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What Is Amphetamine Abuse?

By Angela Farrer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Amphetamine abuse refers to any improper use of certain psychostimulant drugs to the point of placing the user's health, and even his or her life, in jeopardy. Due to the temporary euphoria these substances impart, they are much more addictive to many people than are some other types of drugs. The most common effects of amphetamines are increased energy, concentration, and feelings of well-being. Some medications prescribed for conditions such as narcolepsy and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are stimulants that can be abused to the point of addiction. If left untreated, amphetamine abuse can escalate to the point of causing psychiatric disturbances and serious disruptions in the ability to lead a normal life.

A substance classified as a psychostimulant drug is one that elevates levels of two different chemicals in the brain: dopamine and serotonin. Once the effects of the drug subside, the chemical levels abruptly drop as well. Amphetamine abuse over time has been shown to disrupt the brain's ability to produce the needed amounts of these chemicals that regulate mood and energy. The most visible signs of amphetamine withdrawal are depression and lethargy, leading the user to seek increasingly large doses of the drug to regain the same elevated feelings.

Commonly prescribed amphetamines are Adderall and Ritalin for ADD and Dexedrine for the daytime sleepiness that accompanies narcolepsy. These types of amphetamines are frequently prescribed to children and teenagers diagnosed with ADD for their benefit of improving concentration. Due to the medications' highly addictive potential, this medical use of amphetamines is controversial. Amphetamine abuse has become more common among high school and college students who take amphetamines to keep them awake for all-night study sessions or to improve their athletic performance.

Unlike some other controlled substances, amphetamine abuse creates psychological rather than physical dependence. Addiction can create excessive preoccupation with obtaining and using more of the drugs, regardless of the costs to other areas of the user's life such as finances and family relationships. Addicted users may frequently use amphetamines to cope with everyday stresses and challenges on an increasingly regular basis.

Overdoses are an additional risk to amphetamine abuse, as the user builds up more tolerance to the substance. Users with higher blood pressure can possibly develop hypertension and increased chances of having heart attacks. Signs of overdose can include tremors, irregular heartbeat, mental confusion, nausea, and shortness of breath. All of these symptoms require medical attention urgently. Long-term amphetamine abuse can also cause disruptions in sleep patterns, increasing the possibility of the user developing psychological problems.

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