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Amphetamine Addiction: The Growing Concern

Amphetamine addiction is a serious problem. Amphetamines are highly addictive and have severe withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult to stop using them. From 2010 to 2015, the number of deaths related to amphetamine use rose from 56 to 157, a 280% increase.

What Is Amphetamine?

Amphetamines are a group of drugs that have a stimulant effect. They include amphetamine itself, but also the prescription drugs Ritalin and Adderall, as well as illegal drugs such as methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy).

Amphetamines work by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including the chemical dopamine, which is responsible for some of the effects of the brains pleasure and reward pathways. This is one of the reasons amphetamines are so very addictive. Users experience an overwhelming desire to replicate the pleasurable feelings experienced when taking the drug.

What Effects Do Amphetamines Have?

Used correctly, drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall can increase a person’s ability to focus on tasks, increase their attention span, enable them to remain alert, and can help manage some sleep disorders. This is why they are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

The stimulating effect is also the main reason people use these drugs recreationally, as they make the user feel alert and energetic. Amphetamines also increase the heart and breathing rate and reduce appetite and feelings of tiredness. Amphetamines were used by German soldiers during the Second World War in order to enable them to remain alert for extended periods of time.

However, all these seemingly beneficial effects come at great cost. The reduction in appetite will cause an amphetamine addict to lose weight, eventually making the individual look gaunt and unhealthy. The effects of the drug on the heart and lungs can result in chest pains, irregular heart beat and potentially heart attacks and fits, and the highly addictive drug has serious withdrawal symptoms when its use is finally stopped. There are also mental effects to amphetamine use, and users can experience feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and delusions, which can result in them behaving very irrationally. Extreme users have also experienced hallucinations and psychotic episodes.

What Are the Side Effects of Amphetamine Withdrawal?

Long-term amphetamine use results in physical addiction, so when users stop taking the drug, the body experiences physical symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms can include a sudden increase in hunger, extreme tiredness and fatigue, and intense cravings for more of the substance. These side effects can be extreme, and therefore very difficult to cope with alone. Detox from amphetamine use is always best done under strict medical supervision, as the majority of amphetamine addicts who try to stop by themselves fail and relapse.

There are also psychological withdrawal effects, the symptoms of which can be very similar to the symptoms of amphetamine addiction itself. These include extreme anxiety and depression as the chemical imbalances created in the brain by the long-term abuse of amphetamines try to correct themselves.

How Can I Tell If Someone Is Suffering from Amphetamine Addiction?

If you suspect that a loved one is struggling with amphetamine addiction, then there are some tell-tale signs to look out for. Amphetamine addiction will result in both physical and mental changes in a person, so ask yourself these questions:

  • Has the person started to lose weight, or shown a noticeable reduction in their appetite?
  • Are they showing signs of a raised temperature, such as sweating, or frequently complaining of being too hot?
  • Do they have a raised or irregular heart rate, or increased blood pressure (these could be quite difficult to spot)?
  • Are their pupils dilated?
  • Have they developed unexplained skin complaints?
  • Have they complained of chest pains, or of having a dry mouth?
  • In extreme cases, have they experienced convulsions?
  • Has their behaviour changed, becoming either ‘hyper’, aggressive or hostile?
  • Have you noticed a change in their personality?
  • Have they experienced hallucinations?

These signs may be quite subtle at first, but as someone falls deeper into amphetamine addiction, they will become more pronounced.

What Can I Do to Help?

Helping someone with amphetamine addiction can be very difficult and stressful. The first challenge is to get them to realise that they have a problem, and to accept help. Addiction Helpline is here to help you, and our helpline is available twenty-four hours a day to offer free advice on addiction. We can help you decide where to go from here as well as advise on the different treatment options available. All this as well as helping you to support your loved one in their recovery from addiction. For advice, or to find out more, please contact us today.


  1. (DrugAbuse) How to Help an Amphetamine Addict
  2. (The Guardian) Drug-related deaths hit record levels in England and Wales

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