Amphetamine Abuse & Addiction Signs, Effects & Symptoms

Acadiana Treatment Center helps individuals struggling with amphetamine addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Louisiana, Acadiana is the premier provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment for adults.

Understanding Amphetamine Addiction

Learn About Amphetamine Abuse & Addiction

Amphetamines, Schedule II controlled substances, are strong central nervous system stimulants used universally by medical professionals to treat both ADHD, weight loss, and narcolepsy. First developed in 1887, amphetamines were widely used as a nasal decongestant. In World War II, amphetamines were used to increase alertness, increase endurance, and enhance moods. Presently, amphetamines are prescribed as Adderall and dextroamphetamines and despite the heavy health and emotional consequences, are often diverted from the user to be used as recreational drugs.

Amphetamines, also known as “bennies,” “speed,” “uppers,” and “wake-ups” have a number of ways in which the drug can be synthetically manufactured and distributed illegally. While most often taken orally, amphetamines can be snorted or injected. The symptoms of the drug will appear at different times depending upon the manner in which the drug is taken. Symptoms of use will show up immediately if it is injected (making it a preferred route of administration for amphetamine addicts) and within 3 to 5 minutes if it is snorted.

Amphetamines work through activating a trace amine receptor and increases monoamine and excitatory neurotransmitters, especially the catecholamine neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine. At prescribed levels, amphetamines produce euphoria, increased libido, improved arousal as well as enhanced cognitive control. Amphetamines also decreases reaction time, increases muscle strength and reduces fatigue.

However, at large doses, such as those experienced by those who abuse amphetamines (also called “speed freaks”), these drugs are more likely to increase rapid muscle deterioration and impair coordination. Even higher doses may result in hallucinations, paranoia, and psychosis. Thanks to the stimulation of the reward pathways, amphetamines also run a high risk for addiction.

While the amphetamine is the parent compound for methamphetamine, meaning that the two are chemically similar, amphetamines are not neurotoxic in the same manner of amphetamines. Many people who become addicted to amphetamines develop a secondary addiction to another substance, such as benzodiazepines (the combination is called a “goofball”) or alcohol to reduce unpleasant side effects. This combination of uppers and downers is a recipe for a heart attack.

Amphetamine addiction is serious and requires trained rehab, medical personnel, and therapy to overcome.


Statistics for Amphetamine Addiction

The use and abuse of stimulants such as amphetamines is largely growing among college-aged individuals. Full-time college students were twice as likely as their non-college counterparts to abuse Adderall nonmedically in the past year in a 6.3% for full-time college students and 3.0% for non-college counterparts.

Additionally, almost 90.0% of full-time college students who used amphetamines in a non-medical manner during the past year were binge alcohol users, and over half were heavy alcohol users.

Causes & Risks

Causes & Risk Factors of Amphetamine Addiction

Many addictions do not have a single identifiable cause. Rather, it’s likely that amphetamine addiction is related to a number of interplaying factors. Some of these factors may include:

Genetic: Individuals who have a close genetic relative who struggles with addiction are more likely to develop an addiction later in their life.

Biological: It has been theorized that some individuals may have inborn defects in the reward pathway in the brain. This may cause them to attempt to seek out pleasurable substances such as amphetamines in order to self-medicate to feel more normal.

Environmental: Many individuals who grow up in households where addiction is present learn through modeling that substance abuse is the appropriate way to manage stress. In addition, individuals who are pressured by outside sources to do better and be better may begin to abuse stimulants to keep up with the demands placed upon them.

Psychological: A number of individuals who become addicted to stimulants may suffer from undiagnosed and untreated mental illnesses. Individuals who have perfectionistic tendencies may also succumb to usage of stimulants to achieve all that he or she desires.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction

An individual who is struggling with amphetamine addiction may not experience the same symptoms as another struggling with the same addiction. Individuals who have amphetamine addictions will display a collection of symptoms. These may include:

Mood symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Pleasant sense of wellbeing
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Marked increase in energy
  • Increased athletic prowess
  • Ability to stay awake for hours
  • Improved memory and recall
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Improved scholastic or occupational performance
  • Reduction of normal, expected social inhibitions
  • Altered sexual behaviors
  • Increased risk-taking behaviors
  • Unrealistic goals for achievement
  • Unrealistic beliefs about personal power and ability

Physical symptoms:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Addiction
  • Tolerance
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Malnutrition
  • Cardiovascular system abnormalities
  • Hypertension
  • Angina pectoris
  • Skin disorders
  • Seizures

Psychological symptoms:

  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Hostility
  • Aggression


Effects of Amphetamine Addiction

The effects of amphetamine abuse and addiction can impact nearly every aspect of an individual’s life. When it comes to addiction, nothing is sacred. Long-term effects of amphetamine addiction include:

  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Increased physiological and behavioral disorders
  • Toxic psychosis
  • Mental and behavioral changes
  • Repetitive motor activity
  • Amphetamine-induced psychosis
  • Divorce
  • Job loss
  • Financial ruin
  • Malnutrition
  • Loss of physical coordination
  • Physical collapse
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Cardiovascular system abnormalities
  • Emaciation
  • Respiratory depression
  • Convulsions (seizures)
  • Coma
  • Death

Many individuals who have an addiction to amphetamines are also struggling with a co-occurring mental health condition. Some of these co-occurring disorders include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Alcoholism
  • Benzodiazepine abuse
  • Schizophrenia

Withdrawal Effects

Effects & Symptoms of Withdrawal from Amphetamines

Individuals who have been addicted to amphetamines for a long time become physically dependent upon the amphetamines to get through the day. When the body becomes physically dependent upon a substance, abrupt cessation of the substance will lead to withdrawal symptoms. Detox from amphetamines should always occur under the trained supervision of medical personnel in a safe environment. Effects of amphetamine withdrawal may include:

  • Cravings for the drug
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme depression
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Increased hunger

Fortunately, there are treatment options available that can help abusers of amphetamines overcome their addictions and rediscover a sober life.

A Foundation for Recovery

At Acadiana Treatment Center, we aim to help each client attain a thorough understanding of the concerns they're facing and learn how to find relief. Our treatment focuses on thorough education and employs proven methods of individualized treatment.

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I had been using Adderall to get ahead in school... until suddenly I couldn't focus without it and my grades started slipping. Acadiana helped me get my head straight and stay focused on school without being addicted to drugs. Now my grades are better than ever.

– Anonymous Patient
We are affiliated with the following organizations, which provide accreditation, education, and training to ensure quality mental health and addiction treatment.
  • Addictive Disorder Regulatory Authority
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • The Jason Foundation