Amphetamine is a potent stimulant for the central nervous system or CNS. The name is a contracted form of alpha-methylphenethylamine. This drug is often used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, as well as narcolepsy and obesity.
Aside from these health benefits, amphetamine is also used as an athletic and cognitive enhancer. It even has a reputation for being both an aphrodisiac and euphoriant. Because of its feel-good qualities, this drug is often used recreationally, leading to adverse effects for those who abuse it.
It is a controlled drug in many countries because of the health risks associated with misuse.
Larger doses of this drug can do the opposite for a person’s cognitive functions, impairing it while also inducing rapid breakdown of muscles. On top of that, users also run the risk of getting addicted to the drug and suffering the various adverse effects.
History of Amphetamines
This substance was first synthesized in 1887 in Germany by Romanian chemist Lazar Edeleanu. He named it phenylisopropylamine. It was only classified as a stimulant in 1927, when its stimulant effects were first discovered.
Later, it was resynthesized by Gordon Alles, who reported it to have sympathomimetic properties. This means it could promote the stimulation of effects of the sympathetic nerves.
Despite this progress, amphetamine remained of no pharmacological use. That was until 1934, when the pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline, and French began selling it as an inhaler under the name Benzedrine. It was used as a decongestant. Benzedrine sulfate was introduced three years later, which had many medical applications, including the treatment of narcolepsy.
Amphetamines played a significant role during World War II, because both the Allied and Axis forces used it for their performance-enhancing effects.
The addictive properties of the drug later became known, and so the governments had to start placing strict controls on its market presence.
By the 1970s, amphetamine was already considered a Schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act. That did not completely stop the recreational use of amphetamine, and it is a problem that persists until today.
How are Amphetamines Made?
Like many illicit drugs, amphetamines are also synthesized in clandestine laboratories all over the world. Amphetamine exists as two enantiomers: levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine. The term amphetamine therefore refers to the racemic free base: the chemical which is equal parts of these two enantiomers, in their pure amine forms.
Why are Amphetamines Abused?
Beyond the technical things involved in the creation of amphetamines, these substances are abused by some people for a number of reasons. Like most other stimulants, it provides an energy boost and enhances your alertness. It’s like drinking coffee…except it’s much more dangerous.
It boosts the user’s sexual desire, while also making them feel euphoric. This feel-good effect is what makes recreational users prone to taking the drug over and over again.
It’s a shame because the drug is almost completely harmless at therapeutic doses. It provides emotional and cognitive benefits when used properly. But for many reasons, the drug is abused. It helps users resist fatigue, it increases their muscle strength, and it even decreases their reaction time. People who are high on amphetamines feel like they are unstoppable.
Amphetamine is taken orally. However, recreational users also snort or inject it directly into their bloodstream. Taking it intravenously causes immediate effects, while symptoms begin popping up within 3 to 5 minutes if it is inhaled. The drug takes effect within 20 minutes when ingested.
Signs and Symptoms of Amphetamines Addiction
Addiction and overdose are two serious risks that amphetamine users put themselves into. This is why it’s important to confirm whether or not someone is abusing the drug. There are a few signs you can look out for to determine if someone you love is abusing amphetamine.
Usually, a person who recently used amphetamine will give off a euphoric vibe. They will be more alert and energetic for seemingly no reason. You can also check if they have an increased body temperature or if their pupils are dilated.
There are other less desirable symptoms you can look out for. An amphetamine user may become paranoid, hostile, or aggressive for no reason. They may experience nausea, headaches, blurred vision, irregular heartbeat, and chest pain. In some cases, users experience hallucinations and convulsions.
Despite these effects, addiction is very unlikely even from long-term medical use of the drug. Addiction and overdose are caused by taking in very high doses of amphetamine. Sadly, recreational use of the drug involves much higher doses than what is recommended.
Side Effects of Amphetamines
If continuously abused, amphetamine will cause a person to develop dependence. This will make it harder for them to quit, as withdrawal symptoms will start to manifest at this point whenever they attempt to stop.
The adverse effects of amphetamines vary from person to person. There are also short term and long term effects depending on the person’s drug using habits. Amphetamines may cause permanent mental and cognitive damage, affecting a person’s memory and learning abilities.
Users may feel depressed—some even develop psychosis along the way. Physical health problems will manifest, leading to malnutrition and sickness. Relationships also tend to break down because of addiction. It can destroy friendships, and even families.
Effects worsen as the addiction progresses.
Treatment for Amphetamine Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with amphetamine addiction, it is important to know what kind of treatment method works best. It will depend on the person’s situation. Drug addiction treatment involves a medical examination, in which the patient’s drug history, drug habits, and health condition will be assessed. Through this, the best treatment plan will be created.
Rehabilitation may be done in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Inpatient treatment allows 24-hour care, wherein the patient’s needs are focused. They spend time away from temptations.
Outpatient programs allow the patient to remain at home. Instead of 24-hour care, they attend day or evening programs several days a week. It provides a supportive environment for the patient.
Recovering from addiction involves detoxification. The dosage taken by the patient is gradually lowered, while their withdrawal symptoms are addressed. Eventually, they are able to get back to living a sober life.
Long term users of amphetamine will develop dependence to the drug. Recovering from addiction will be harder because of various withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms include fatigue, depression, hallucinations and anxiety. They will also feel a physical need for the drug.
But with the right care—and a supportive environment—any patient could move free from the clutches of amphetamine.