Overview, Signs & Symptoms
Amphetamines, also known as stimulant drugs, come in a wide range of forms, from prescription-based to over-the-counter remedies. These drugs are best known for their energizing effects and fast-acting results.
Some of the more commonly used amphetamines include –
While these drugs do a good job at improving focus, concentration and even confidence, the excess use of amphetamines carries a considerable risk of addiction. According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, an estimated half a million Americans abused amphetamine-type drugs on a regular basis in 2005. Considering how fast-paced today’s world has become, it’s understandable how so many people might take advantage of the “pick-me-up” effects amphetamines bring.
Amphetamine addictions can develop quickly, especially when abused or used for recreational purposes. Signs and symptoms of amphetamine addiction will likely impact a person’s life in negative ways, which makes it easier to spot a growing addiction problem.
In effect, amphetamines exert a tremendous strain on the body making the need for intensive treatment all the more necessary once a person becomes addicted. Amphetamine addiction treatment options work to help recovering addicts overcome the long-term effects of these drugs using a stage-by-stage approach.
The stimulant properties found in amphetamines works well as a treatment for different types of conditions, some of which include –
- Extreme cases of obesity
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Sinus congestion, cold remedies
Prescription forms of amphetamine work especially well at improving focus and concentration in ADHD sufferers. Amphetamines help restore chemical balance in the brain, which in turn alleviates symptoms associated with ADHD, narcolepsy and obesity, all of which are conditions caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.
When taken as prescribed, amphetamines offer a range of therapeutic benefits, though a person still remains at risk of abuse and addiction when taking these drugs on a long-term basis. For recreational users, the addiction potential increases exponentially as the effects of amphetamines become more damaging over time.
Amphetamine Effects on the Body
Amphetamine’s stimulant properties work by speeding up major systems throughout the body. A single dose of any one amphetamine-type drug produces the following effects –
- Increase in body temperature
- Increase in heart rate
- Increase in energy levels
- Feelings of well-being
- Feeling of confidence
- Faster thought processes
- Reduced appetite
Each of these effects requires the body to work harder. Over time, the ongoing strain placed on the brain and body take a toll on a person’s overall physical and psychological health. These effects occur regardless of whether a person takes amphetamines for prescription or recreational purposes.
Amphetamine Effects in the Brain
An amphetamine addiction takes root inside the brain’s chemical processes. Not surprisingly, amphetamines stimulate many of the same brain regions as cocaine, which accounts for their similar effects.
According to Semel Institute, once ingested, amphetamines force individual brain cell sites to secrete exceedingly large amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals. Much like the ongoing strain placed on the body’s major systems, amphetamine’s effects on brain cell functions cause considerable damage to brain structures over time.
Signs of Amphetamine Addiction
Signs of amphetamine addiction start to take shape as the brain loses its ability to regulate bodily systems on its own. The more damage done to brain structures, the more the brain comes to rely on amphetamine’s effects. After so long, a physical dependence on amphetamines takes hold.
Physical dependence stems from increasing tolerance levels in the brain. Tolerance level increases result from the drug’s damaging effects on brain cell structures.
Damage done to brain cell sites leaves them less sensitive to amphetamine effects. Under these conditions, cells produce lower amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals, which weakens the effects of the drug. Someone using the drug for recreational purposes will need to keep increasing the dosage amount in order to experience the desired drug effect.
As a group, amphetamines are some of the most addictive drugs in existence. The more addictive the drug the faster the brain develops a tolerance for its effects.
With amphetamines, tolerance level increases happen quickly. Before long, users start to engage in bingeing behaviors, taking incredibly large dosage amounts at a time to compensate for elevated tolerance levels. This practices greatly increases the rate at which a person becomes addicted.
Amphetamine abuse inevitably leads to widespread brain chemical imbalances. Over time, these imbalances start to impair the brain’s cognitive functions. As chemical imbalances throughout the brain become more pronounced, a psychological dependence on amphetamines gradually takes root.
One region in particular, commonly known as the reward system, regulates learning processes and for the most part dictates a person’s thoughts, emotions, motivations and behaviors. The chemical imbalances brought on by amphetamine abuse warp the reward system to the point where the drug’s effects become a primary motivating force in a person’s daily life, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Once a person reaches this point, a full-blown amphetamine addiction is at work.
Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction
Physical symptoms of amphetamine addiction may start out mild, but quickly intensify the longer a person keeps using. Physical symptoms mirror the overall dysfunction taking place within the body’s major systems.
Once a physical dependency sets in, a person will start to experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms become more intense and happen more frequently for as long as a person keeps abusing the drug.
Physical symptoms experienced may include –
- Irregular heart rate
- Body temperatures swings, as in going from chills to hot flashes
- Shakiness, tremors
- Problems breathing
The brain’s psychological dependency on amphetamines continues to grow in much the same way as a physical dependency does. After a while, a person’s overall psychological make-up undergoes considerable change as brain chemical levels skew further off balance.
Psychological symptoms of amphetamine addiction may appear as –
- Muddled thinking
- Poor judgment and decision making abilities
- Risk taking
- Impulsive behavior
- Panic attacks
- Symptoms of depression
- Rage or violent outbursts
Once a person starts engaging in bingeing behaviors, the worst of these symptoms occur on a more frequent basis.