Amphetamine Dependence

What is Amphetamine Dependence?

Amphetamines are drugs that produce strong stimulating effects in the central nervous system. They are used medically for conditions such as narcolepsy where someone is required to stay alert or needs to function actively on a daily basis. With the potential of being highly addictive, amphetamine dependence and abuse can result in brain damage or even death.

Certain careers or situations can cause people to indulge in the consumption of the drug to be alert for a long time. Pilots and soldiers are some of the individuals in this category keeping themselves active by taking the substance. Amphetamine is taken through snorting, injection, or orally.

People with ADHD benefit from the calming effects of amphetamine since there has been an observation of afternoon sleepiness in some adults. Amphetamines are also used to treat obesity and treatment resistant depression. Also, some people that are not suffering from ADHD may take the substance during required high levels of productivity.

Methamphetamine and dextroamphetamine are the two common types of amphetamines.

Risk factors of Amphetamine Dependence

  • Emotional problems
  • Financial problems
  • Stressful lifestyles
  • Access to amphetamine
  • Residents with the tradition and acceptance of amphetamine
  • Relationship or low self-esteem problems
  • Mental disorders like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, and depression

Symptoms of Amphetamine Dependence

There is an extensive list of symptoms of amphetamine when it is medically used or even abused. Many of these symptoms are typical of any stimulant when used.

Some vital signs may increase.

Signs like heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and respiration can be difficult to notice by the subject while other people see them quickly. The person will be warm with a faster heart rate than normal. This may result in other issues down the line. These symptoms can be social, physical, psychological/mood, and behavioral.

Dilation of pupils

When a person is under the influence of substances such as opioids, contraction of the pupils may happen. When a person is intoxicated, like all other stimulants, amphetamines have the counter-effect of causing the pupils to widen, which differentiates between the abuse of depressants, opioids, and stimulants.


This symptom affects the user’s behaviors like feeling, seeing, or hearing things that are not present. This is typical of long-term abuse which can lead to the growing issue of psychosis. People with this symptom must seek treatment immediately.

Skin problems

The abuse of amphetamines over time may lead to skin problems as a result of weak immunity vitamin deficiency. Skin itching is common, and this will cause sores, acne, infections, and some other issues. There are many indications that this symptom may develop into psychosis and immediate care must be sought.

Sudden bursts of energy

There will be sudden and frequent bouts of energy from those who use amphetamines to banish tiredness and make them feel refreshed and alerted. The euphorias of the drug will always resist them from quitting, thereby leading to addiction that causes these artificial surges of energy.

Mood swings

Though the common symptom of any drug abuse is mood swings, it is acute with amphetamine dependence. Its effect of high euphoria can sometimes lead to mania, and when it is in excess, it can cause issues such as aggression, hostility, and paranoia. When not on the drug, users also show signs of depression.

Secretive behavior

Users of amphetamines tend to disappear for hours without telling anyone. Since they know that others will never approve of their drug abuse, users always attempt to hide their drugs to avert their disapproval. Most times, users get their supplies through illegal means – they always have their drugs in the form of pill bottles hidden somewhere.

Other symptoms include:

  • Cravings
  • Decreased appetite
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down
  • Giving up vital activities
  • Losing a lot of weight
  • Feeling confused
  • Indulging in amphetamines when alone
  • Poor hygiene
  • Less care about physical appearance
  • Making excuses for the use of amphetamines
  • Dry mouth
  • Faster breathing
  • Cardiovascular system failure
  • Chest pain
  • Convulsions
  • Blurred vision

Amphetamine dependence may wear out the user. This will trigger continuous use of the drug for as long as a week without food. This category of user is called ‘speed freak’. By then, the user begins to collapse, and this will lead to severe damage to their health.

Amphetamine Dependence Causes

Causes of amphetamine dependence are solely the result of using the substances frequently, but the rate of addiction differs. Some people may depend on these drugs with the doctor’s prescriptions or use more than prescribed. Even if the physician’s directions are well followed, potential causes of amphetamine dependence may arise.

The abuse of the drugs can also cause harmful physical side effects and other issues for a long time. Some causes may include:

Social comfort/anxiety

Many people use amphetamines for weight loss. Women are mostly affected mainly by their body perfections. In the attempts to mirror their bodies against several images of ideal bodies, they begin to diet, even when it is natural for girls to gain weight during puberty. Many discover amphetamines when they cannot lose more weight. Even for boys, they all engage in amphetamines to increase performance and energy.

Maintaining a career

For many people who find themselves in a competitive working environment, keeping up or competing in their work executions becomes highly essential. They want to be perceived as capable of handling their position as the boss and as a competent team player. For them to increase their self-confidence, sociability, concentration, and energy, many of them start taking amphetamines. Because of the rapid acting nature of the substances, it is easy to be addicted without the user knowing at all. Over time, the physical addiction will not be sufficient, leading to a psychological addiction.

