Catching the Signs and Symptoms of an Amphetamine Addiction
Amphetamines—commonly referred to as “speed” on the street—are synthetically produced stimulant drugs that are commonly used to treat adults and children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The following are examples of commonly prescribed amphetamine medications:
• Adderall (amphetamine)
• Ritalin (methylphenidate)
• Concerta (methylphenidate)
• Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
• Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
• Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate).
For individuals who genuinely have ADHD, the stimulant medication helps key areas of their brains function at a higher intensity, making it easier to think and behave in a normal, productive manner. In non-ADHD brains, however, this boosting effect can create an intense, energetic high.
If a person’s diagnosis is accurate and the dose is appropriate, the risk of addiction to amphetamine medicines is practically zero. If the diagnosis is off or the dosage is too high, however, these powerful stimulants can be highly addictive. This important distinction is part of the reason doctors should perform significant cognitive testing before officially diagnosing a patient with ADHD.
Amphetamine misuse often stems from a desire for super-human productivity or a greater sense of control. Illicit use has long been a problem on college campuses, where students abuse the drugs to fuel late-night cram sessions and keep up with overly ambitious academic goals. For others, the high of amphetamines might simply offer a comforting false sense of having it all together. Whatever the case, amphetamine addiction can come on very quickly and hit just as hard.
How do you know if a friend or loved one suffers from an addiction to amphetamines? You may want to speak with a substance abuse counselor or mental health professional if you notice the following telltale speed symptoms.
Major Signs of Amphetamine Abuse
Amphetamine drugs can have profound effects on the central nervous system and other areas of the body. Here are some of the biggest red flags to watch for if you’re concerned about amphetamine addiction in a loved one.
The Appearance of Physical Symptoms
As with any addiction, amphetamine abuse will often lead to the eventual deterioration of the individual’s physical health. Although amphetamines don’t necessarily have the kind of visible effect on a person’s appearance as other illicit drugs do, those closest to them may be able to recognize subtle changes.
Be wary if you start to notice amphetamine abuse symptoms like these:
• High blood pressure
• High body temperature
• Dry mouth
• New, unexplained acne
• Rapid breathing and/or heart rate
• Dilated pupils
• Recurring insomnia
• Reduced appetite and/or weight loss
• Increased energy (able to stay up later, work out longer, etc.)
Unusual Behavioral Changes
The most notable amphetamine symptoms are behavioral in nature. In addition to intense focus and a drastic increase in energy, you’ll likely notice an overall “high” affect and a variety of other unusual, out-of-character traits.
You may notice changes things like these, for example:
• Increased aggression, irritability
• Paranoia and anxiety
• Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
• Sudden mood swings
• Increases in impulsivity and risk-taking
o Changes in sexual behavior
o Spending more money; making major purchases on a whim
o Disregard for safety, participating in more dangerous activities than usual
o Overconfidence; acting like they are “bulletproof”
If your loved one says that they are taking amphetamines to treat ADHD as prescribed by their doctor, think critically about their claims. A person who starts treatment for ADHD may very well exhibit significant behavioral changes, but those changes should only bring them up to a normal level of activity, not make them seem manic or high.
If you are able to confirm that your loved has a legitimate prescription but their symptoms still cause you concern, you may want to encourage them to revisit their dosage or diagnosis with their doctor(s).
As the drug demands more and more of their time, addicts struggle to keep up with routines that used to be a normal part of their day. As they seek the company of other addicted persons, they alienate themselves from positive relationships. As the drug changes their brain chemistry and affects their cognitive abilities, they find it more difficult to carry out basic tasks and remember their obligations.
If your loved one starts having troubles at work, forgetting important events and appointments, missing bill payments, or making less and less effort to care for themselves or their family, these could be warning signs of amphetamine addiction.
All physically addictive drugs eventually give rise to withdrawal symptoms when use of the drug is discontinued. When the body is no longer receiving the amphetamine dosage it has become accustomed to over time, its systems—especially the central nervous system—struggle to function normally. The results can be distressing for both the addicted person and their loved ones and, in some cases, can even be life-threatening.
Due to the intense discomfort and risk of harm to oneself and others, it’s important to seek medically monitored detox in a safe, professional environment. If necessary, doctors may even prescribe temporary medications to help ease severe symptoms.
Amphetamine withdrawal may manifest as symptoms like the following:
• Strong cravings
• Violent behavior
• Increased need for sleep
• Panic attacks
• Suicidal thoughts
The Dangers of Amphetamine Abuse: Long-Term Health Effects
Amphetamines can cause serious chronic mental and physical health problems if used over a long period of time. In some cases, long-term abuse can lead to life-threatening diseases and/or debilitating mental illness.
Some of the more serious amphetamine abuse side effects include:
• Muscle deterioration
• Cardiovascular disease
• Severe paranoia
• Cognitive difficulties
The effects of stimulant abuse on the heart should not be underestimated; years of over-working the heart muscle can leave even an otherwise robust and healthy person with terrible cardiovascular function. A person who is or has been addicted to amphetamine drugs has a significantly higher risk of heart attack than normal. Even after recovery from addiction, any damage that’s been done to the heart cannot be easily corrected.
Get Compassionate Help from the Experts at Yellowstone Recovery
Breaking the cycle of addiction requires professional help, strong support networks, the safety of a sober living environment, and the structure of comprehensive drug treatment options. At Yellowstone Recovery, we provide everything recovering addicts need to regain their independence. Contact us to learn how we can help you or your loved ones lay the foundations for lifelong sobriety.
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