Effects of Desoxyn Abuse

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Desoxyn is a prescription drug that is indicated to treat two conditions 1,2:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children 6 and older.
  • Exogenous obesity (obesity due to overeating) in individuals 12 years old or older (on a short-term basis only).

This medication increases activity in the central nervous system (CNS) and shares properties with other prescription stimulants including the ADHD drug methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta) and amphetamines (Adderall and Dexedrine) 3. The most noteworthy difference is the strength. Desoxyn is more potent than the aforementioned drugs, and its effects can last for up to 8 hours 2.

Prescription stimulant use is very prevalent in the U.S. In fact, in 2010, medical professionals wrote about 45 million prescriptions for stimulants like Desoxyn 5.

Is Desoxyn Harmful?

Yes. Desoxyn can be harmful. In fact, it is prescribed far less often than other stimulants 2, and a possible explanation for this lower prescription rate is the potential harm associated with use.

Desoxyn contains the active ingredient methamphetamine hydrochloride, which carries a high risk of abuse and dependence (as indicated by the drug’s status as a schedule II controlled substance) 1,2.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that nearly 12 million people have abused methamphetamine in their lifetime 2. In a 2014 survey, more than 1.6 million people in the U.S. admitted to abusing stimulant substances like Desoxyn in the last month 4.

Short-Term Effects

In the short term, someone using Desoxyn will experience a range of seemingly positive effects from the substance that include 2,3:

  • Increased wakefulness.
  • Increased energy and activity levels.
  • Decreased appetite.

People that abuse Desoxyn may do so in an attempt to exaggerate and intensify these effects. Also, they may wish to improve their performance at school, work, or in sports; experience a state of euphoria; or reduce symptoms of depression. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) refers specifically to the following populations when discussing those at risk of misusing prescription stimulants 5:

  • Athletes.
  • Performers.
  • Academic professionals.
  • High school and college students.
  • Older adults.

While drugs like Desoxyn and Adderall have reputations of being tied to better academic performance, there is no evidence showing improvements in school when used by someone without ADHD. In fact, people that abuse prescription stimulants tend to have lower grades than people that do not 6.

People that abuse prescription stimulants tend to have lower grades than people that do not.

Side Effects

man on the ground due to heart attack

Desoxyn use can lead to a number of potentially dangerous side effects even when the substance is taken as prescribed. When the substance is used in excess or in combination with other substances, the side effects can grow in number and severity. Serious side effects that require medical attention include 1:

  • Increased blood pressure and raised heart rate.
  • Stroke or heart attack. (This risk is higher in adults with structural cardiac abnormalities.)
  • Seizures. (Desoxyn may lower the convulsive threshold of the user, which means they may be more likely to experience a seizure. In rare cases, this may occur in someone with no prior history of seizures.)
  • Numbness or feeling cold in the fingers, toes, ears, and nose.

Other notable side effects include 1:

  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Skin rash.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Changes in sexual interest.

In addition to these physical health symptoms, Desoxyn can impact the mental stability and state of the user significantly. Desoxyn can trigger new psychotic or mood episodes in an individual with no prior mental health issues 1.

The substance may also worsen pre-existing psychotic symptoms, or induce major mood episodes in someone with bipolar disorder 1. Other users may experience an increase in aggressive or hostile behaviors 1.

Desoxyn Overdose

Taking toxic amounts of Desoxyn can result in a number of uncomfortable and dangerous effects like 1:

  • Hyperpyrexia, or dangerously high body temperature.
  • Restlessness.
  • Tremors.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Violence and aggression.
  • Muscle spasm/ cramping.
  • Rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle tissue).
  • Nausea/vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Risk of severe cardiovascular events.

Long-Term Effects of Abuse

With chronic or longer-term Desoxyn use and/or abuse, users may face additional health risks. Children that consistently use the substance for long periods are subjected to long-term suppression of growth 1.

Other effects of long-term use or abuse of Desoxyn include 2,3,7:

  • Shakiness.
  • Confusion.
  • Insomnia.
  • Changes in mood.
  • Anxiety.
  • Paranoia and delusional thinking.
  • Auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations.
  • Violence.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Stroke.
  • Heart attack.
  • Death.

