Utilised for its medicinal properties today, but when used for recreation and enjoyment rather than to treat a medical condition and in a large amount, Amphetamines can have dangerous devastating consequences.

One of the most widely used and talked about drugs in the country, affecting millions of lives across the UK. Commonly known by its street name `speed` or `uppers` among others, rising to prominence in the party scene in the 1990s and the noughties taken mostly at raves and all-night parties.

10% of adults in England and Wales aged between 16 and 60 have taken the drug at some time in their life. It has seen amphetamine earn the unfortunate distinction of being the fourth most widespread illegal drug. Methamphetamine has reportedly been designated the second most popular illicit drug internationally, second to cannabis.

Amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant which is often used to treat conditions such as ADHD or disorders that affects the control of sleep and alertness. Amphetamines are also employed in the treatment of obesity, as they have been a significant ingredient in diet pills, preventing a feeling of hungry. If consumed as a street drug, it generally contains around 5% amphetamine sulphate, while base speed can be at least ten times more powerful.

The drug can be taken in many ways. Generally denoted a Class B drug. However, if you prepare the substance to be injected, it becomes a Class A.

Amphetamine is usually produced as a white, pink or yellow coloured powder, often cut with a variety of substances. It may be available in pill form or a paste. It can also be wrapped in tiny pieces of paper called wraps. Amphetamines can also be taken orally in a cigarette paper, called bombing, as well as being snorted. It is also not unheard of to drink the substance.

The drug can affect people in different ways. Depending on your mood, your personality, where you are, who you are with, and how much you have taken.

However, users generally consume amphetamine as it makes them exceedingly happy, up, alert, full of energy, wide awake and capable of being excited. They may experience a heightened feeling of euphoria and creativity and an increased sexual desire.  Users can go for long periods without sleep, which is partly why the drug has made such an impact on the party and club scene. Revellers often take amphetamines, so they can keep dancing for hours. However, many do not realise they may be putting their health or even their lives on the line. They may not be aware of the possible side effects of taking the drug.

Speed may make you energised, but it can also make a person feel agitated and show signs of aggression. Bringing on a rise in body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and can affect your breathing.

Long-term use leads to tooth decay, migraine headaches, stomach and body cramps. On the comedown when the drug wears off, which can make you feel run down, sluggish and tired. It can also make you depressed and, if you have taken high doses, you could suffer from what is called ‘Amphetamine psychosis’. It can result in feelings of paranoia, irritability, restlessness and erratic behaviour. It is not uncommon for users to experience excessive sweating, respiratory problems, confusion and auditory and visual hallucinations, tremors and nausea. These may indicate mild levels of toxicity which can be treated by stopping taking the drug for a while, drinking lots of water and getting some rest.

However, a high-level overdose of amphetamines can lead to unpleasant side effects such as vomiting, abdominal cramps panic attacks, and a general failure of the circulation. In extreme cases, overdosing can cause muscular convulsion and induce coma, which may ultimately result in death.

Treatment and Therapies for Amphetamine Abuse and Addiction

Treating amphetamine abuse and addiction can be challenging because of the changes in brain structure that occur with chronic use. The sometimes severe depression and loss of pleasure that occur when the use of the drug is stopped can be a major obstacle to avoiding relapse. Nevertheless, therapies that help people understand and adjust their behaviours based on triggers of drug use can contribute to the individuals being able to get and stay on the path to recovery. These therapies include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Family counselling
  • Addiction counselling
  • Peer support or 12-Step group participation

By working with a reputable treatment program, individuals who have struggled with amphetamine abuse or addiction have a greater chance of moving forward in recovery and starting a future free from amphetamine abuse.

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