Causes & Effects of Amphetamines Addiction

Understanding Amphetamine Addiction

Learn about amphetamine addiction and abuse

Amphetamines are a category of drugs that function as stimulants of the central nervous system. Among the common effects of amphetamines are increased energy, enhanced ability to focus and concentrate, and improved sense of motivation and pleasure. Amphetamines create these effects via interactions with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and motivation.

Prescription medications that contain amphetamines are most commonly employed to treat symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. The most common amphetamine-based prescription ADHD medication is Adderall. Unfortunately, the prevalence of prescription amphetamines and the positive effects of these medications make them popular substances of abuse. Prescription amphetamines typically appear in pill form and are swallowed with water. When abused, amphetamines may be swallowed, snorted, injected, or smoked.

Though amphetamines can be safe for long-term use when taken as directed by a qualified prescribing prescription, amphetamines are addictive substances that can inflict a wide range of negative effects when misused for purposes of self-medication or abused for recreational purposes.

Statistics

Amphetamine addiction statistics

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 10 Americans under the age of 17 has been treated with a prescription amphetamine. Experts estimate that about 15 million Americans have used an amphetamine for a non-medical purpose at least once. The World Health Organization reports that amphetamines are the second-most commonly abused drugs across the globe.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for amphetamine addiction

The following are examples of genetic and environmental factors that may influence a person’s likelihood of engaging in amphetamine abuse.

Genetic: Research strongly suggests that genetics play a significant role in determining whether or not a person will struggle with substance abuse and addiction. Family history of mental illness and substance abuse is a strong predictor of future problems with a stimulant use disorder. Heritable traits such as impulsivity can also increase a person’s risk for stimulant use disorder.

Environmental: Being prescribed a medication that contains amphetamine can be an environmental influence on the development of amphetamine abuse and addiction, as can early exposure to amphetamines and ease of access to such drugs. Other environmental influences include having an unstable home life during childhood and associating with individuals who abuse amphetamines.

Risk Factors:

  • Having a disease or disorder that is treated with an amphetamine
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Unstable home life
  • Early exposure to amphetamines
  • Prior substance abuse
  • Personal history of mental illness
  • Gender and ethnicity (amphetamine abuse is most common among white males)
  • Impulsivity

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of amphetamine addiction

The following are among the common signs that may indicate that a person has been abusing or has become dependent upon amphetamines:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Doctor shopping (trying to get prescriptions for amphetamines from multiple doctors)
  • Borrowing or stealing amphetamines that have been prescribed to others
  • Secrecy and deceptiveness regarding whereabouts, activities, and associates
  • Using amphetamines when it is clearly dangerous to do so
  • Trying and failing to curtail one’s amphetamine abuse
  • Abusing amphetamines even after negative repercussions from prior use
  • Losing interest in significant activities

Physical symptoms:

  • Diminished appetite
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Needing increasing amounts of amphetamines to achieve the desired effect
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Profuse perspiration
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Increased ability to concentrate and focus
  • Improved confidence
  • Heightened sense of alertness

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings and expressions of grandiosity
  • Hallucinations and/or delusions
  • Heightened sex drive
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Mood swings

Effects

Effects of amphetamine addiction

The following are among the many negative effects that can result from chronic untreated amphetamine abuse and addiction:

  • Dehydration
  • Damage to kidneys and liver
  • Malnutrition
  • Hypertension
  • Heart problems
  • Family discord
  • Damaged relationships
  • Academic and/or occupational setbacks
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Arrest, incarceration, and other legal problems
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation and attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Amphetamine addiction and co-occurring disorders

People who become dependent upon amphetamines may be at increased risk for the following co-occurring disorders:

  • Other substance use disorders, especially those that involve sedatives
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Gambling disorder

Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of amphetamine withdrawal and overdose

Effects of amphetamine withdrawal: Stopping one’s amphetamine abuse after one has become dependent on these drugs can trigger the onset of several withdrawal symptoms, including but not limited to the following:

  • Intense cravings for amphetamines
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Hunger
  • Exhaustion
  • Psychomotor retardation or agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Vivid unpleasant dreams
  • Increased appetite

Effects of amphetamine overdose: The following signs may indicate that a person has ingested amphetamines in an amount or potency that exceeds his or her body’s ability to process. An amphetamine overdose can be fatal and anyone who exhibits these signs after taking amphetamines should be provided with immediate medical attention:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Seizure
  • Stroke
  • Coma

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