Amphetamines are a synthetic central nervous stimulant drug, designed originally to aid individuals who suffered from ADHD or narcolepsy. The drug manages this by increasing the synaptic levels dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and others through several mechanisms. Amphetamines are present in many brand name drugs such as:

  • Adderall
  • Concerta
  • Ritalin
  • Methylin
  • Metadate
  • Dexedrine
  • Focalin

Listed as a Schedule II for their high abuse potential, amphetamine abuse has occured since the drug’s medical uses began as early as 1914 when the drug group was patented. Illegal amphetamine abuse, leading to cases of amphetamine addiction, has been occurring since 1965 when the FDA limited the drug class to prescription use only, due to its high abuse potential. Amphetamine addiction today is still a serious problem.

How are Amphetamines Abused?

With their high abuse and addiction potential in both medical and “recreational” settings, it has become important to not only understand how addiction can happen, but when it is happening or on the verge of becoming a problem. So, the first question is then, how are amphetamines taken? Do you snort speed? Do you smoke it?

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Typically amphetamines are taken orally or injected. Smoking amphetamines does occur though and has only grown more popular as a method of us over the years, inspired by the smoking of “ice” or crystallized methamphetamine hydrochloride.

Amphetamine Abuse Symptoms

Amphetamines can have many different effects on the body, some of which occur as normal side effects in properly used medical standards. Yet, there are also amphetamine addiction signs and amphetamine addiction abuse symptoms that also can occur alongside normal symptoms in the event of abuse. Some symptoms may be thought of as pleasant by the user, such as the high itself, but more typically than not amphetamine addiction abuse symptoms are unpleasant to experience. These symptoms, similar to the effects of cocaine, have a slower onset, but a longer duration and can create many psychological and physical impairments. The most common symptoms of amphetamine abuse are:

  • Pupil dilation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Increased body temperature
  • Frantic
  • Edgy
  • Irritable
  • Aggressive
  • Angry
  • Psychosis
    • Paranoia
    • Hallucinations
    • Picking at the skin
    • Erratic or violent behavior
  • Diminished appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Memory problems
  • Weight loss
  • Oral issues (cavities, gum problems)
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Heart complications
  • Kidney problems
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Physical Signs

So, are amphetamines physically addictive then? It may not seem possible, since most of the signs of amphetamine addiction have to do with the mind, but yes, amphetamines are physically addictive. Amphetamine addicted individuals may be chasing the mental high the drug can induce, but they run their bodies into the ground from seeking this high, as the physical effects are harsh and unwavering. The physical effects of long-term amphetamine use / addiction are:

  • Dependence on other drugs to be able to balance amphetamine side effects
  • Panic attacks
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Heart palpitations
  • Malnutrition
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Potential damage of brain cells
  • Psychosis
    • Skin picking
    • Hallucinations

Behavioral Signs

The behavioral signs of amphetamine addiction are also highly prevalent. Common behavioral signs and symptoms of amphetamines addiction are:

  • Anxiousness
  • Nervousness
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Mood swings
  • Anger
  • Violence
  • Talkativeness
  • Fleeting euphoria
  • Dysphoria
  • Alertness
  • Aggression
  • Developing psychosis
    • Paranoia
    • Erratic behavior
    • Preoccupation with own thoughts

Side Effects of Amphetamine Abuse

The effects of amphetamine abuse are many. Amphetamine abuse side effects, signs, and symptoms may be very similar to one another, but they can also be very different. Typically, amphetamine side effects of abuse are:

  • Problems maintaining personal relationships
  • Problems maintaining personal upkeep
  • Problems maintaining a job, or workplace standards
  • Problems maintaining good study habits, or school standards
  • Problems maintaining stable finances
  • Problems maintaining the law, or getting in trouble for possession of the illicit drug

The effects of amphetamine abuse can have both physical, social, and mental effects that all tie into one another. These types of effects can be both short and long term in nature, sometimes one side effect leading into another, more severe symptom such as:

  • Brain cell damage
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression
  • Malnutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced immunity
  • Insomnia
  • Dependence on other drugs to balance out the effects of the amphetamines

Short Term Side Effects

The overall duration of any amphetamine typically depends on the dose taken, individual body factors, and whether or not the drug was taken in conjunction with any other type of medication of chemical. Since amphetamines work as a central nervous system stimulant, the typical short term side effects of the drug are:

  • A burst of energy
  • Talkativeness
  • Excitement
  • Restless
  • Increase heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Jaw clenching
  • High blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils

Amphetamines can remain in the system, even after the short term effects have worn off.

