Amphetamines are a group of related substances classified as stimulants. This means that their presence in the body speeds up the normal rate of activity in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Amphetamines serve as an active ingredient in several widely prescribed medications, including Adderall and Dexedrine. In addition, the category includes illicit street drugs.
Whether they come from a pharmaceutical laboratory or an illegal manufacturer, all amphetamines share a single important property: the ability to trigger addiction when consumed often or in large amounts. In the U.S., over a million people misuse amphetamines each year.
Are you involved in amphetamine misuse? Do you worry that you’ve developed an addiction to one of these substances? If so, you share this problem with many others. In fact, roughly half a million Americans have diagnosable symptoms of amphetamine-related stimulant use disorder. However, with appropriate care in a treatment program, you can take the steps needed to address your condition and regain control over your daily life.
What Do Amphetamines Do?
The amphetamine family includes amphetamine itself (known formally as levoamphetamine) and a closely related substance called dextroamphetamine. It also includes methamphetamine, which, for several important reasons, deserves its own separate category as a substance of abuse. In addition, the family includes street versions of amphetamine, which go by names such as speed and crank.
Whether they come in the form of a legal medication or an illegal drug, all amphetamines travel through your bloodstream to your brain. Once they reach this destination, they trigger sharp increases in the levels of two naturally occurring chemicals, norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) and dopamine. The boost in norepinephrine levels leads to an increased rate of activity throughout your central nervous system. In turn, this increase produces physical effects such as:
Spikes in your normal heart rate and blood pressure
An increase in your normal breathing rate
A drop in your normal rate of blood flow
Pupil dilation (i.e., widening)
Increased sweat output
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The boost in dopamine levels leads to a potent form of pleasure known as euphoria. As is true with most addictive substances, the production of euphoria helps explain why people from all walks of life develop amphetamine-related problems. These problems typically begin when you repeatedly try to experience the “high” of amphetamine use. At a certain point, your brain will come to expect this sensation. What’s more, over time you will develop a tolerance to the impact of your medication/drug consumption. This means you’ll need to consume amphetamines more often and/or in larger amounts to meet your expectations.
Depending on the form they take, amphetamines can be consumed orally, inhaled nasally, inhaled in smoke fumes or injected into your flesh or straight into a vein. Smoking and IV injection lead to almost immediate alterations in your baseline brain chemistry, while oral consumption and snorting delay these alterations for up to half an hour. As a result of these differences, IV injection and smoking may lead to the most rapid development of serious problems.
Signs of Amphetamine-Related Problems
People with amphetamine-related problems often experience a variety of notable changes in their physical, mental and social well-being. Potential signs you should look for include:
A declining appetite
A depressed mental state
Bouts of paranoia or anxiety
The development of frequent cold or flu symptoms
Teeth grinding or other dental issues
A failure to live up to important home-, school- or work-related obligations
If you have a problem with amphetamines and stop taking them (or quickly lower you intake), you can also develop symptoms of withdrawal. The most common examples of these symptoms include unexplained fatigue, an anxious or depressed mental state, a paranoid or confused mental state, muscular aches or pains, unrestful sleep and nightmares.
Potential Consequences of Amphetamine Misuse and Addiction
Anyone who consumes excessive amounts of a prescription or illicit amphetamine can experience a fatal or non-fatal overdose. Risks for an overdose can be especially high for people who use street forms of the drug, which vary in strength from batch to batch and may contain unknown additives or contaminants. Potential symptoms for those affected include a racing heartbeat, convulsions, loss of consciousness and the onset of a stroke or heart attack.
Even in the absence of an overdose, you can also experience something called amphetamine psychosis. Symptoms associated with this condition include hallucinations, delusional thoughts/beliefs and unexplained outbursts of violence or physical aggression. These problems tend to appear in people who consume amphetamines both often and in high amounts.
Depending on the method used to consume an amphetamine-based drug or medication, you may also experience other health concerns. For example, people who rely on nasal inhalation can develop frequent nosebleeds and damaged nasal tissue. People who rely on IV or tissue injection and share needles with others can develop major infections such as HIV/AIDS, tetanus, hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
Amphetamine Addiction Treatment
There are a range of treatments available for people affected by amphetamine-related stimulant use disorder. Rather than relying on medications, these treatments rely on the use of a modern form of psychotherapy called behavioral therapy. One form of this therapy, contingency management (CM) helps you stay on track during recovery by providing rewards when you meet key objectives in your program. Another form, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps you understand the motivations for your damaging behavior and develop healthier behaviors that decrease your risks for a relapse.
At Transformations Treatment Center, we provide the assistance you need to advance through every phase of the recovery process. Instead of treating you like an “addict,” we offer personalized, holistic plans that address all areas of your life. In addition to frontline therapy options, we specialize in supportive therapies and programs that you can customize to meet your unique requirements. And our variety of treatment settings — including partial hospitalization, inpatient care and outpatient care — help ensure that you receive everything you need to set yourself up for lasting sobriety.
No matter how serious the problems you face, our dedicated staff of expert practitioners will support you on your journey. Contact us today for more details on our top-quality offerings.