Amphetamine addiction

Amphetamine is a stimulant drug that increases the amount of dopamine released within the brain. This dopamine release is what gives people the “rush” or high. It is similar in effects to other stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA/ecstasy. Prescription stimulants such as methylphenidate, amphetamine and dexamphetamine have a long history of medical use and are prescribed in ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). However, amphetamine, like other stimulants, can be highly addictive if taken above prescribed doses and is the fourth most common recreational drug.

Amphetamine has an ability to promote a state of wakefulness, alertness and greater focus. This is thought to be why it is a valuable type of medication for those who suffer from certain medical conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Prescription amphetamine can be used safely under the strict supervision of a medical professional, but there is a potential for misuse.

Amphetamine is sometimes confused with its more dangerous cousin, methamphetamine, but amphetamine is distinct in that its effects can be harnessed for medical purposes whereas methamphetamine is too strong, too addictive and too damaging to be used medicinally. Methamphetamine is illegal throughout the world. Street names for amphetamine include, Speed, Whizz and Phet.

  • Symptoms

    How does it make you feel?

    The same properties that make amphetamines medically useful at prescribed doses also make them extremely addictive when the recommended dose is exceeded.

    Amphetamines excite the brain’s reward system – especially at higher doses – creating a short-term sense of euphoria that reinforces further use. When taken recreationally, their use can quickly escalate out of control. When addiction takes hold, risks to physical and mental health escalate and often the only way out of this vicious circle is to seek amphetamine addiction treatment or amphetamine detox.

    In the case of amphetamines, the drug’s significant addictive qualities make it profitable to manufacture illegally .

    Amphetamine can make people feel:

    • Euphoria
    • All powerful
    • Increased energy and alertness
    • Reduce inhibitions such as sexual or social inhibitions

    They can appear:

    • Excited
    • Wide awake
    • Very talkative

    Negative effects can be feeling:

    • Fidgety
    • Irritable
    • Aggressive
    • Violent
    • Anxious
  • Effects and Health risks

    Amphetamine misuse takes a heavy toll on the body and overuse leads to a wide variety of issues, including;

    • Heart problems
    • Stroke
    • Reduced cognitive/thinking ability
    • Overt hostility and violence
    • Paranoia
    • Delusions
    • Psychosis

    Other harms can come from the method administration: crushing the drug into powder form for injection can lead to extremely dangerous blockages in blood vessels or to blood-borne diseases such as HIV or hepatitis.

    For those trying to reduce their use of amphetamines, difficulty sleeping and depression often result.

    Amphetamine misuse can lead to overdose which can cause heart attacks, strokes or even death.

    The following are signs of amphetamine overdose;

    • Chest pain
    • Muscle spasms
    • Convulsions
    • Hallucinations
    • Rising body temperature but then leading to damaging hypothermia (low body temperature)
    • Irregular breathing and hyperventilation
    • Extreme agitation
    • Cardiac arrest

    Overdose is always a danger, regardless whether someone is an experienced user or not.

    There is no safe threshold for amphetamine misuse. The situation can escalate from bad to fatal in very little time.

  • Signs to look out for

    • Unexplained profuse sweating
    • Euphoria for a while followed by looking very down with fatigue and depression
    • Anger problems or irritability
    • Aggression
    • Paranoid ideas
    • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things)
    • If a person injects, they may have needle marks or get repeated skin abscesses at the injection site
  • Detox and Withdrawal

    Withdrawal symptoms from amphetamines can be varied. They give the brain a big shot of “happy chemicals” from the brain, or “neurotransmitters”, like dopamine, but once that big boost is gone, the brain is left like a dry desert with the neurotransmitters all used up. This causes the down and lots of withdrawals like:

    Physical

    • Tiredness and fatigue
    • Rapid fluctuations in appetite
    • Involuntary movements like twitches
    • Aches and pains
    • Sleep and dream problems – nightmares
    • Agitation and inability to sit still, even though tired

    Mental

    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Loss of enjoyment
    • No sex drive
    • Feeling suicidal

    Detox

    At The Bonds Clinic, we try hard to control the withdrawal symptoms from amphetamines during a detox and we are proud of the feedback that our patients give us on the Bonds detox process. We specialise in detox usually over 1 week using non-addictive medication to make it as comfortable as possible. Published evidence shows that even an early version of the Bonds protocols was very well tolerated in opioid detox, for example, and opioid detox is notoriously unpleasant, often worse than a detox for amphetamines or cocaine: of note, 97% of patients did not report pain during a Bonds detox from opioids. (reference again as before: Beaini AY et al (2000, October). A compressed opiate detoxification regime with naltrexone maintenance: patient tolerance, risk assessment and abstinence rates. Addiction Biology, 1;5(4):451-62 ). Once the drugs are out of your system, you can then have oral naltrexone which can reduce cravings for amphetamines and a wide range of other misuse, both prescription and non-prescription drug or alcohol misuse, and therefore naltrexone may be useful to support abstinence.

Advice from our consultant

Programme model

Programme model

Our programme model is tailored to the individual’s needs. Our detox varies depending on whether the substance is a lone problem or is accompanied by misuse of other substances, the amount the patient is using, and if there any underlying mental health issues. The internal audits of the BONDS treatment protocols of many years have shown that approximately 70% of patients with alcohol or substance misuse also have an underlying mental health disorder. This combination of addiction and a mental health disorder is called Dual Diagnosis. A typical detox program at The Bonds Clinic consists of a 7-14 day with dual diagnosis assessment, then an out-patient consolidation & relapse prevention stage including talking therapy, and often includes Naltrexone therapy.

View programme model

Meet the team

Our core multi-disciplinary team is led by a Consultant Psychiatrist, specialised GPs and includes a Registered Mental Health Nurse and a Substance Misuse and Dual Diagnosis Practitioner and Therapist. We also work with a network of highly skilled practitioners to develop a personal treatment programme to suit you.

Meet the team
Meet the team

Know someone with an addiction?

The BONDS Clinic work with you and your family, offering a comprehensive Family Support ProgramHelp during detox.It can be challenging if a loved one has an addiction; it can sometimes have a negative effect on relationships, home environments and family dynamics. It may be difficult to spot the signs and how best to approach them and help them on a path towards recovery. The BONDS Clinic feel that we should all be empowered to support and seek treatment for our loved ones when they need it most but also remember we are here for you as well. If you think a loved one may have an addiction, we are here to help.

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