Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that may be legal or illegal depending on whether or not they are prescribed by a doctor. Amphetamine abuse has grown into a major challenge facing the people of our country. Prescription stimulants such as Adderall and Dexedrine, in addition to illicit amphetamines like methamphetamine and ecstasy, are extremely addictive and disruptive when used as recreational drugs. Understanding more about these medications and drugs and how they work in the body creates an ability to recognize the signs of addiction, so individuals can learn how to get help in treating this challenging issue.
Who Abuses Amphetamines?
People from all walks of life abuse amphetamines. It has become popular for students to abuse amphetamine as a study aid. Some believe that the high energy and focus that come from using the drug can help them perform better in the academic arena on tests and in school. However, there is research that suggests this is just not true. An article from TIME examines a study that showed students who use amphetamines recreationally to enhance studying performance do not achieve higher grades. It has been found that they often perform worse. Nevertheless, the drug does make people feel like they can focus more and for a longer period of time. More significantly, this level of abuse can lead to more severe, illicit use of the drug to get high.
Effects of Amphetamines on the Body
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, amphetamines of various forms can have lasting effects on an individual’s body when used recreationally and abused.
Amphetamines are stimulants that speed up the body’s system. Many are legally prescribed and used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Amphetamines and methamphetamine are similar to the effects that drugs like cocaine have on the mind, but their onset is slower and their duration is longer. In contrast to cocaine, which is quickly evacuated from the brain and is almost completely metabolized, methamphetamine remains in the central nervous system longer, and a larger part of the drug remains unchanged in the body. This prolonged presence in the body produces lasting stimulant effects on the mind. Individuals who chronically abuse amphetamines display a psychosis that is similar to schizophrenia and is often characterized by: Paranoia, picking at the skin, preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, and auditory and visual hallucinations. Violent and abnormal behavior is commonly seen among chronic abusers of amphetamines and methamphetamine. Because of the way amphetamines interact with the body, these drugs can cause changes in the way the brain behaves. Specifically, amphetamine and related substances can significantly alter the brain’s pleasure response, destroying pleasure receptors in the brain and decreasing the ability for the body to feel pleasure without using amphetamines. The destructive side-effects of these drugs can make people who abuse them feel depressed and even suicidal when they are not using the drug. As a result, cravings to keep using the drug can be very strong, making it difficult to stop using them.
Physical effects of amphetamine abuse often include increased blood pressure and pulse rates, insomnia, loss of appetite, and physical exhaustion. Individuals can also experience mood swings, weight loss, digestive issues and insomnia. Abuse of these drugs has also been known to cause cardiovascular issues such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
Is Overdose a Possibility?
Amphetamine overdose is a very realist possibility for individuals who use the drugs recreationally. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the effects of amphetamine overdose include agitation, increased body temperature, hallucinations, convulsions, and possible death. An amphetamine overdose can take place when enough of the drug is used that it inundates the body causing potentially life-threatening effects.
Treatment for Amphetamine Addiction
It can be challenging to treat amphetamine abuse and addiction because of the changes in brain structure that occur with chronic use. Amphetamines deteriorate gray matter in the brain as well as dopamine receptors. This fundamentally changes an individual’s brain functions, which can affect the person’s ability to stop using the drug and avoid relapse.
Because of the change in brain chemistry, severe depression and loss of pleasure make recovery a difficult road. Nevertheless, therapies that help people understand and adjust their behaviors based on their personal triggers of drug use will aid in individuals being able to get and stay on the path to a successful recovery. The different therapies include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Motivational Interviewing
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Family counseling
- Addiction education
- Peer support or 12-Step group participation