Amphetamine Dependence and Addiction

Amphetamine Dependence and Addiction

Amphetamine Dependence and Addiction

An amphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that can be used in the treatment of health conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and obesity. Amphetamine addiction and dependence is not the abuse of using amphetamines but the dependence on them. It is very hard to quit or control the use of them, but many do with professional help.

Prescription amphetamines include Adderall, methylphenidate (Ritalin), dextroamphetamine, or the inactive prodrug lisdexamfetamine. The street names for amphetamines include uppers, wake ups, whizz, whites, crystal meth, crank, glass, Tina, Christine, and ice. Methamphetamine is a stronger type of amphetamine that is much more addictive and can be lethal. Some versions of it are ecstasy, Molly, and MDMA. Amphetamines can be snorted, injected, ingested orally, or smoked.

At therapeutic doses, amphetamines can enhance alertness and self-confidence. While students think it helps them focus and perform better on exams, they usually do worse if they are already smart.

At chronic dependence levels, amphetamines can be physically life threatening and cause delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations.

According to SAMHSA, “the most commonly used subtype of prescription stimulants among people aged 12 or older in 2015 was amphetamine products”—11.3 million (4.2 %) of the 17.2 million past year users of stimulants aged 12 or older.

Signs and Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction:

Early signs of amphetamine addiction include:

  • Tolerance
  • Physical dependence
  • An urge to use amphetamines

It is considerably less difficult to quit in this early stage than later on when the mental instability associated with amphetamine addiction sets in.


Amphetamine addiction is characterized by:

  • Intense cravings
  • Mental dependence – use them to “feel good,” cope with everyday life, or interact with others
  • Loss of control of the amount consumed
  • Tolerance – more is needed to get the desired effect or “hit”
  • Compulsive, continued use, despite an awareness of the negative relational, social, and work-related consequences it can have
  • Little interest in self-care, social appearance, or hygiene
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not taking them

Amphetamine withdrawal signs and symptoms can include:

  • Mental
    • Irritability and short-temper
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Extreme mood swings similar to bipolar disorder
    • Suicidal ideation
    • Sensory misperception
    • Auditory and visual hallucinations and realistic nightmares
    • Psychosis that is similar to schizophrenia
    • Drug cravings
  • Physical
    • Excessive hunger
    • Extreme fatigue – sleeping for more than 24 hours at a time
    • Lack of coordination, slow speech, dizziness
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
    • Poor blood circulation to the extremities
    • Hypersensitivity to light and sound
    • Sudden death, heart attack, or stroke in those with heart problems

Risks of Amphetamine dependence:

Amphetamine overdose can potentially be life threatening. There is also the risk of contracting blood-borne viruses such as HIV with needle sharing in those who inject.

Recreational doses are generally much larger than prescribed therapeutic doses and carry a far greater risk of serious adverse effects. Heavy recreational use of amphetamines can lead to addiction, but this is unlikely to occur from long-term medical use at therapeutic doses.
Amphetamine addiction can cause impairment in academic, social, and occupational functioning. It can have profound effects on interpersonal relationships, and the person affected can encounter financial difficulty due to the amount of money spent on funding their destructive habit.

The mental and physical adverse effects of amphetamine addiction can include:

  • Mental
    • Anxiety
    • Aggression
    • Depression
    • Larger doses of amphetamine may compromise cognition
    • Very high doses can result in psychosis – delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations — although this is rare.
  • Physical
    • Seizures
    • Chest and abdominal pain
    • Nausea
    • Dehydration
    • Headaches
    • Tachycardia – fast heart rate
    • Rapid breathing
    • High blood pressure
    • Malnourishment and emaciation
    • Larger doses of amphetamine may induce rapid muscle breakdown.

Amphetamine Dependency and Addiction Treatment:

Treatment options for amphetamine addiction include detoxification and rehab.

