Amphetamine Abuse & Addiction Symptoms, Signs, Causes & Effects

Amphetamine addiction can rob you of your health, your dignity, and your hope for a better tomorrow. At Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center, you will reconnect with your best self, and begin to build the foundation for a more promising future.

What is Amphetamine Abuse

Learn More About Amphetamine Abuse

Amphetamines, which are classified as stimulants, work by using the dopamine reward system of the brain. When these drugs are used, the user’s central nervous system is simulated which causes the brain to produce a higher level of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This increase in the amount of dopamine in the brain creates a euphoric feeling and overall sense of wellbeing. Common street names for these drugs include: speed, beans, bennies, uppers.

Amphetamines can be consumed in a number of ways. They can be taken orally, crushed up and snorted, or diluted and injected intravenously. If injected, the user feels the effects immediately, while it can take up to 20 minutes to feel effects if taken by mouth. People who consume uppers experience a boost of energy and the feeling that they can do anything as speed provides the ability to stay awake for long periods of time without needing rest. Additionally, while taking these uppers an individual may have no desire to eat which can lead to weight loss if the stimulant abuse is continued.

While the initial effects of amphetamine use are enjoyable, the high ends with a noticeable crash, leaving addicts irritable and exhausted. It doesn’t take long for the body to build up a tolerance to amphetamines causing a user to increase the dosage to maintain the initial desired effects. Along with tolerance comes psychological and physical dependence and amphetamine addiction. The pleasure centers of the brain will begin to crave the speed if it is not regularly supplied. It is the fear of crashing and the unpleasant feelings of withdrawal that keep a speed addict going back for more despite the negative consequences.

Amphetamine addiction can leave the user feeling frightened and stuck in a cycle of bingeing and crashing. However, with proper treatment and therapy, this addiction to uppers can be overcome.

Statistics

Statistics on Amphetamine Abuse

It is estimated that each year there are about 24.7 million amphetamine abusers in the United States. In 2008, it was reported that 13 million people over the age of 12 had used amphetamines without the supervision of a doctor; 529,000 were regular speed abusers.

Causes

Causes of Amphetamine Abuse & Addiction

There are many reasons an individual may begin to use certain drugs or substances such as amphetamines. They could have been initially prescribed by a physician to manage certain symptoms, used as an attempt to self-medicate to escape personal problems, or out of curiosity. While the exact cause for addiction is unknown it is likely a combination of a variety of factors. These may include:

Genetic: Individuals who have family members that have had problems with substance abuse and addiction are more likely to develop an addiction later in life. Research has shown that there is likely a genetic trait that is passed on – especially among first-degree relatives.

Brain Chemistry: Amphetamine addiction may be a result of abnormalities in the structure and function of the brain. Some researchers have proposed that lower levels of dopamine in the brain may cause people who abuse uppers to crave the euphoric feelings caused by amphetamine abuse. There may exist different sizes of certain areas of the brain in individuals who become addicted.

Environmental: It has been hypothesized that individuals who have grown up in stressful or unhappy homes are more likely to develop an addiction later in life. Additionally, an environment where drug abuse and addiction is accepted can cause an individual to develop substance abuse disorders as they have come to see drug abuse as appropriate behavior.

Psychological: Another theory suggests that many individuals are looking for a way to self-medicate the symptoms of a mental illness. Continued abuse of amphetamines leads to the disruption of normal levels of dopamine in the brain, so over time an amphetamine user is unable to feel pleasure without using the drug.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders and the Complexity of Amphetamine Addiction

People who are addicted to amphetamines often have an underlying and untreated mental illness. These include:

  • ADHD
  • Conduct disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Antisocial personality disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Other substance abuse disorders
  • Behavioral addictions, like gambling disorder
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction

Amphetamines are strong stimulants that are used to medically treat such disorders as narcolepsy and ADHD. When abused there are a number of side effects that can occur. The side effects experienced depend upon the individual and the amount of time the substance has been used.

Some of the symptoms of amphetamine abuse may be:

Mood symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased alertness
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Hostility
  • Aggressiveness
  • Altered sexual behavior
  • Not sleeping for prolonged period of time
  • Not eating for prolonged period of time
  • Unrealistic ideas of personal ability and power
  • Fast and excessive talking
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Increased confidence

Physical symptoms:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Faster breathing
  • Decreased fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Malnutrition
  • Blurred vision

Psychological symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Clear and focused feeling

Effects

Effects of Amphetamine Addiction

Amphetamine addiction can cause serious effects in the life of the abuser. Some effects of amphetamine abuse and addiction may include:

  • Emaciation and malnutrition
  • Inability to function at work or school
  • Strained relationships with family and loved ones
  • Paranoid hostility
  • Worsening of mental illness
  • Decreased emotional wellbeing
  • Chest pain
  • Heart failure
  • Convulsions
  • Depression
  • Amphetamine psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Withdrawal

Withdrawal Symptoms from Amphetamine Addiction

Any individual who tries to stop using amphetamines after a prolonged period of use will find quitting amphetamines challenging. With the highly addictive nature of these drugs and the unpleasant withdrawal effects, most people require professional help to successfully quit using. Without the drug to mask the damage amphetamines have caused, an individual may experience the following effects during the withdrawal process:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Severe fatigue
  • Flu-like aching
  • Cravings
  • Suicidal ideations

At Blue Ridge, there was always someone on staff that I could talk too. They truly cared about my recovery.

– Olivia