Amphetamines

Amphetamines: The Complete Guide to Amphetamine Abuse and Treatment

When you think of amphetamines, are you only thinking about the obvious perils of crystal meth? If so, think again. Nearly 1 in 5 Ivy League college students report using prescription amphetamines while studying.

From prescription stimulants to methamphetamine, all of these substances have serious potential for misuse and addiction.

Are you concerned that you or a loved one may have a problem? Let’s get into what you need to know- and how to find the best treatment.

How Amphetamines Work

Amphetamines are stimulants, which means that they affect one’s central nervous system. Certain amphetamine medication, like Ritalin, Adderall, or Vyvanse, may be prescribed for certain disorders like narcolepsy, asthma, and ADHD.

Amphetamines stimulate both brain activity and activity within the central nervous system. This increased activity often leads to people feeling more ‘awake’ and ‘focused.’ Some people may experience heightened motivation or euphoria.

People can misuse amphetamines for many reasons including:

  • Increased focus and performance at work or school
  • Weight loss (as amphetamines can reduce appetite)
  • Altering/heightening/or minimizing the effects of other drugs like alcohol or opioids
  • Promoting wakefulness

Both prescription and illicit amphetamines do carry the risk for developing an addiction. 

Signs & Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction

Any drug addiction can be insidious. Due to shame and fear of getting caught, many people go to great lengths to hide their behavior. They may start hanging out with different friends, isolating or withdrawing, or lying to avoid being discovered.

The common symptoms of addiction can include:

  • Spending more time trying to obtain the drug
  • Avoiding other activities or obligations
  • Drastic changes in grooming, hygiene, or physical appearance
  • Obvious mood swings 
  • Financial problems 
  • Legal problems or illicit activity

Depending on the severity of the addiction, an individual may exhibit one or all of these symptoms.

Furthermore, loved ones may notice certain paraphernalia that indicates amphetamine (particularly crystal meth) use. Paraphernalia may include: 

  • Glass pipes (may have black burn marks and a yellowish residue)
  • Creased tin foil (used for inhaling smoke) 
  • Cut straws (used for snorting meth) 
  • Hypodermic needles (indicates intravenous drug use)
  • Small plastic baggies (may have residue in them)

The presence of any of these items may mean addiction. 

Drug-Induced Psychosis

Chronic amphetamine use may also result in symptoms of psychosis. Psychosis may happen due to the combination of drug use and sleep deprivation. 

Psychosis can be a frightening experience for both the individual and their loved ones. Symptoms may include:

  • Obvious difficulties with focus and concentration
  • Paranoid thinking and behavior
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Manic behavior 
  • Reduction in self-care and hygiene
  • Problems with speech and comprehension
  • Hallucinations (hearing, seeing, or experiencing sensations that are not real)
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

Drug-induced psychosis can result in severe, life-threatening consequences. People face a heightened risk for violent, erratic, or even suicidal behavior.

Psychosis may require hospitalization. In a hospital setting, patients will receive the medication and evaluation needed for stabilization. If you believe a loved one may be in a psychotic episode, consider calling 911 for assistance.

Seeking Treatment

Unfortunately, the process of recovery is not as simple as ‘stopping drugs.’ Many people hope and wish for sobriety, but cravings and dependence make it extremely challenging.

Professional treatment can help you or your loved ones receive support and guidance in learning the tools for sobriety.

There is not a ‘perfect’ time to ask for help. That said, experts often recommend that earlier intervention provides the greatest likelihood for success. Waiting until rock bottom often results in many, serious consequences including death.

Amphetamine Withdrawal 

Amphetamine withdrawal can be a highly uncomfortable and distressing experience. This withdrawal process alone discourages many people from getting sober. However, compared to other substance withdrawal, detoxing from amphetamines is relatively short and safe.

The first stage of withdrawal is commonly nicknamed the “crash,” and it can last from about 3-10 days. The crash often refers to feelings of sluggishness, fatigue, and depression. Drug cravings may peak, and the individual may also feel restless and agitated.

Amphetamine Detox

Amphetamine detox is not inherently life-threatening. However, complications can occur. Individuals face a greater risk for complications if they have other psychiatric or physical conditions or abuse other drugs.

The FDA has not currently approved any medications for amphetamine detox. However, during detox, individuals may be prescribed medication for other accompanying issues related to sleep problems, depression, and mood stabilization.

Treatment for Amphetamines

Although detox is the first step in sobriety, it does not constitute treatment. Detox does not prepare the individual with coping techniques or life skills needed to prepare for long-term success.

For this reason, it is typically recommended that individuals pursue appropriate treatment. In treatment, clients receive counseling and therapy related to:

  • Relapse prevention skills
  • Education about addiction and co-occurring disorders
  • Coping with trauma
  • Managing legal or employment issues
  • Family and marital dynamics
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Distress tolerance

The length of treatment will depend on the individual’s drug history, compliance with care, and aftercare options. That said, residential treatment usually ranges between 1-3 months. 

After completing treatment, individuals often receive referrals for long-term care. These referrals may be for psychiatrists, therapists, or sober living houses. The treatment team may also encourage connection within a supportive community, such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. 

Final Thoughts

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to amphetamines, it’s essential to seek help. Recovery is possible, and you don’t have to go through this complicated process alone.

Are you ready to get started? Contact us today to speak with one of our qualified addiction specialists. 

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.