In many cases, understanding the link between addiction and amphetamines can be a matter of life or death.
Amphetamines are drugs that serve four main functions:
- Block the brain's dopamine reuptake
- Inhibit the destruction of dopamine by enzymes
- Contribute to the release of dopamine from axon terminals in the brain
- Inhibit the build up of dopamine in vesicles
In the United States, amphetamine is considered a Schedule II CNS (Central Nervous System) Stimulant. This means that the drug has a very high potential for abuse and a significant possibility of psychological and physiological dependence.
Amphetamines are sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat narcolepsy, hyperactivity in children, or extreme obesity. Adderall, the brand name of a drug frequent used to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, is one example of a prescription amphetamine.
Although amphetamines do have a valid medical use, they are also frequently taken illegally as recreational club drugs. Amphetamine use is most popular at dance clubs, hip hop concerts, and raves because of the drug's stimulant properties.
Methamphetamine is a type of amphetamine sometimes called meth, speed, chalk, crystal, crank, or glass. Originally intended for use in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers, methamphetamine is now one of the most commonly abused illegal drugs in the United States. Since the drug can be made in a home laboratory using inexpensive and widely available ingredients, many rural communities that previously had minimal issues with drug abuse are now finding themselves overwhelmed by the consequences of addiction.
Methamphetamine is sometimes compared to cocaine, but it is important to understand the difference between the two drugs. Cocaine is quickly removed and almost completely metabolized in the body, but methamphetamine has a much longer period of action before it is processed.
The Risk of Addiction and Amphetamines
The primary problem with the illegal use of amphetamines is that addicts tend to develop a "binge and crash" pattern. Because of the addictive nature of amphetamines, a person's tolerance for the drug can develop quickly. Tolerance can develop in just minutes, causing the euphoric high to disappear long before the drug has actually removed itself from the body. This often causes users to experiment with even higher doses in order to achieve the same pleasurable effects brought on by the initial use.
Common side effects of amphetamine use include:
- Decreased appetite
- Increased sex drive
- Teeth grinding
- Irregular heartbeat
Symptoms of amphetamine addiction closely resemble the classic signs of schizophrenia. For example:
Since drug users often inject amphetamines in order to achieve a quicker high, one of the major risks associated with addiction and amphetamines is contracting HIV, hepatitis C, or other bloodborne viruses through the use of dirty needles. Addicts who find that amphetamine use increases their sex drive are also more likely to contract an STD by engaging in unprotected intercourse. Because chronic users of amphetamines frequently find themselves taking larger doses in order to avoid the painful symptoms of withdrawal, there is also the very high possibility of death from an accidental overdose.
Treatment for Amphetamine Addiction
If you or someone you love is suffering from an amphetamine addiction, it is crucial to seek medical treatment. This is a problem that you cannot overcome alone.
Cognitive behavioral intervention is currently the most effective long term strategy for helping people overcome an amphetamine addiction. This type of therapy helps the patient modify his/her thinking in order to develop better coping mechanisms when faced with the stress of everyday life. Individual therapy and well as recovery support groups may also be useful.
Although there are no medications that can treat the problems associated with addiction and amphetamines, many patients find that prescription antidepressants are useful in the recovery process.