Chemistry of the brain

Chemicals like dopamine are released from the brain with the use of amphetamines. Dopamine is high when it comes to producing pleasure. This effect can subsequently lead to addiction.


Children are susceptible to develop the same disorder if their parents have an addiction to the drug. Temperament is another personality building block that can influence the problem of amphetamine dependence. Additionally, those who prefer to be overactive rather than being underactive, those who like to experiment with means of increasing happiness, and those who have difficulties in delayed pleasure are more likely to develop an addiction for amphetamines.

Treatments of Amphetamine Dependence

Regardless of the intent of taking amphetamines, there is a risk of addiction, tolerance, and physical dependence. Treating amphetamine addiction may include the combination of both hospital and therapy treatments. It is vital to be aware of the warnings of using amphetamines before taking them. Even with this, many health care providers fail to relate the potential risks connected to amphetamines with their patients.

Those who have AD or ADHD must consider these warnings before taking amphetamines:

  • Amphetamines may cause sudden death
  • Amphetamines can cause chronic problems of cardiovascular diseases
  • Amphetamines may result in a very high potential for abuse
  • Amphetamines can be accessible to family members, and this can lead to dependence
  • Amphetamines may result in psychological and physical dependence

It can lead to a habit-forming situation when amphetamines are taken under any circumstance. When amphetamines are taken in larger doses than prescribed or without a prescription, it can lead to physical or psychological dependence and subsequently, addiction.

The first categories of treatment for amphetamine dependence are residential, inpatient and outpatient treatments. The initial treatment period may take up to two weeks, during which the patient will experience withdrawal symptoms. The subject must be under the direct monitoring of health experts.

In a hospital setting, it is much easier to overcome amphetamine withdrawal in case of intense drug cravings. The facility will provide necessary help, especially if the user has adverse mood changes such as aggression and suicidal behavior.

For therapy, users of amphetamines can get help through personal counselling, group or family therapy. This can help in terms of:

  • Learning ways to avoid the use of amphetamines
  • Discovering pleasant activities to indulge in place of amphetamines
  • Identifying the reason they use amphetamines
  • Mending the relationship with their family
  • Getting the support of those who have used amphetamines before because they understand what they are going through

Most of these treatment periods last for 90 days because it allows the patient to get adequate counseling and therapy to change the bad habit. Research shows that treating an amphetamine dependence patient for less than 90 days runs the risk of relapse.

As for those with mild addiction to amphetamines, another treatment is outpatient treatment methods. Treatments are provided during the working hours of the early evening so the patients can still do their daily activities outside of the treatment.

Amphetamine Dependence Prevention

A proactive drug abuse prevention program usually informs people, especially young people, on the hazards of drug addiction. Several researchers of drug prevention have classified different risk factors for the abuse of amphetamines. Most times, prevention programs are far more successful and cheaper than the treatment programs. Apart from that, with successful drug prevention programs, it works to rectify the risk factors and identify those at risk.

To reduce amphetamine dependence, drug education is essential. Another preventive method is through family support and counseling for emotional problems.

Other preventive methods include:

A good prevention program must involve the youth meaningfully involved in the program design and policy implementation: it is very vital to engage the target youth with the prevention of amphetamine dependence.

There are numerous challenges when trying to get the attention of young people, but when engaging with respect, young people are eager to be involved and even try to improve the implementation and the design of the program.

It is also essential to strive for a coordinated means of communication: amphetamines and other drug abuse prevention methods can be efficient and will go far when delivered via some avenues. The common among them is the television, the internet, comics, etc. – including the parents and teachers in the education can also help to maximise exposure, increase effectiveness and reinforce the message.

Media campaigns can be attractive for the drug prevention program with excellent visibility; they are not the silver bullet for prevention. But by working with the community, media use must itemize the dangers of amphetamine dependence.

Sustaining funds are also crucial to the drug prevention programs. In many cases, prevention activities are undertaken without the prospect of sufficient funds.

Since amphetamines can impact the pleasure feeling senses of the brain, there is a need for extensive care when the users stop. This will help them to rebuild self-worth and a sense of happiness without using amphetamines.

Additionally, it is vital to get help before amphetamine dependence gets worse, as this demonstrates the fact that the user recognizes the need to break free from it. By getting help, it becomes easy to determine the best treatment options that are unique to individual users. It may not be feasible to get started on the road to recovery if amphetamine dependence gets much worse.

Last Reviewed:
September 25, 2017
Last Updated:
November 07, 2017
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