  • Detox – Because the level of psychosis can be severe during withdrawal, it should be done slowly in a healthcare setting under the supervision of trained specialists.
  • Medications – Might include antidepressants for the depression that can occur during withdrawal, neuroleptics for high levels of psychosis, benzodiazepines to lower reactions to stimuli, anti-craving meds, and aversion meds.
  • Rehab – Once a detox program has been completed, a person is referred for rehabilitation which includes:

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy
    • One-to-one counseling
    • Group therapy
    • Motivational interviewing
    • Family therapy

The aim of rehabilitation is to identify the cause of the addictive behavior and to learn ways to deal with triggers and cravings. Harm reduction is also part of rehabilitation.

 

Signs and Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction:

Early signs of amphetamine addiction include:

  • Tolerance
  • Physical dependence
  • An urge to use amphetamines

It is considerably less difficult to quit in this early stage than later on when the mental instability associated with amphetamine addiction sets in.


Amphetamine addiction is characterized by:

  • Intense cravings
  • Mental dependence – use them to “feel good,” cope with everyday life, or interact with others
  • Loss of control of the amount consumed
  • Tolerance – more is needed to get the desired effect or “hit”
  • Compulsive, continued use, despite an awareness of the negative relational, social, and work-related consequences it can have
  • Little interest in self-care, social appearance, or hygiene
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not taking them

Amphetamine withdrawal signs and symptoms can include:

  • Mental
    • Irritability and short-temper
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Extreme mood swings similar to bipolar disorder
    • Suicidal ideation
    • Sensory misperception
    • Auditory and visual hallucinations and realistic nightmares
    • Psychosis that is similar to schizophrenia
    • Drug cravings
  • Physical
    • Excessive hunger
    • Extreme fatigue – sleeping for more than 24 hours at a time
    • Lack of coordination, slow speech, dizziness
    • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
    • Poor blood circulation to the extremities
    • Hypersensitivity to light and sound
    • Sudden death, heart attack, or stroke in those with heart problems
 

Risks of Amphetamine Dependence:

Amphetamine overdose can potentially be life threatening. There is also the risk of contracting blood-borne viruses such as HIV with needle sharing in those who inject.

Recreational doses are generally much larger than prescribed therapeutic doses and carry a far greater risk of serious adverse effects. Heavy recreational use of amphetamines can lead to addiction, but this is unlikely to occur from long-term medical use at therapeutic doses.
Amphetamine addiction can cause impairment in academic, social, and occupational functioning. It can have profound effects on interpersonal relationships, and the person affected can encounter financial difficulty due to the amount of money spent on funding their destructive habit.

The mental and physical adverse effects of amphetamine addiction can include:

  • Mental
    • Anxiety
    • Aggression
    • Depression
    • Larger doses of amphetamine may compromise cognition
    • Very high doses can result in psychosis – delusions, paranoia, and hallucinations — although this is rare.
  • Physical
    • Seizures
    • Chest and abdominal pain
    • Nausea
    • Dehydration
    • Headaches
    • Tachycardia – fast heart rate
    • Rapid breathing
    • High blood pressure
    • Malnourishment and emaciation
    • Larger doses of amphetamine may induce rapid muscle breakdown.
 

Amphetamine Dependency and Addiction Treatment:

Treatment options for amphetamine addiction include detoxification and rehab.

  • Detox – Because the level of psychosis can be severe during withdrawal, it should be done slowly in a healthcare setting under the supervision of trained specialists.
  • Medications – Might include antidepressants for the depression that can occur during withdrawal, neuroleptics for high levels of psychosis, benzodiazepines to lower reactions to stimuli, anti-craving meds, and aversion meds.
  • Rehab – Once a detox program has been completed, a person is referred for rehabilitation which includes:

    • Cognitive behavioral therapy
    • One-to-one counseling
    • Group therapy
    • Motivational interviewing
    • Family therapy

The aim of rehabilitation is to identify the cause of the addictive behavior and to learn ways to deal with triggers and cravings. Harm reduction is also part of rehabilitation.

Sources SAMHSA – Meth | TIME – Adderall | SAMHSA – Drug Use and Misuse | MEDLINE PLUS – Amphetamine side-effects | VA GOV – Amphetamine treatment | AMPHETAMINES – Withdrawl