Substance abuse - amphetamines; Drug abuse - amphetamines; Drug use - amphetamines
Amphetamines are drugs. They can be legal or illegal. They are legal when they are prescribed by a doctor and used to treat health problems such as obesity, narcolepsy, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Using amphetamines can lead to addiction.
Amphetamines are illegal when they are used without a prescription to get high or improve performance. In this case, they are known as street, or recreational drugs, and using them can lead to addiction. This article describes this aspect of amphetamines.
There are different kinds of street amphetamines. Common ones and some of their slang terms are:
Illegal amphetamines come in different forms:
They can be used in different ways:
Amphetamines are stimulant drugs. They make the messages between your brain and body move faster. As a result, you are more alert and physically active. Some people use amphetamines to help them stay awake on the job or to study for a test. Others use them to boost their performance in sports.
Amphetamines also cause the brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that is involved with mood, thinking, and movement. It is also called the feel-good brain chemical. Using amphetamines may cause pleasurable effects such as:
How fast you feel the effects of amphetamines depends on how they are used:
Amphetamines can harm the body in many ways, and lead to:
People who use these drugs, especially methamphetamine, have a high chance of getting HIV and hepatitis B and C. This can be through sharing used needles with someone who has an infection. Or, it can be through having unsafe sex because drug use can lead to risky behaviors.
Amphetamines can cause birth defects when taken during pregnancy. Also, street drugs are not safe during breastfeeding.
You usually do not get addicted to prescription amphetamines when you take them at the right dosage to treat your health condition.
Addiction happens when you use amphetamines to get high or improve performance. Addiction means your body and mind are dependent on the drug. You are not able to control your use of it and you need it to get through daily life.
Addiction can lead to tolerance. Tolerance means you need more and more of the drug to get the same high feeling. And if you try to stop using, your mind and body may have reactions. These are called withdrawal symptoms, and may include:
Treatment begins with recognizing there is a problem. Once you decide you want to do something about your drug use, the next step is to get help and support.
Treatment programs use behavior change techniques through counseling (talk therapy). The goal is to help you understand your behaviors and why you use amphetamines. Involving family and friends during counseling can help support you and keep you from going back to using (relapsing).
If you have severe withdrawal symptoms, you may need to stay at a live-in treatment program. There, your health and safety can be monitored as you recover.
At this time, there is no medicine that can help reduce the use of amphetamines by blocking their effects. But, scientists are researching such medicines.
As you recover, focus on the following to help prevent relapse:
Resources that may help you on your road to recovery include:
Your workplace employee assistance program (EAP) is also a good resource.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you or someone you know is addicted to amphetamines and needs help to stop using. Also call if you are having withdrawal symptoms that concern you.
If you are thinking about hurting yourself or others, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK). The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7, anytime day or night.
You can also call 911 or the local emergency number or go to the hospital emergency room. DO NOT delay.
If someone you know has attempted suicide, call 911 or the local emergency number right away. DO NOT leave the person alone, even after you have called for help.
Kowalchuk A, Reed BC. Substance use disorders. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 50.
National Institute on Drug Abuse website. Methamphetamine. nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/methamphetamine/what-methamphetamine. Updated October 2019. Accessed August 17, 2022.
Weiss RD. Drugs of abuse. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 31.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 4/30/2022
Reviewed By: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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