Long Term Effects

The long term effects of amphetamine abuse can branch off in many different directions, and usually are more severe than their short term counterparts. Amphetamine addiction long term effects include:

  • Brain cell damage
  • Malnutrition
  • Weakened immune system
  • Heart issues
  • Kidney issues
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression
  • Inability to maintain a job
  • Inability to maintain relationships
  • Inability to keep up with school work
  • Violent rages
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Use of other drugs to balance out the effects of amphetamines
  • Psychosis

Side Effects of Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance abuse is a substance use disorder that typically involves at least three or more substances used regularly. This disorder, although similar to regular substance abuse, has its own set of problems, including the increase of physical symptoms experienced from all substances used, and a lengthier detoxification period. In the case of amphetamines interactions, and outside substances used in conjunction with the synthetic drug, amphetamine and alcohol interaction are most common. Amphetamines and alcohol work together by working against each other, spurring on the temptation in users to use more of each substance. Typically they will use alcohol to cope, and then amphetamines to feel better, or the two in conjunction to create a dangerous, addicted high, created from a chemical cocktail. The most common side effects of polysubstance abuse in the case of amphetamines and alcohol use are:

Amphetamine-Induced Psychosis

Amphetamine induced psychosis is the process in which psychosis (a severe mental disorder characterized by a disconnection with reality) is onset by the prolonged overuse of amphetamine drugs. The symptoms of amphetamine psychosis closely resemble those of schizophrenic induced psychosis, although it has been noted that amphetamine induced psychosis may in some cases be easier to treat, depending on the severity of addiction, mental health, and family medical history. Amphetamine psychosis is also characterized by the patient’s split from reality, where they may experience paranoia, hallucinations, and other mentally adverse effects after prolonged use of high doses.

Amphetamine-Induced Psychosis Symptoms

Amphetamine induced psychosis symptoms have been noted to resemble very closely, those of schizophrenia psychosis. These symptoms are typically brought on by a long stretch of amphetamine binge use in high doses. Amphetamine psychosis symptoms, similar to those of acute schizophrenia, can include:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Delusions of persecution
  • Disorganized thoughts
  • Lack of insight
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Increased motor activity
  • Suspiciousness
  • Hallucinations (visual and auditory)
  • Nervousness

Causes of Amphetamine Addiction

The causes of drug addiction are varied, with many onsetting factors. Drug addiction can occur from the overuse of almost any controlled substance recreationally, or medically. Individuals take the drugs, both medically and recreationally, for their positive effects, and in the case of illicit use, to get high off of those effects. The causes of addiction can vary depending on the individual and their medical and personal history as well. Amphetamines themselves are central nervous stimulants that work to activate the receptors in the brain, linked to the neurotransmitters responsible for distributing naturally occurring chemicals in the body like dopamine and norepinephrine.

The problem is, individuals who use amphetamines eventually begin to build a tolerance to the drug, which in turn causes them to use or take more of it to stimulate the same feelings of either relief, pleasure, or satisfaction that the amphetamine originally created. This leads to the individual taking higher doses of the drug on more frequent occasions, developing a dependence on the drug, and eventually addiction.

Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms

As stated above, it is possible to build a tolerance to amphetamines, and of course addiction. The development of tolerance and addiction can also lead to the development of physical dependence on amphetamines, where an individual’s body may need the drug to function normally over time. This dependence onsets cravings for the drug, making the individual anxious or irritable if access to the drug is denied, and can thus onset amphetamine addiction withdrawal, when the person can no longer acquire the drug, even if it’s only for a short amount of time. The most common amphetamines withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Exhaustion
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Extreme hunger
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired social functioning
  • Muscle aches

Amphetamine Abuse Statistics

Like many other types of abused drugs, amphetamine abuse statistics continue to rise and fall over time. The reason for this tends to coincide with the reasons for overall abuse of course, as amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that are used for multiple reasons, amongst different age groups. Current amphetamine addiction statistics include:

  • Emergency room visits for the overuse of Adderall are on the rise amongst adults ages 18 to 25
  • Emergency visits due to non-medical use of Amphetamines nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010, from 5,212 to 15,585, and has only continued to rise since
  • Nearly 52 million people ages 12 and older have admitted to using prescription drugs non-medically

Amphetamine Abuse & Treatment Trends in Florida

Amphetamine use and abuse statistics can be broken down by the state level, and even in extreme cases county, city and town. For Florida specifically, some of the most prevalent amphetamine abuse statistics are:

  • Reportedly used often in various areas of Florida among heavy users as a “club drug
  • Use detected in 81 deceased individuals in the first half of 2013, 73 for the first half of 2012, 115 in the first half of 2011, and continued to grow since
  • Accounted for 60 laboratory crime reports in 2013
  • Illicitly produced outside of the U.S. and smuggled in for sale/illicit use
  • In 2017 828 amphetamine-related deaths occurred

Amphetamine Overdose

Amphetamine overdose and abuse is widespread and occurs inconsistently amongst new, chronic, occasional, and binge users, although amphetamine overdose can also be induced intentionally. Amphetamine overdose is a severe effect of amphetamine abuse, usually onset by the over consumption of the drug in one sitting. There is no average amphetamine overdose amount, as different people, with their individualized systems, can overdose on either a long binge stretch of the drug, or taking too much for their body on the first try. Although amphetamine overdose typically occurs within recreational settings, and the drug has been used in increasing volume in such settings since 2013. Although amphetamine overdose is caused by an addiction to the drug, the occurrence also has its own set of amphetamine overdose effects.

