Amphetamine Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 23, 2020

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that can be very addictive. Many individuals get addicted to amphetamines as a result of abusing prescription medications such as Adderall or Ritalin. Learn more about the dangers of amphetamine abuse and what to do if you or a loved one are addicted.

Amphetamine Abuse And Addiction

Each month, over 900,000 people in the United States abuse prescription stimulants, including amphetamines. Some people use amphetamines to stay awake so they can work longer hours at their job.

Others take them because they think the medications will help them perform better on difficult exams. But most people have an addiction to amphetamines because their doctor prescribed the pills and they were not aware of the effect the drugs could have on their body.

Since amphetamine abuse is extremely dangerous due to the physical and mental damage it can cause, understanding the facts behind the illness is crucial to anyone who has a loved one who may need to get treatment for it.

Amphetamine Abuse, Addiction, And Dependence

While the terms “abuse,” “addiction,” and “dependence” may be used interchangeably, each of these terms describes a different aspect of drug use. If a person is abusing amphetamines, they could be taking them occasionally for a purpose other than what they were originally intended.

Having an addiction to amphetamines means that a person is caught in a cycle of constant cravings for the substance. Dependence on amphetamines means that a person needs them because they have formed a mental reliance on the drugs and will experience withdrawal symptoms when not taking them.

Commonly Abused Amphetamine Prescriptions

The following is a list of the most commonly abused amphetamines that are available with a doctor’s prescription:

  • dextroamphetamine saccharate (Adderall)
  • methylphenidate (Concerta)
  • methylphenidate (Daytrana)
  • methamphetamine hydrochloride (Desoxyn)
  • dextroamphetamine sulfate (Dexedrine Spansule)
  • ephedrine sulfate (Ephedrine)
  • dexmethylphenidate HCI (Focalin)
  • methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  • atomoxetine (Strattera)
  • lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse)

Side Effects Of Abusing Amphetamines

The perceived positive side effects of amphetamine abuse are often what encourages people to begin taking the pills in the first place. Amphetamines increase energy so it is easier to accomplish day-to-day tasks.

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They also decrease the appetite, which makes them useful for losing weight. Doctors prescribe amphetamines because the medications help people who struggle with concentrating on their work or studies, such as those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

But what most people don’t realize is that the pills are highly addictive.

They produce negative side effects, too, including:

  • insomnia
  • nervousness
  • anxiety
  • high blood pressure
  • tachycardia
  • paranoia
  • facial tics

Signs And Symptoms Of An Amphetamine Addiction

A person can tell if they have an amphetamine addiction by taking a look at the way the substance is affecting them. For example, if the effects of amphetamines seem to be wearing off faster than usual, it could be a sign of a developing amphetamine tolerance from taking too much of it.

Tolerance can contribute to constant cravings for amphetamines that make it difficult to think about anything else. Once a person reaches this stage, they may begin doing unethical or illegal things in order to get more pills. Examples include stealing money or medication from other people, lying to doctors to get extra prescriptions, and purchasing the pills from drug dealers.

Friends and family members may notice some signs of an addiction in their loved one too, especially if they attempt to confront them about their sudden personality changes or irrational behavior.

Physical symptoms of an addiction to amphetamines are as follows:

  • body aches and pains
  • profuse sweating
  • muscle weakness
  • muscle atrophy
  • weight loss
  • vomiting
  • nausea

Can Amphetamine Addiction Lead To Withdrawal Symptoms?

An addiction to amphetamines can cause serious withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult to stop taking the pills even if someone really wants to. Usually, withdrawal symptoms begin about two days after someone has stopped taking amphetamines.

Some people may experience physical or mental discomfort sooner than this if they have been taking a large amount of pills for an extended period of time. At first, the symptoms will be fairly mild, such as anxiety, depression, irritability, and fatigue.

If an addicted person doesn’t begin taking amphetamines at this point, they will develop more debilitating symptoms that require hospitalization. Suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, memory issues, and nightmares are all possible.

Can You Overdose On Amphetamines?

A person can easily overdose on amphetamines, especially if they have started to develop a tolerance to the medication. Once someone feels they can handle large amounts of the pills at a time, they might accidentally take too many.

This can cause them to have a heart attack or stroke since amphetamines speed up the central nervous system. Combining different amphetamines together can also be problematic because each type of amphetamine has a different half-life in the body.

If a person takes extra amphetamines while they still have an extended-release amphetamine in their system, they could overdose as soon as the pills combine within their bloodstream.

Mixing Amphetamines With Other Drugs

Some of the side effects of amphetamines are difficult to deal with. It is common for addicted people to combine amphetamines with other drugs to try to correct the anxiety, jitters, and insomnia that they cause. Mixing amphetamines is also sometimes done when someone is trying to extend their high or reduce their withdrawal symptoms.

One of the most common types of drugs that addicted individuals use with amphetamines is opiates. Opiates suppress the central nervous system, which is why they are often referred to as “downers.” When opiates are taken with an “upper,” like a prescription amphetamine, they cause a tug-of-war on the heart, lungs, and other organs.

Mixing amphetamines with opiates is especially dangerous because it increases the risk of an overdose. Since opiates cause fatigue, muscle weakness, and confusion, more amphetamines might be taken by someone who is trying to get their energy and mental alertness back. Mixing other illegal stimulants, such as cocaine, with prescription amphetamines can also cause this to happen.

Treatment Options For Amphetamine Addiction And Abuse

Amphetamine detox is essential to helping a person get through the withdrawal process safely.

If detoxing at home is attempted, it is possible for a person to hurt themselves or others because of the hallucinations, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and other symptoms that can occur.

Once the drugs have been flushed out of the body, it will take time to work on the mental health issues and negative thinking that are at the root of addiction. Treatment specialists often recommend that those who are addicted to amphetamines stay in an inpatient facility for as long as possible.

While outpatient care is less expensive, it has been shown to be less effective in treating serious addictions because it doesn’t remove addicted individuals from the toxic environment and people that may be contributing to their illness.

For a list of addiction treatment centers that offer detoxification programs and inpatient treatment for amphetamine addiction, be sure to contact one of our treatment specialists today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 23, 2020
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