Important Facts About Amphetamine Abuse
Amphetamine abuse is a growing problem in the United States. Each year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration closes down hundreds of illegal laboratories producing these drugs.
Amphetamines and amphetamine-related drugs stimulate the central nervous system. Although stimulants are used to treat certain medical conditions, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children, amphetamines often are abused because they are easily manufactured in illegal laboratories, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
History of amphetamines
The term "amphetamine" refers to a group of chemically related stimulants. First synthesized in the 1880s, amphetamines originally were used as nasal decongestants and weight suppressants and to help people stay awake. In 1965, the potential for rapid and serious addiction prompted the government to restrict access to the drugs. Today, most amphetamines available on the black market are produced illegally.
Short-term health risks
Amphetamines, also known as "uppers" and "speed," and methamphetamine, known as "meth," "ice" and "crystal," can be taken orally, inhaled, injected or smoked.
Amphetamines affect the brain, heart, lungs and other organs. Users experience feelings of increased alertness, excitation, restlessness, an unrealistic sense of power and euphoria. The physical effects include increased breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure; dilated pupils; and decreased appetite. These effects last four to six hours.
Larger doses may produce fever, sweating, headaches, blurred vision and dizziness. Very high doses may produce an irregular heartbeat, tremors, loss of coordination, high fever, heart failure, and collapse and death from burst blood vessels in the brain.
Long-term abuse dangers
One of the most dangerous aspects of amphetamine abuse is the potential for addiction. Addiction is defined as a state in which a person's abuse escalates to the point that he or she becomes preoccupied with ways to get the drug and keep abusing it, the NIDA says.
Over time, amphetamine abuse may result in psychotic behavior similar to paranoid schizophrenia, violence, aggression, seizures, malnutrition because of suppressed appetite, and increased susceptibility to illness because of poor diet, lack of sleep and an unhealthy environment. Users who inject the drug risk infections such as hepatitis and AIDS and blocked blood vessels, which can cause kidney damage, lung problems, strokes and other tissue injury.
Treatment for abuse
After the drug's effects wear off, amphetamine users often experience severe exhaustion, troubled sleep, extreme hunger and depression. Because these symptoms are magnified in chronic users who abruptly stop taking the drug, a health care provider treating an addict may prescribe nonaddictive antidepressants until the person recovers. These withdrawal symptoms diminish and disappear within several days.
Most people who abuse amphetamines are abusing other drugs as well, which may complicate their treatments, the NIDA says. If you suspect a friend or family member is abusing this drug, discuss the issue with a doctor, a drug-information resource center or a local drug-treatment center.