Amphetamines are psychostimulants that affect both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Some amphetamines may be prescription drugs, such as Adderall®, or over-the-counter medications, like ephedrine.
Other common brand names for prescription stimulants include:
However, other amphetamines, like crystal meth, may be illegal substances.
Street names for misused or abused amphetamines include:
This type of drug enters into the brain more easily to affect neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, etc.).
The interaction between the neurotransmitters and the drug can cause behavioral effects that include, but are not limited to:
However, these behavioral effects can vary depending on the amphetamine. For example, methamphetamine has proven to impact serotonin more than other amphetamines. However, another amphetamine called methylphenidate has more effect on norepinephrine than on serotonin.
Additionally, behavioral effects can differ according to the dose. This means that while some doses can have therapeutic effects, higher doses can result in toxic psychosis (a psychotic episode caused by a drug) or overdose.
People can begin to feel the effects of amphetamines depending on how they take the drug:
Amphetamines can have different sides, including:
Individuals who take amphetamines can develop movement sequence behaviors that are repetitive or compulsive. This may include compulsive cleaning or putting together and taking apart an object.
Also, amphetamines are highly abused substances because of their ability to cause pleasure, ecstasy, and euphoria. The drug’s “good-feeling” effects can last for a long time. This is due to its elimination half-life of 6 to 12 hours. In other words, because it takes an individual 6 to 12 hours to metabolize half of the dose taken, the drug can still affect the body for an extended period.
However, there are risks associated with amphetamine use, including:
These risks increase much more among individuals who take amphetamines for an extended period. For example, it is common to see violent, erratic behavior or psychosis among chronic users of amphetamines.
People who use amphetamines, particularly methamphetamine, face a higher likelihood of developing HIV and hepatitis B and C. Transmission of these diseases can occur through sharing used needles with a person who has the infection and is not under treatment.
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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies most amphetamines as Schedule II stimulants. This means that these drugs have a high potential for abuse and could cause individuals to develop severe psychological and physical dependence.
Amphetamines have stimulating effects and can make users feel more energetic, confident, and focused. Because of these habit-forming characteristics, though, people taking these drugs face a high risk of overdose.
Also, methamphetamine is more dangerous than some other amphetamines. Higher amounts of methamphetamine can reach the brain at similar doses of other amphetamines. Because of this, there can be longer-lasting, more dangerous effects on the central nervous system (CNS).
Amphetamine overdoses can include the following symptoms:
It is important to take an individual suspected of overdose to the emergency department.
Adderall is an amphetamine used to treat:
Amphetamines like Adderall can interact with other medications, especially over-the-counter and decongestants or those used to treat depression. It is always important to consult a healthcare provider before mixing drugs. Unwanted or worsened side effects can result due to drug interactions in the body.
In the case of Adderall, the following list describes possible drug interactions:
If an individual overdoses on amphetamines, it is important to seek immediate medical help.
In cases of overdoses (or acute intoxication), clinicians will place physical restraints to avoid self-harm or harm to others. Individuals who overdose may become hostile due to a paranoia caused by the amphetamine.
Clinicians will address life-threatening signs and symptoms, if present, including:
Clinicians may also administer supportive therapy (no dire medical intervention), including benzodiazepines for sedation and seizure management. If individual patients are awake, activated charcoal may be a treatment option to limit amphetamine absorption in the digestive tract. To combat dehydration, doctors may set up an IV to provide fluids.
Death due to amphetamine toxicity is not frequent. However, if someone combines amphetamines with other drugs, the risk of death increases.
Yes. A stimulant overdose could cause permanent damage depending on the severity of the case.
Because of very high blood pressure and body temperature, overdosing on amphetamines may cause a stroke or heart attack. Like other complications that could occur in different body organs, the damage caused by such conditions can be irreversible despite treatment.
Also, memory loss and trouble sleeping may result due to both stimulant overdose and long-term use.
If you or a loved one suffer from substance abuse or a substance use disorder, different therapy options are possible, including:
Chronic drug use can build physical and psychological dependence, which means that withdrawal symptoms may occur after stopping. These symptoms can include:
There are currently no drugs available to counteract the effects of amphetamines or those caused by prolonged abstinence.
In the United States, the National Institute on Drug Abuse offers MIEDAR (Motivation Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery), an effective, incentive-based method that encourages cocaine and methamphetamine abstinence.
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ADDERALL® (CII), US Food and Drug Administration , www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2007/011522s040lbl.pdf.
“Drug Fact Sheet: Amphetamines .” Get Smart About Drugs, US Department of Justice/ Drug Enforcement Administration , Apr. 2020, www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Amphetamines-2020_0.pdf.
“Methamphetamine Overdose.” Mount Sinai Health System, 25 Apr. 2019, www.mountsinai.org/health-library/poison/methamphetamine-overdose.
“Substance Use - Amphetamines: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 May 2020, medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000792.htm.
Vasan, Sarayu. “Amphetamine Toxicity.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 20 Nov. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470276/.
“What Treatments Are Effective for People Who Misuse Methamphetamine?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 9 Apr. 2020, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-treatments-are-effective-people-who-misuse-methamphetamine.