk of hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS, and tetanus.

Symptoms Of Overdose

Using large amounts or a particularly potent dose/batches of amphetamines can result in an overdose. Overdoses are rarely fatal but are much riskier when other drugs or alcohol are used in conjunction. If you suspect that you or someone you know is having an overdose, please call 911 immediately.

Overdose symptoms may include but are not limited to the following: racing heartbeat/rapid pulse, passing out, stroke or heart attack resulting in death.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are caused by the body adjusted to a lack of a certain substance (cessation) following use of that substance. From 2 to 4 days following the last dose of amphetamine, users may experience any or all of the following:

  • Sleeping difficulties and exhaustion
  • Head and body aches/pains
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Paranoia, hallucinations, general confusion
  • Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and depression
  • Cravings
  • Increased appetite

Symptoms should abate by seven days and disappear altogether after a month following cessation.

Long-term Effects Of Amphetamines

Frequent amphetamine use for an extended period may cause:

  • Reduced appetite and notable weight loss
  • Restless sleep/insomnia
  • Dry mouth and tooth problems
  • Frequent colds and flu
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Labored breathing
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Depression
  • Heart problems
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Tolerance (increasing amounts of the drug are needed to achieve the same effect)
  • Dependence
  • Financial, work, and interpersonal relationship problems
  • Drug-induced psychosis (paranoid delusions, hallucinations, possibly aggressive behavior)
  • Amphetamine Effects

The effects of amphetamines will vary depending upon the following factors:

  • Individual determinants, such as size, weight, and overall health
  • Level of tolerance
  • Use of other substances in combination with amphetamines
  • Amount used and strength of the dose
  • Duration of use (i.e., binge or single dose)
  • Means of delivery (i.e., oral, smoked, snorted, injected)

Combining Amphetamines With Other Substances

Using amphetamines in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol can cause unpredictable and dangerous effects. For example, mixing amphetamines with antidepressants can result in arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), cardiac arrest, or stroke.

Drinking alcohol, taking benzodiazepines or using cannabis in combination with amphetamines can result in excessive stress on the body as it struggles to process the opposing actions of the substances consumed, possibly leading to an overdose and death.Getting More InformationWe provide a comprehensive, holistic method to treatment, encompassing a wide array of different evidence-based practices in combination. All of Midwood Addiction Treatment’s primary therapists are either licensed or master’s level clinicians.

Our programs are structured with various components of evidence-based treatment practices and holistic approaches to treatment that provide our patients with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful in their recovery.

If you or your loved one is suffering from substance abuse, please seek help as soon as possible.

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