Amphetamines are often used to treat medical conditions like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Because they cause the release of dopamine and the brain’s reward pathway, however, they can also be highly addictive. Amphetamine addiction is a major problem in the United States, but help is available if you or a loved one is struggling.
What Are Amphetamines?
Amphetamines are a class of stimulant drugs. Some amphetamines are Schedule II controlled substances prescribed for valid medical conditions, while others are illicit Schedule I drugs with no valid medical use.
Common street names for amphetamines are:
- Black Beauties
Because amphetamines include both legal and illicit drugs, it is difficult to pinpoint addiction rates. As of 2017, however, about 0.4% of the U.S. population had a methamphetamine use disorder. That’s almost one million people, and the number has been increasing. Further, experts think that up to 25% of adults who are prescribed stimulants like amphetamines misuse them.
Amphetamine Use in New Jersey
In New Jersey, amphetamines as a whole were responsible for 149 hospital visits in 2017. Prescription stimulants like amphetamines are common in New Jersey. As of 2019, 14.7 stimulant prescriptions were written for every 100 New Jersey residents — more than 1.3 million prescriptions overall. These prescriptions included:
- 774,893 amphetamine (Adzenys, Dyanavel, Evekeo) prescriptions
- 249,735 lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) prescriptions
- 194,451 methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Ritalin) prescriptions
- 89,780 dexmethylphenidate (Focalin) prescriptions
Illicit amphetamines, including black-market methamphetamine, are also problematic in New Jersey. It is believed that methamphetamine may end up being one of the most common causes of overdose deaths in 2020.
Types of Amphetamines
Whether it’s a legal Schedule II controlled substance or illicit Schedule I drug, all amphetamines have a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. Amphetamines may be misused in an attempt to improve concentration or memory, lose weight, stay awake or enhance the high of other drugs. Some amphetamines and their derivatives include:
Schedule I Amphetamines
- DOET, DOE, Hecate (2,5-Dimethoxy-4-ethylamphetamine)
- MDA, Love Drug (3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine)
- DOB (4-Bromo-2,5-dimethoxyamphetamine)
- MDMA, Ecstasy, XTC (3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine)
- MDEA, Eve (3,4-Methylenedioxy-N-ethylamphetamine)
Schedule II Amphetamines
- Adzenys, Dyanavel, Evekeo (Amphetamine)
- Adderall (Amphetamine/Dextroamphetamine)
- Dexedrine, ProCentra, Zenzedi (Dextroamphetamine)
- Desoxyn, Meth, Ice, Crank, Speed (Methamphetamine)
- Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine)
Amphetamines vs. Methamphetamines
Although amphetamines and methamphetamines are chemically related, they affect the brain differently. Both drugs achieve their medical effects — and their abuse potential — by increasing dopamine in the brain. However, methamphetamine is much more potent than amphetamine and causes five times as much dopamine to be released.
Further, dopamine from methamphetamines goes away more slowly than dopamine from amphetamines. Because dopamine is the brain’s major reward chemical and plays a role in addiction, experts think that methamphetamines may have more addictive potential than amphetamines.
Side Effects of Amphetamines
Amphetamines have side effects that are similar to other stimulants. These can include:
- Wakefulness or insomnia
- Appetite loss
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Exhaustion after the drug begins to wear off, or a “crash”
Over time, chronic amphetamine abuse can lead to psychosis. Psychosis symptoms include:
- Skin picking
- Preoccupation with your own thoughts
- Erratic behavior
Most amphetamines are taken orally or injected, with the exception of the rock form of methamphetamine (crystal meth), which is often smoked. As such, paraphernalia linked to amphetamines can include syringes or pipes.
Signs of substance abuse can become apparent when a person begins to struggle with amphetamines. Some signs may include:
- Social withdrawal
- Avoiding friends, family and loved ones
- Mood swings and irritability
- Changes in sleep habits
- Problems keeping up with responsibilities
- Trouble with work, school or family
- Legal or financial problems
- High body temperature
Between 2012 and 2018, the death rate from psychostimulant overdoses increased by a factor of five. Amphetamines were involved in 5% of overdose deaths in 2017, while methamphetamine was involved in 13.3%.
Amphetamine Withdrawal and Detox
Different amphetamines can have varying withdrawal timelines. Withdrawal goes through several distinct phases:
- Early crash: After the amphetamine wears off, mood changes, cravings, agitation and anxiety typically occur within 24 hours.
- Middle crash: Following the early crash, fatigue, depression, lack of energy and listlessness occur. At the end of the middle crash phase, the person may become very tired and sleep for anywhere from 24 to 36 hours.
- Late crash: Following the long sleep in the middle crash, the person may be very hungry.
- Protracted withdrawal: Following the late crash, symptoms can continue for weeks or months. The person may still crave drugs, especially when a drug trigger is present. Common symptoms are similar to those of the middle crash phase and include fatigue, lack of energy, depression and a lack of interest or pleasure in life.
Medical detox can help people avoid or relieve some of the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal. In medical detox, patients are tapered off amphetamines while under 24/7 medical supervision and care. In a medical setting, bothersome withdrawal symptoms can be quickly treated by onsite addiction professionals. This can provide an easier withdrawal experience.
The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper offers a number of amphetamine treatment programs in our state-of-the-art rehabilitation center. Our full continuum of care includes:
- Medical detox: We provide amphetamine medical detox supervised by our withdrawal experts. Different treatments may be used to help relieve withdrawal symptoms, such as medications to help relieve anxiety and vitamins to help you stay nourished.
- Inpatient rehab: Following your successful amphetamine detox, you can choose to stay at our residential rehab facility. This allows you to live onsite while healing from stimulant addiction.
- Outpatient rehab: After a residential stay, you may be able to go back home and continue amphetamine rehab on an outpatient basis. Teletherapy may also be an option.
- Aftercare: Following rehab, the lifelong process of aftercare begins. In aftercare, you become involved in support groups and relapse prevention programs to keep focused on your long-term recovery.
- Dual diagnosis: Because mental health problems are common in those with substance use disorders, our dual diagnosis program may be helpful. In dual diagnosis programs, you undergo treatment for addiction as well as any underlying mental health problems, such as ADHD.
Related Topic: Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab
If you or a loved one is struggling with an amphetamine addiction, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper can help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment programs that can work well for your specific situation and needs.
Some frequently asked questions include:
Amphetamines are a class of stimulant medications. This class includes both illicit Schedule I drugs and prescription Schedule II drugs used to treat conditions like ADHD.
Many different amphetamines and related drugs exist. Legal amphetamines include amphetamine (Adzenys, Dyanavel, Evekeo) and amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall). Illicit amphetamines include 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, better known as MDMA, or ecstasy.
Amphetamines affect the brain by causing the release of dopamine. People with ADHD may have a dopamine deficiency in the brain, which is why amphetamines can help treat ADHD. However, dopamine is also a major part of the brain’s reward pathway, which can reinforce behaviors and lead to addiction. For these reasons, taking amphetamines without a medical need is dangerous.
The withdrawal timeline for amphetamines may vary depending on the specific amphetamine. In general, it can take weeks to months to fully withdraw from an amphetamine.
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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.