Amphetamine Addiction and Abuse

Abusing amphetamines and can’t stop?

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What Are Amphetamines

Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that change your brain chemistry. They are a class of stimulant drugs that release hormones and adrenalin and affect dopamine levels in your brain. Initially, they improve focus, and sociability, and give you a feeling of euphoria and confidence. They speed up the messages between your body and brain, making you more alert. But because of these qualities, they are also highly addictive when they are abused.

In the UK amphetamines are classified as Class B, Schedule 2 drugs. This means it is illegal to be in possession of them if you do not have a prescription. Examples of legal or prescription, amphetamines include methylphenidate, lisdexamfetamine and dexamfetamine.

Addiction Potential

Amphetamines build tolerance quickly, requiring you to take higher or more frequent doses to feel or sustain the effects. When they are abused they destroy your pleasure receptors so your body can’t feel pleasure without them. You may feel depressed or suicidal when you don’t have amphetamines, because of the dysregulation of your neurotransmitters and reward system. If you have a prescription, taking more than the recommended dose by your GP is putting you at greater risk of addiction.

Amphetamine Addiction v Abuse

If you take amphetamines in the dose prescribed by your doctor, it is unlikely that you have developed an addiction to them. However, if you are taking amphetamines without prescription or taking more than the recommended dose in order to boost performance at school or work or to experience a recreational high, this constitutes prescription drug abuse.

Because of the highly addictive nature of these drugs, it is very easy and quick for you to lose control of your use, to the point where the amphetamine is controlling, and having adverse effects on, your life. Once addicted you feel as though you need them to get through your day-to-day life and cannot stop thinking about them. When amphetamine use becomes a central part of your day-to-day life, you may have developed an addiction.

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Signs & Symptoms

If you are worried about a loved one’s amphetamine abuse, you may notice physiological, psychological, and behavioural signs and symptoms. Physical symptoms include higher body temperature, an increased heart rate, and blood pressure, body shakes and tremors, nausea, dry mouth, and loss of appetite that can lead to malnourishment. Emotionally the person you care about may experience anxiety, depression, mood swings, paranoia, psychosis, and hallucinations.

Some of the signs that you have developed an addiction to amphetamines include

  • Using someone else’s prescription
  • Wanting to cut down or quit your use but not being able to
  • Continuing to use them even though you know they are having an adverse effect on your life
  • Feeling angry or annoyed when someone close to you criticises or questions you about it
  • Dedicating time and resources to acquiring more amphetamines
  • Changing your lifestyle or social behaviours to accommodate amphetamine use.

Psychological Dependence

Having an amphetamine addiction makes it difficult to quit on your own. Part of having psychological dependence is your uncertainty that you can actually stop using them, and you may tell yourself that it is impossible. Psychological dependence can cause you to experience cravings when you socialise or trigger you to use amphetamines when you are in a certain environment.

Physical Dependence

When attempting to stop amphetamine use, withdrawal symptoms can develop which can leave you feeling depressed, lethargic or weak, although not as intense as other drug types. This cycle of dependence may be contributing to your need of abusing amphetamines.

Dangers of Amphetamine Abuse

Abusing amphetamines causes a range of effects that can harm your body and mind. Problems with your cognitive ability and memory loss can develop with repeated use. Heart problems can occur, because of amphetamines’ stimulating effect: irregular or fast heartbeat and higher blood pressure are dangerous side effects that can lead to a heart attack. Restlessness and insomnia, tremors, tooth decay and gum problems (from ‘gurning’) are unpleasant effects that are common with repeat use.

Amphetamines & Pregnancy

Taking amphetamines while pregnant is associated with negative outcomes, as this class of drug is neurotoxic. If you are taking amphetamines under prescription, your GP is likely to recommend a safer treatment plan. However, if you are addicted to amphetamines and continue to use them while not knowing about your pregnancy, you must enrol in a supervised treatment programme. Amphetamines elevate your blood pressure and heart rate, which can have adverse effects on your developing baby. They also decrease your appetite, which means your baby is not getting adequate nutrition. Your chance of delivering a premature or low birth weight baby is increased. Babies born to mothers using amphetamine have the potential to be born addicted. This can lead to feeding problems, agitation, and drowsiness as well as a host of other risks.

Amphetamine Overdose

Amphetamine overdose is unpredictable and it can occur in chronic, first-time, occasional, and binge users. Taking too much amphetamine causes an elevated heart rate and blood pressure. You may experience nausea, chills, and vomiting. You may also feel restless or experience shaking and tremors. Seizures are a dangerous outcome of overdose.

Getting Help

Even if you have been trapped in a cycle of amphetamine abuse for a long time, it is never too late to seek help. We understand it is difficult to reach out but the first step in making this change is accepting you have a problem.

If you have been abusing amphetamines for a long time, and/or you have made several attempts to stop previously, Residential treatment is the most comprehensive approach to tackling amphetamine addiction.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why are amphetamines addictive?

Using amphetamines causes a flood of feel-good chemicals to be released. They speed you up, improve your alertness and make you feel more productive.

What is the difference between amphetamine and methamphetamine?
Amphetamine and methamphetamines are both stimulants. Amphetamines are prescribed for medical conditions. While methamphetamine is chemically similar, it is more addictive and is abused more.

Are prescription-based amphetamines addictive?

Taking prescription-based amphetamines means that you need them for a medical reason like ADHD or narcolepsy. This is different to an addiction. However, if you abuse or misuse them you could develop an addiction.

How are amphetamines harmful?

These substances affect almost every part of your body, and can be destructive to your internal organs. With long term use, lasting damage may be done to your organs.

How to help if someone is abusing their medications?

If you notice a loved one abusing their prescribed amphetamines, the first thing you may need to do is talk to them – has the dosage become ineffective? Suggest they speak to their treatment specialist and ask for a prescription review. If they are not willing to find a solution, call us, and we can give you more tailored suggestions about the next steps.


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