In recent decades, amphetamine abuse has continued to rise in the United States. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 4.8 million people abused prescription amphetamines. And in 2017, the CDC reported that 10,333 people died from psychostimulants including amphetamines.
Even when not fatal, uncontrolled amphetamine use can cause severe damage to the body, increasing the risk for heart attack, heart disease, lung damage, and stroke. Over time, amphetamines can even cause psychotic behavior. Other health risks from amphetamine abuse include respiratory problems, brain damage, convulsions, and seizures. With such a range of long-term effects, amphetamine addiction is best treated at a professional rehabilitation center.
Amphetamines and The Brain
Amphetamines bind to transporter proteins like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which carry the drug into the brain. Once inside the brain, amphetamines disrupt the normal storage of neurotransmitters, causing higher levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin to flood the system. These elevated levels affect the central nervous system, which leads to physical effects on the body as well as the amphetamine “high.”
Physical & Psychological Effects of Amphetamines
About 30 minutes after consuming amphetamines, users begin to experience physical and psychological effects. Elevated levels of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system start to stimulate the body. Excess norepinephrine, for example, causes increased alertness, concentration and ability to focus. It also causes the body to move blood into major organs, increasing body temperature and causing a rapid heartbeat. Increased levels of serotonin help ease anxiety and depression. Naturally, these benefits help balance individuals with ADHD and depression, improving mood and concentration. But for those without a clinical need, amphetamines cause a stimulating high that leaves them craving the drug.
Some effects associated with an amphetamine high can include:
- Increased energy
- Alertness, reduced need to sleep
- Excitement and enthusiasm
- Sense of power
Amphetamines increase productivity and performance. Because of this, amphetamines have become a popular drug of choice for students, partygoers, athletes and long-haul truck drivers. But there are some negative effects of being high on amphetamines, which can include:
- Body aches
- Mood swings
- Paranoia and nervousness
- Headaches and body aches
Continued use of amphetamines confuses the body. Over time, the brain stops its natural production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Instead, the brain begins to rely on amphetamines to produce these neurotransmitters. So, users begin to need more amphetamines to equal the normal levels of these chemicals once produced naturally by the body. They feel a “need” to experience the amphetamine high. As their tolerance increases, they can become physically, psychologically and emotionally dependent on the drug.
Eventually, an untreated amphetamine dependence can become a stimulant use disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Amphetamine Use
Signs and symptoms of amphetamine use vary widely depending upon the specific type of amphetamine used. But there are some signs and indications common to all types of amphetamines. Generally, the signs are either behavioral, physical, psychological or social.
Behavioral symptoms amphetamine users tend to display include:
- Taking larger and more frequent doses than prescribed (i.e. tolerance)
- Not being able to reduce doses or frequency of amphetamine
- Spending a large amount of time looking for and acquiring amphetamines
- Falling behind in work and school and other responsibilities
- Continuing to use amphetamines even when it has caused or can cause danger
- Difficulty performing day-to-day tasks
- Making excuses to rationalize excessive use
As users become addicted, family, friends and close associates may notice psychological signs, including:
- Euphoric feelings especially after use
- Unexplained and unnatural increase in self-confidence
- Visual and auditory hallucinations
- Constant confusion
- Unusual sociability
Family and friends might also notice physical changes in users’ bodies, which can include:
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- Higher blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Increased energy
- Decreased appetite and significant and extreme weight loss
- High body temperature
Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptoms of withdrawal can begin anywhere from just a few hours or days after users decide to quit using amphetamines. Two of the first signs typically associated with amphetamine withdrawal are hunger and drug cravings. After that, users will begin to experience other symptoms of withdrawal.
A few of the most common symptoms associated with amphetamine withdrawal include:
- Sense of panic
- Increased appetite
- Strong and intense cravings
- Paranoia, anxiety, and confusion
- Somnolence, or extreme desire for sleep and constant state of drowsiness
- Violent behavior
- Severe depression
- Overall fatigue
- Suicidal thoughts
The severity and length of withdrawal depends on the quantity and frequency of the amphetamines used. The length of withdrawal also depends on the length of time users abused the drug. On average, withdrawal symptoms last for several days. But some users experience withdrawal symptoms that last for several months.
Treatment for Amphetamine Addiction
At this time, there are no pharmacological aids that can help users seeking recovery from amphetamine abuse, but behavioral therapy can help. Here at Solution Based Treatment & Detox, we provide behavioral therapy via a range of addiction treatment programs, including residential, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization.
In each of these programs, clients take part in different types of behavioral therapy. Essentially, these treatments help give clients the tools they need to manage drug cravings. Therapy also helps clients connect with a supportive community and direct their attention towards healthy habits. These therapies typically include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Individual and group therapy
- Family Counseling
- Motivational Interviewing
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Addiction Education
- Peer Support, or 12-Step Programs
Treating amphetamine addiction can be challenging. Chronic amphetamine use changes the brain’s structure, so, when users quit, they often experience severe depression and cravings. To help combat these challenges, we integrate our behavioral therapy with educational and recreational activities that help keep our clients motivated. These can include:
- Relapse Prevention
- Sober Living
- Building on the Rock, a faith-based recovery program
- Rock to Recovery, a rock music recovery program
Overcoming an addiction to amphetamines takes time. It requires commitment, dedication, consistency, and support. It isn’t easy but it is possible. By working with a reputable, research-based treatment program like ours, individuals who have struggled with amphetamine abuse can reclaim their lives and achieve long-term recovery success.
Quick Facts about Amphetamines
What are amphetamines?
- Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants. They are most often used to treat various conditions and diseases. But due to their high potential for abuse, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies them as a Schedule II drug.
What is amphetamines used for?
- Doctors prescribe amphetamines to individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Amphetamines can also help treat Parkinson’s disease. Doctors occasionally use amphetamines to treat depression.
What do amphetamines look like?
- Most amphetamines prescribed by doctors come in the form of tablets or capsules. But when used recreationally, amphetamines typically appear in powder or crystal form. When they’re sold illegally, they are often packaged in aluminum foil, plastic bags or small balloons.
What are different types of amphetamines?
- Some of the most commonly abused prescription amphetamines include Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine, Concerta, Focalin, Metadate, and Methylin.
What are some other names for amphetamines?
- Some popular nicknames for amphetamines include speed, fast, up, uppers, beenies, beauties, crank, and ice.
How are amphetamines taken?
- Most users take amphetamines orally. However, recreational users tend to smoke or inject amphetamines into the bloodstream. Other users crush the pills and snort them.
What do dealers cut illegal amphetamines with?
- Dealers of illegally produced amphetamines mix them with drugs, binding agents, caffeine and sugar.
Don’t let amphetamine addiction continue to control your life. Call Solution Based Treatment & Detox today at 1-877-309-4311. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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