Long-Term Effects on the Brain

Long-term use can affect the way the brain functions. As one of its effects, Desoxyn leads to an increased release of the neurotransmitters dopamine (linked to movement, emotion, motivation, and pleasure) and norepinephrine (linked to attention, response to stress, heart rate, and blood pressure). Chronic use has the potential to disrupt the normal operation of these brain chemicals, leading to deficits in 3,7:

  • Motor skills.
  • Verbal learning.
  • Emotion regulation.
  • Memory.

Some of these effects will dissipate when use ends, while others can persist for more than a year after cessation 7.


man with tired eyes

Other significant effects of Desoxyn use are the emergence of tolerance, dependence, and addiction to the substance.

Tolerance is the need to take more of a drug to create the same results that were previously achieved at lower doses 5. The phenomenon is an expected process that occurs when the body adjusts to Desoxyn being available in the system. As use continues, it will need to be consumed in higher and higher amounts to impact the body in the same (or similar) way.

Use of Desoxyn also leads to dependence. When physiological dependence is established, the person will require the substance just to feel well 5. Like tolerance, dependence is a common development—even when someone is taking it as prescribed. Someone dependent on Desoxyn may 9:

  • Appear very tired.
  • Display poor hygiene.
  • Have hair loss and extreme weight loss.
  • Complain of muscle pain.
  • Exhibit involuntary movements.

Those who have developed Desoxyn dependence will frequently experience withdrawal effects when attempts to quit are made. The severity of the withdrawal syndrome will be determined by factors such as the individual’s physical and mental health, how long they’ve been taking the drug, and how much they’ve been taking. Symptoms of Desoxyn withdrawal may include 9:

  • Strong desire/cravings for more of the substance.
  • Agitation/irritability.
  • Paranoia.
  • Insomnia followed by hypersomnia with intense dreams.
  • Poor memory.
  • Anxiety.
  • Hunger.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Dysphoric mood (state of unease).
  • Depression with suicidal thoughts.

The formal definition of addiction is a compulsion to continue abusing a substance despite knowledge that doing so will likely lead to overwhelmingly negative outcomes 5. A person addicted to Desoxyn will be consumed with thoughts of the substance and may even break the law to acquire more. Desoxyn addiction can lead to 1,8:

  • Continued use of the substance despite the risk of serious side effects.
  • Decline in social functioning marked by isolation, conflict with loved ones, or changing social groups.
  • Failure to maintain commitments and complete important tasks.
  • Unexpected mood changes.
  • Reduced performance at work or school.
  • Inability to stop or control use.

Withdrawal Treatment

The period of time over which the drug leaves the body and withdrawal effects emerge is referred to as detoxification (or, detox). Due to the risk of suicide associated with depression and violence towards others during withdrawal, detoxification might be better attempted in a supportive and supervised environment than at home 9.

The appropriate level of care will depend on the severity of use and the intensity of any withdrawal symptoms present. Intense symptoms may warrant a period of inpatient addressing of the withdrawal to maintain safety and initiate abstinence. People dependent on Desoxyn should seek an assessment from a medical or addiction specialist to receive the best recommendation for withdrawal treatment.

After the initial detox period, addiction treatment may take one or more of several forms, which may include 10:

  • Residential rehabilitation where the person will live in the center, receive treatment, and focus on recovery.
  • Recovery housing that provides a supervised setting for people in recovery before they transition back to their home environment.
  • Outpatient care and services where the individual will attend treatment during the day before returning to their home.

Currently, there are no medications that are specifically approved to manage Desoxyn withdrawal or to aid in recovery; however, in some cases, antidepressants may assist in reducing some of the psychological symptoms of withdrawal 9. Without medications, forms of therapy and other types of treatment will largely focus on behavioral strategies like 9,10,11:

  • Relationship counseling to repair healthy relationships.
  • Social skills training to build effective communication.
  • Self-help groups to expand appropriate support in recovery.
  • Vocational counseling to find adequate employment.

One option that combines these strategies is The Matrix Model Treatment Approach. This treatment was specifically designed to aid those with stimulant use disorders by providing education on relapse and addiction from a trained therapist. In this form of treatment, participants work from a manual of worksheets, while therapists work to build self-esteem and dignity in the individual to promote recovery 11.

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Eric Patterson, MSCP, NCC, LPC, is a professional counselor who has been working for over a decade to help children, adolescents, and adults in western Pennsylvania reach their goals and improve their well-being.

Along the way, Eric worked as a collaborating investigator for the field trials of the DSM-5 and completed an agreement to provide mental health treatment to underserved communities with the National Health Service Corp.

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