Amphetamine Addiction

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What Are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants prescribed for the treatment of:

  • Narcolepsy.
  • Hyperactivity, e.g. ADHD.
  • Asthma.

For example, two common CNS stimulants, Adderall and Ritalin, are prescribed for hyperactivity disorders and narcolepsy but are commonly abused.

Amphetamines are often abused for their ability to suppress appetite and stave off fatigue. In fact, many people who begin taking amphetamines to lose weight or stay awake, for example, to study, get caught in the web of use and abuse.

Amphetamines like Ritalin and Adderall are often referred to by young people as “smart drugs” or “study drugs” for their perceived ability to help students focus.

However, any immediate benefit is counteracted by long-term dangers, e.g., many theorize that these drugs harm a developing brain’s ability to learn and memorize information in the long-term.

Learn more at our page, History and Statistics of Study Drugs.

Amphetamine Abuse: Key Facts

Misuse of amphetamines can have a devastating and long-lasting – possibly permanent – impact on the person abusing them.

Here are the facts you need to know about amphetamine:

According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the University of Maryland, long-term usage of amphetamines can induce:

  • Psychosis.
  • Cardiac problems.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Convulsions.

A host of other health problems, both physical and psychological, can result from amphetamine abuse.

Continued use leads to the development of tolerance, and as tolerance increases, the dosage required to achieve the same high increases too.

Signs and Symptoms

If you suspect that someone you care about is misusing, it is important that you learn the signs of amphetamine abuse. There are a few key characteristics that most people who are abusing exhibit:

  • Elevated body temperature.
  • The rapid rate of speech.
  • Dilation of the pupils.
  • Spike in blood pressure.
  • Increased respiration rate.


Over the long term, someone with an amphetamine problem can expect serious health-related consequences.

The effects of abuse can include:

  • Permanent mental and cognitive impairment, e.g. poor memory recollection.
    • Brain structural abnormalities have been seen in MRIs of patients known to abuse amphetamines.
  • Emotional disturbances, e.g. depression or psychosis.
  • Physical health problems, e.g. heart problems and malnourishment.
  • Social problems, e.g. withdrawal from friends and family.

These effects tend to worsen as the addiction progresses.

Amphetamine Abuse Treatment

If you or someone you know is struggling with amphetamine addiction, you do not have to suffer alone. Help for overcoming a problem with substance abuse available.

There are two broad treatment options:

  • Inpatient treatment allows for 24-hour focused care, and time away from the temptations of the user’s everyday environment. Patients who have co-occurring mental illnesses have been reported to benefit greatly from the integrated treatment offered in inpatient treatment programs. Additionally, inpatient treatment is highly effective for those whose social support systems or family environments are not conducive to successful recovery. Many addicts find themselves homeless, and inpatient treatment is reported to be beneficial to such addicted persons, providing them a safe and comfortable environment, while offering the assistance of social services which can help them find housing after treatment.
  • Outpatient programs allow the patient to live at home while attending day or evening programs several days a week. It is considered to be a good option for those who have a supportive home environment and support system, with ease of access to treatment, e.g. transportation, medical, and lab services. Patients who are highly motivated to stay clean, and who are able to follow a treatment plan, can benefit greatly from outpatient treatment.

Note that there are many variants of those two options, such as luxury or private treatment centers. Speak with a medical professional or addiction specialist about the best treatment for your or your loved one’s addiction.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to amphetamines, call 1-888-744-0069 to learn about resources for recovery.


Learn how treatment can help you take your life back.
  • According to information made available by the World Health Organization, amphetamines are the second most reported drug used by people aged 15 to 64 worldwide.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that between 2009 and 2012, the percent of 12th graders who reported using Adderall nonmedically increased from 5.4% to 7.6%.
  • Cocaine use is more common among college students who take Adderall nonmedically. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 28.9 of students who use Adderall without a medical purpose also used cocaine.

Teen Amphetamine Abuse

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in childhood and adolescence has been treated effectively for several years with amphetamines (Adderall, Focalin-XR, Vyvanse) and other psychostimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta). However, because of the possible “high” that comes with abuse, these drugs have a dependence potential.

Studies have also shown that these drugs are often abused for their intellectual and creative potential, as well as athletic-boosting effects in children/adolescents. One-third of the parents in a French study of methylphenidate (Ritalin) sought an effect for their child other than therapeutic ADHD treatment (Cheron-Blumel et al., 2014; Chavez et al., 2009).

There is increased availability of psychostimulants/amphetamines over the Internet without a prescription, to which adolescents are particularly vulnerable. There were more sites reported to be offering amphetamines, such as methamphetamine (Desoxyn) for obesity than for ADHD (Schepis et al., 2008). This indicates a great risk for a public health problem in this vulnerable population.

The use of methamphetamine (that is, the highly toxic street drug, not to be confused with Desoxyn, above) has been associated with teen violence, and risky sexual behaviors (Sawyer-Kurian et al., 2011).This is particularly troubling, as such substance abuse during the formative years can have an impact that lasts well into adulthood on the physical and psychological health of these individuals.

According to a 2010 study published by the Society for Neuroscience, amphetamine use during this part of the life span can permanently affect the brain’s electrical functioning.

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Patrick Condron, M.Sc., M.A.C., is an addiction specialist and drug and alcohol counselor. He is Executive Director of Lazarus House, Inc., a transitional residential program for men and women who continue to work on their recovery towards independent living.
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