Amphetamine Overdose Symptoms

Amphetamine overdose symptoms can onset quickly, as amphetamines are taken orally or injected, and pass the blood / brain barriers rather quickly to begin their effects. Amphetamine overdose occurs when an individual overloads their system with the stimulant, causing an overall toxicity, or amphetamine poisoning. Amphetamines overdose is often time confused with other types of overdoses, like cocaine overdose, and emergency medical conditions like a stroke, so it is important to know some of the key symptoms to help determine whether a patient is experiencing overdose or not. Typical amphetamine overdose symptoms are:

  • Agitation
  • Hypertension
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Hyperthermia
  • Tachycardia
  • Hyponatremia
  • Increase motor activity
  • Dry mouth
  • Dilated pupils
  • Diaphoresis
  • Tremulousness
  • Anxiety
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Confusion
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased systolic and diastolic blood pressure
  • Flushed skin
  • Shaky
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Stroke

Amphetamine Overdose Treatment

In the occurrence of amphetamine overdose, immediate medical treatment is required. As such, it is important to note that there is no immediate amphetamine overdose antidote that can be used to save a patient’s life. But, there are some potentially medical emergencies that can occur as a results of an amphetamine overdose, that should be taken care of. In an overdose emergency is is important to:

It is possible that patients may experience psychosis during their overdose, and may need to be restrained for their own safety. Otherwise, amphetamine overdose treatment largely consists of:

  • Testing for drug levels and other types of drug used
  • Monitoring vital signs
  • Aiding in clearing the drug from the patient’s system
    • Pumping the stomach
    • Giving of specific medications to absorb the drug
  • Giving fluids to prevent kidney damage
  • Giving sedatives to help patient remain calm

After medical assistance has been received, and a patient is back at home, they will need rest, fluids, a healthy diet, moderate exercise, to stay away from using amphetamines, and follow up treatment.

How to Help Someone Addicted to Amphetamine

It is important to remember that addiction is rarely (if ever) wished for, and that individuals who become addicted to amphetamines, or any other type of drug, will experience many adverse effects and symptoms, that will make them less likely to interact with friends and family members the way they once did. Despite these factors, it is important to family and friends to remain aware of the symptoms, and be ready to intervene. Amphetamine addicts still need a good support system at home, like any other type of addict, and they may need to seek treatment at a recovery center to begin their healing process. It is also important to remember that healing from addiction takes time.


Intervention may seem like a large and scary task for any home support system in the making, but it can be done in steps to aid in its ease of delivery, for both the individual receiving the intervention, and the ones doing the intervening. A stepped care intervention comes most commonly recommended for amphetamine abusers, and follows these steps:

  • Discuss amphetamine use in the context/regards to the individual’s health
  • Briefly screen, evaluate, ask appropriate questions, and assess
  • Provide non-judgmental, informative, realistic feedback to the individual
  • Talk about goal setting, behavioral changes, and emphasis (gently) the fact that change needs to be what the patient wants
  • Summarize what has been discussed, review, and make a next step

Amphetamine Addiction Treatment Options

There are many amphetamine addiction treatment options available to users who wish to recover. Amphetamine abuse treatment of course begins with intervention, and then the process of withdrawal. Now, where these events take place can vary, whether they be done in the comfort of an individual home, or a recovery center to begin with. Otherwise, amphetamine addiction treatment looks a lot like other types of drug recovery processes, which include counselling, meetings, and other patient treatment options. Amphetamine addiction treatment options usually include:

What to Do if You or Someone You Love is Using Amphetamines

Overall it is important to understand that amphetamine abuse in the U.S. is on the rise, especially in the use of young adults, ages 18 to 25, who are undergoing considerable amounts of stress as they attempt to make it through all of their college classes. Amphetamine overdose isn’t just something that happens to college students abusing the medication. It is equally possible for those who are using amphetamines correctly to overdose, or to become addicted to the drugs.

Amphetamine addiction, like other types of addictions, comes with many unpleasant side effects, and although amphetamines overdose may not be life-threatening itself, it can onset life-threatening conditions and should be professionally treated. No one plans on becoming addicted to a synthetic central nervous system stimulant, but it does happen, and the cravings are enough to drive people back to repeatedly use again and again. It takes a good support system at home, and a well-organized addiction recovery program, to help individuals get their lives back on track.

If you or someone you love is using amphetamines and you think amphetamine addiction might be a problem, call SJRP at 833-397-3422 to speak with our admissions team about your situation. Our Florida drug and alcohol rehab center is available to provide support and care for those struggling with amphetamine addiction.