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Fact Sheet

Amphetamines


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What kind of drugs are amphetamines?

You might hear or read about amphetamines, methamphetamines, and crystal methamphetamine. Though each form of the drug may have some different effects, as well as other varying factors, they are all related. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but hopefully this fact sheet will make it a little clearer. Amphetamine is the broader form of the drug, and it encompasses various drugs, but you will find methamphetamine is more commonly researched, talked about, and prevalent. Though it may sound confusing, just remember that they are all members of the same family of drugs. Read on for more information.

Amphetamine is the parent drug of a family of psychostimulants, which speed up the messages going to and from the brain. Some street names for amphetamines include “uppers,” “bennies,” “black beauties,” and “diet pills.” Amphetamines usually come in powder, pills or tablets. Prescription diet pills also fall into this category of drugs. Amphetamines can be snorted, swallowed, injected, dissolved in a drink, or smoked. A common form of the drug is amphetamine sulphate, more often known as speed.

Another member of this family is methamphetamine, a more potent and more abused version of the drug. Common street names for methamphetamine are “meth,” “speed,” “crank,” and “go.” A form of methamphetamine is crystalline methamphetamine (“ice” or “crystal meth”). Because “crystal meth” is inexpensive to make and highly addictive, it has become a seriously dangerous drug in our society.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 10.4 million Americans age 12 and older tried methamphetamine at some time in their lives. Though methamphetamine use is down by about two thirds among teens since 1999, according to the most recent Monitoring the Future study, it remains a prevalent drug among young people.

The facts

The effects of using amphetamines:

The effects of any drug, including amphetamines and methamphetamine, vary from person to person, depending on the individual’s size, weight and health, how much is taken and how the drug is taken, whether the person is used to taking it and whether other drugs are taken at the same time. Effects can also depend on the social context where the drug is used, such as whether the person is alone, with others, or at a party. This means that one’s social surroundings may be an additional factor that influences how the person acts while under the influence of the drug. For example, someone taking methamphetamine when alone might feel overwhelmed by the drug, but in a party atmosphere may feel very energized. The social situation, combined with the drug, may have a unique effect on the person.

Some immediate effects include:

  • Being more awake, alert, and talkative;
  • Having more energy;
  • Feeling euphoric and confident;
  • Being aggressive;
  • Appetite loss;
  • Increased heart rate and breathing;
  • Nausea or vomiting.

Taking the drug regularly may also cause:

  • Extreme weight loss;
  • Dizziness;
  • Severe dental problems;
  • Paranoia;
  • Anxiety;
  • Panic attacks;
  • Depression;
  • Confusion (feeling ‘scattered’).

Additional effects on your life:

Mixing other drugs with amphetamines. Mixing drugs can to serious physical and psychological problems. The mixture of amphetamine and alcohol can lead to increased aggression and violence. Sometimes people will take other drugs, like sleeping tablets such as Valium or Serepax, as a way of coping with some of the unwanted effects of amphetamine, but again, this can be dangerous to your safety and health.

Unsafe sex. Due to some of the effects of amphetamines, such as feeling more confident and euphoric, some people may be more prone to practice unsafe sex. This increases the chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections and blood-borne viruses, such as Hepatitis B and C, and HIV. Check out the Taking Care of Your Sexual Health fact sheet for more info.

Personal Life Disruptions. Using amphetamine or any other drug can result in family, financial, legal, work, school and other personal problems. These problems can be made much worse because some people who use amphetamine can become irritable, hostile, and violent and/or experience other psychological problems.

Driving Impairment. It is dangerous to drive a vehicle or operate machinery after using amphetamine. You should also plan alternative transport, and it may be a good idea to hide your car keys or ask someone you trust to look after them for you.

Dependency on amphetamines or methamphetamines

Even if you start out taking methamphetamine occasionally, it is possible for you to develop a dependency on methamphetamine, which means that methamphetamine becomes central to your life. Often out of the user’s control, methamphetamine has an extremely high potential for abuse and dependence. Some signs that you may be dependent on methamphetamine include feeling stressed when you can’t get methamphetamine, spending more money than you can really afford on methamphetamine, deciding not to use methamphetamine, but then using it anyway, and using methamphetamine in the mornings.

Unlike other stimulants such as cocaine, which is metabolized and removed quickly within the body, methamphetamine acts for a longer amount of time, and a larger amount of the drug remains unchanged in the body. This means that methamphetamine is present in the brain for longer, and causes increased stimulant effects (a surge of the effects talked about above). Withdrawal from meth use is much different than withdrawal from other drugs like opiates or alcohol and must be treated differently.

If you are dependent on methamphetamine and stop taking it you may experience fatigue, hunger, depression, energy loss, and paranoia. You should really work with a doctor or mental health professional when your meth use is getting out of control and you experience withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor, drug and alcohol counselor or other mental health professional can talk with you about the best treatment options. Remember that the treatment options vary from person to person.

For more information about treatment options you may want to check out the Getting Help for Drug Use fact sheet. You can also find more information and treatment referrals from the National Drug Information Treatment Referral Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP 1-800-662-HELP (4357), sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a Division of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services or log on to http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.

The following sources provided information for this fact sheet:

Above the Influence sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy

Research summary on methamphetamine from the National Institute of Drug Abuse:

Monitoring the Future

Acknowledgment

A special thank you to The Partnership for a Drug-free America (Gina R. Hijjawi, PhD, Associate Director of Research and Planning) for reviewing the content of this fact sheet. Check out The Partnership for a Drug-free America for more information on this topic.

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