Amphetamines are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system, and speed up blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, and other functions. Amphetamines are often referred to as speed. The three kinds of amphetamines are amphetamines, dextroamphetamine, and methamphetamine. Amphetamines are prescribed by doctors to lift the mood of depressed people and to treat narcolepsy, obesity, and hyperactivity in children. Some trademarked prescription drugs that contain amphetamines are Adderall, Desoxyn, Biphetamine, Dexotrostat, Cylert, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Desoxyn, ProCentra, and Vyvanse.
Amphetamines are highly addictive and rank only after marijuana as the most widely abused kind of street drugs.
Amphetamine is a completely synthetic drug first made in Germany in the 1880s. It was widely used by the British Army during World War II to improve soldiers' endurance. In the 1950s, these drugs were sold over-the-counter as nasal decongestants and weight control pills. As many people became addicted to them, the U.S. government classified methamphetamine, dextroamphetamine, and amphetamine as a Schedule 2 drugs, available only by prescription that cannot be refilled.
Amphetamines have an energizing effect. People who do not need the drug often feel "high," euphoric, powerful, self-confident, and happy when they take it, and then they experience a "crash" when the drug wears off. Many who use it illegally have undiagnosed depression or anxiety disorders and are self-medicating with these drugs.
Amphetamines are also used as "performance drugs." Some athletes, actors and dancers use them before a big game or before going on stage. Some politicians take them while campaigning or before a big speech, and many fashion models abuse them for weight control. Since amphetamines increase the ability to concentrate and make it easier to go without sleep, college students abuse them during finals week.
Side effects of amphetamines can be nervousness, restlessness, headache, dry mouth, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body, and problems such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and loss of appetite. Amphetamines have caused sudden death in people, especially children, who have heart problems or allergies. Other symptoms of a serious reaction to these drugs might include difficulty breathing, hallucinations, rashes, seizures, weakness in arms or legs, blurred vision, chest pain, shortness of breath, and mania.
However, the biggest danger of using amphetamines without medical supervision is addiction. The well-known doctor Andrew Weil once said, "Amphetamines should not be used by the neurotic, the depressed or fat people." The reason is that these are the groups that tend to become addicted to them. Most amphetamine addicts abuse other substances too, usually alcohol, cocaine, and sleeping pills. Long-term use of these drugs leads to health problems such as emaciation, rotting teeth, compulsive itching, and impaired ability to feel pleasure.
During chemical withdrawal from amphetamines, the person may have symptoms such as depression, fatigue, insomnia, delusions, hallucinations, irritability, loss of interest in daily life, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. Although amphetamine addiction has the reputation of being the hardest of all to overcome, recovery rates are actually similar to those of other drugs. Most abusers will need support through 12-step groups, psychotherapy, medically supervised detoxification, and even residential treatment.