A Schedule II controlled substance, amphetamines date back to 1887 when they were first synthesized in Germany. Pharmaceutical uses for the drug wouldn’t come for several more decades until it was found that amphetamines were applicable in the treatment of certain breathing conditions such as asthma. There are both illicit and legally prescribed forms of these drugs. Prescription forms, like Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin, are given to patients who suffer from certain conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy. Adderall alone was prescribed over 18 million times in 2010, per the Huffington Post.
The Drug Enforcement Administration accounts for another 15.7 million scripts for methylphenidate-based drugs like Concerta and Ritalin going out the following year. This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is a common concern that symptoms of illnesses like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are simple to feign and as such, drug abusers can easily access valid prescriptions of their own.
Who Uses and Abuses It?
Not all amphetamines are illegal. Some prescription varieties are perfectly legal to use if the prescription applies to you, but that doesn’t mean they’re safe from causing you any harm. It also doesn’t mean you can’t end up hooked on them, especially if you choose to misuse them. Misuse can come in the form of using someone else’s prescription or overusing your own. Abusers use amphetamines for the boost in serotonin they release that produces a euphoric and energetic high.
There is a mounting concern for the future of prescription stimulant users. One in four teenagers reports lifetime misuse of a prescription drug, per the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, and 6.4 million school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2013, per The New York Times; however, there is little data to show how much these numbers overlap one another. In short, many teens may be abusing amphetamines that were prescribed to them.
Many who abuse illicit amphetamines do so for the excessive boost of energy. The trend of prescription amphetamine abuse has grown increasingly common among middle-aged women in recent years — often dubbed the new mother’s little helper. Prescriptions for Adderall increased by an alarming 750 percent margin for women aged 26-39 years old between 2002 and 2010, ABC News reports.
Some will also use amphetamines for their increased ability to do cardio activity and the reduced appetite that comes with use. Combined, these effects can help individuals to lose weight; hence, why many abuse them as diet aids.
Teenagers are also becoming more interesting in abusing amphetamines, particularly those who are searching for study aids to boost their grades. TIME Magazine notes 15-40 percent of high-scoring high school students admit to prescription stimulant misuse as a means of improving their grades.
Males do seem to consistently account for more of the amphetamine-abusing demographic. Interestingly, amphetamines have been shown to affect male brains more than they impact female brains. Consumer Health Day notes the results of PET scan comparisons between genders in which the amount of dopamine release was as much as three times greater in men who abused amphetamine than in women.
Across all races, it appears Caucasians are the largest abusing demographic of amphetamine drugs. Treatment admissions from 2009 accounted for 67 percent of all addicts reporting amphetamine abuse as being white non-Hispanics; Mexicans made up 14 percent of admissions that year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports. Individuals who have a family history of substance abuse and those afflicted with mental illness may be at an increased risk for amphetamine abuse.
How is it Abused?
The primary method of administration for illicit amphetamines like speed is smoking. Injection, snorting, and oral ingestion also apply. The latter is the most commonly used method for individuals who use prescription amphetamines for a valid medical purpose.
Sings of Addiction
If you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you may be addicted to amphetamines:
- You can no longer get high on the dose you started out with.
- If you don’t use regularly or use enough, you start to feel like you’re going through withdrawal.
- You avoid social functions and family members to stay home and get high.
- You set limits for how much or how often you will use and fail to stick to them.
- You feel like you have no control over your drug use.
- You use even though it’s ruining relationships, costing you money you don’t have, interfering with work, or harming your health.
Amphetamines are among the most dangerous drugs to toy with. One of the biggest risks of using or abusing amphetamines presents in withdrawal. You may have strong cravings for the drug as well as cravings for food as your appetite returns. With your body no longer being driven by a stimulant, the brain will attempt to regulate your sleep cycle. As a result, you may suffer from serious fatigue while having trouble sleeping at the same time. Anxiousness and depression often appear when detoxing from stimulants.Some amphetamine abusers suffer permanent dental damage, cardiac arrest, and damage to the kidneys. Reuter’s states researchers in Texas analyzed 3 million people between the ages of 18 and 44 who were hospitalized between 2000 and 2003 and found that those who had abused amphetamines had a 61percent increased risk of having a heart attack.Any amount of stimulant abuse can inflict the user with substance-induced psychosis. While this condition generally dissipates on its own a few days after drug abuse is ceased, symptoms can range from hallucinations and paranoid delusions to violent behavior and highly aggressive moods.
Poly-drug abuse is a particular risk for amphetamine abusers, too. Mixing uppers with downers like alcohol or antidepressants can result in serious adverse effects to the user’s health. Cases of stroke and heart attack have been reported.
Treatment for Amphetamine Abuse
Detox from amphetamines can be an uncomfortable and mentally disturbing experience. Typically, the longer you’ve been abusing a substance, the more difficult it may be to come off of it. Prescription amphetamine addictions are usually managed with a tapering off approach. Symptoms may be treated with prescription benzodiazepines in cases where it is deemed necessary and safe.
A complete and effective treatment regimen encompasses far more than getting through withdrawal though. A third of people with psychiatric illness also battle substance abuse, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports. Comprehensive therapy, both individual and in a group setting, can help address mental health issues that may have contributed to drug abuse.
Support groups can keep you on track when you’re away from rehab and help you to build lifelong friendships with other sober peers in the process. Through participating in skills groups, you may find a new sense of self-esteem and pride in newfound skills.