AMPHETAMINES

   Classification:        Stimulants
   Slang Names:           speed, ups, uppers, white crosses, dexies, bennies,
                          black beauties, crystal and crank
   Mode of use:           swallowed (capsule form), sniffed, injected
   Dependence Potential:  psychologically addictive

What are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are synthetic psychoactive drugs that stimulate or increase the action of the central nervous system. They are available legally by prescription, and have been used medically to treat obesity, fatigue and depression. Today, medical use of amphetamines are limited to treating MBD (minimal brain dysfunction) in children and narcolepsy, a rare disorder in which an individual is overcome by sudden and uncontrollable attacks of deep sleep.

Amphetamines have become a popular "street drug." Legally produced amphetamines may be sold on the black market but quality and quantity of the drug may vary. Underground chemists have also developed a "look-alike" amphetamine that is being sold on the street. "Look-alikes" are drugs manufactured to look like real amphetamines and mimic their effects. They are sold on the street as "speed" or "uppers" and are expensive, even though they are a weak substitute for amphetamines. The drugs contain varying amounts of less potent stimulants such as caffeine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine - all legal substances that are usually found in over-the-counter diet pills and decongestants.

One of the greatest dangers of "look-alikes" is that they are readily available and there is no way to know what you're really getting. There have been reports of users who have overdosed because they unknowingly purchased real amphetamines and took the same amount as they would take of the "look-alikes." Users of true amphetamines may also underestimate the potency of the "look-alike" drugs and take excessive amounts that can result in a toxic reaction.

Short term Effects of Amphetamine Use

The effects of any drug depend on the amount taken, the past drug experience of the user, circumstances in which the drug is taken (the place, feelings, activities, and other people involved) and the mode in which the drug is taken.

At low doses, amphetamines reduce appetite, increase breathing and heart rate, raise blood pressure, and dilate the pupils. Moderate doses can cause dry mouth, fever, sweating, headache, blurred vision, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation and loss of appetite. High doses of amphetamines may cause flushing, pallor (become pale), very rapid and irregular heart beat, tremors, loss of coordination or physical collapse. Injecting amphetamines creates a sudden increase in blood pressure that can cause death from stroke, very high fever, or heart failure.

In addition to the physical effects of amphetamines, users report feeling restless, anxious and moody. Increased doses intensify the effects and users may become excited, talkative and have a false sense of self-confidence or superiority. They may behave in a bizarre manner and some become aggressive and hostile.

Long-term Effects of Amphetamine Use

Prolong use of amphetamine can lead to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, skin disorders, ulcers, lack of sleep, weight loss and depression. Frequent use of large amounts can produce brain damage that results in speech and thought disturbance.

Users of large amounts of amphetamines over a long period of time can develop an amphetamine psychosis, a mental disorder very similar to paranoid schizophrenia. They hallucinate (see, hear and feel things that do not exits), experience delusions (irrational thoughts or beliefs) and become paranoid (feel as though people are out to get them). People in this state usually exhibit a bizarre - sometimes violent behavior. Symptoms usually disappear within a couple of weeks after drug use stops.

Amphetamines also have the potential to produce tolerance - meaning that increased amounts of the drug are needed to achieve the desired effects.

Withdrawal symptoms can also occur when the use of the drug is stopped abruptly. Users may experience fatigue; long, but disturbed, periods of sleep; irritability, intense hunger; and moderate to severe depression. The length and severity of the depression seems to be related to how much and how often the amphetamines were used.

The effects of amphetamines on the fetus during pregnancy have not been fully established. Experiments with animals suggest that use of this drug during pregnancy may produce adverse behavioral effects such as hyperexcitability in offspring. Babies born to amphetamine - abusing mothers may also experience withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth.

Signs and Symptoms of Amphetamine Use

Below are several signs that may indicate the use of amphetamines.

Dilated pupils

Dry mouth and nose

Bad breath

Frequent lip licking

Excessive activity, difficulty sitting still, lack of interest in

food or sleep

Irritable, moody, nervous

Argumentative

Talkative

Source: Valencia Community College Project Infusion Module, Orlando, FL. Reprinted with permission.