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What is Amphetamine?

Amphetamine is a synthetic stimulant. The central nervous system is affected by speeding up chemical messages between the brain and the body. It also works as an appetite suppressant. Amphetamines are used to treat several issues, including but not limited to

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Narcolepsy (involuntary sleeping)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

When used correctly, addiction is less likely. However, amphetamines can become habit-forming and cause significant physical and mental health issues. Use this medicine exactly as prescribed and stay in contact with your current medical provider.

Administering amphetamines

Most prescribed amphetamines come in pill form. The majority are swallowed with water, but some come as quick-dissolve tablets. Since amphetamines may be prescribed for children or people with motor issues, oral liquid suspensions are also available. Injected amphetamines are sometimes used in medical emergency situations.

Forms of illegal amphetamine

Illegal amphetamines may be sold in pill form but may be crushed. Powdered amphetamines are typically inhaled through the nose or mixed with water and injected into the bloodstream. The powder is usually light colored or white and may have a crystalline appearance. It may also have a gray, pink, yellow or brown tint.

Street amphetamines are often mixed with other substances to increase profits and the effects of the drug. Baby formula, laxatives, caffeine, aspirin, and glucose are some of the substances used to dilute amphetamine for illicit sale.

Amphetamine generic and brand names

Amphetamines are prescribed under the following generic names: dextroamphetamine, levoamphetamine, and lisdexamfetamine. Some brand names for this drug include Adderall or Adderall XR (extended release), Dexedrine, Concerta, Focalin, Ritalin, and Vyvanse. This is not a complete list.

How amphetamines work

When a patient uses amphetamine, the brain releases two neurotransmitters: dopamine and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that carry information between the brain and body.

Dopamine is a feel-good chemical associated with rewards and pleasurable feelings. It plays a role in sleep, learning, attention, and memory.

Norepinephrine is a stress hormone. It is responsible for increasing the body’s “fight or flight” mechanisms, including increased blood flow to the muscles, a raised heart rate, and higher blood glucose levels. It increases alertness and speeds up reaction times.

Effect on the brain

Under normal circumstances, the brain reabsorbs neurotransmitters after they deliver their message. Amphetamine prevents this from happening. Dopamine and norepinephrine flood the central nervous system, increasing alertness, mental focus, and concentration. This helps patients who have difficulty focusing or staying awake.

How fast it works

How fast amphetamine works depends on how it is ingested. When a patient takes their medicine by mouth, the onset is gradual, taking 15-20 minutes to reach the full effect. When amphetamines are used illegally, they are often crushed and snorted or injected. Snorted amphetamines reach full potency within 3-5 minutes. When the medicine is injected, its effect is instantaneous.

Side effects of amphetamines

Amphetamines can cause an allergic reaction. Call 911 immediately if you experience hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or swelling of your lips, face, throat or tongue.

Serious side effects

Stop taking amphetamine and call your current medical provider if you experience any of these serious side effects:

  • Symptoms of heart trouble, including chest pain or lightheadedness
  • Rapid heartbeat or breathing
  • Symptoms of amphetamine psychosis, including hallucinations, paranoia, confusion, or unusual thoughts
  • Behavior problems like excessive anger or irritability
  • Symptoms of Renaud’s Syndrome, like numbness, tingling, coldness or color changes in your toes or fingers
  • Vision changes
  • Unexplained muscle weakness or pain, especially when accompanied by fever, fatigue, and dark urine

Children who take amphetamines may experience stunted growth. In studies, children who stopped taking this medicine before age 13 resumed growing. The child may experience a growth spurt soon after discontinuing the medication.

Common side effects

A few common side effects include

  • Stomach issues, including pain, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
  • Other digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in mood, restlessness or insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Runny nose or nosebleeds
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Itching

Mild side effects are not usually of concern, but you can talk to an Expert to get more information. If you are experiencing moderate to severe side effects, contact your current healthcare provider.

Experiencing amphetamines

Initially, amphetamine users experience several positive side effects that last 4 - 8 hours. These include a sense of well-being and improved focus. They may also feel more productive or talkative, and be more at ease in social situations. Appetite decreases, and the patient may feel warm due to increased blood flow. Amphetamines can also increase sex drive.

These effects counterbalance issues that patients experience. For example, amphetamines may help an obese person avoid overeating and feel less self-conscious. Parkinson’s patients benefit from the increased neurological connection and may have more control over tremors. Patients who have narcolepsy or chronic fatigue issues are more alert and have fewer instances of uncontrolled drowsiness or fatigue.

Winding down

When the dose is wearing off, the patient may feel like they are slowing down. Heart rate and respiration slow, and the patient may feel tired or sluggish. With controlled, legal usage, these symptoms are mild and are usually not cause for concern. It is a good idea to take prescribed amphetamines early in the day to avoid insomnia.

Abusing amphetamines

When amphetamines are abused, both the positive and negative effects are intensified. Users may stay awake for days on end. They may experience euphoria and have difficulty controlling repetitive behaviors like picking or scratching their skin. The user’s pupils will dilate and their heart races.

When the drug wears off, the negative effects are just as intense. The user may sleep for several days and experience intense depression or thoughts of suicide. Drug cravings are not uncommon.

Psychological effects of amphetamine abuse

Abusing amphetamines can also cause intense psychological effects. Users may be overwhelmed by feelings of panic, hallucinate or threaten violence. These are symptoms of amphetamine psychosis. The drug user becomes paranoid, feel incredibly strong or believe they can do things that are physically impossible. For example, they may believe they can lift a car or fly from a tall building.

If you suspect that someone is abusing amphetamines, get help right away. An overdose can result in seizures or death. Stay calm and contact police or emergency medical personnel as soon as possible. 

Testing for amphetamine use

There are two methods for detecting the presence of amphetamines in the body: urine analysis and hair follicle tests. Because the drug does not last long in the body, observing the short- and long-term effects of amphetamine use may be a more effective detection method.

Amphetamine drug tests

Urine analysis is familiar to anyone who has had to take a pre-employment drug test. However, detecting amphetamines in urine is not very reliable. The drug only stays in the body for 24 - 48 hours – a very short window for detection. Hair follicle tests are not much better, although they do extend the detection period to 2 - 5 days after use.

False positives

Several medications can cause false positives when testing for amphetamine abuse. These include over-the-counter cold and sinus medications, certain asthma treatments or nasal sprays, and prescription treatments for ADD or ADHD.

Treating amphetamine addiction

Many people trapped in drug abuse do not start out that way. Over time, amphetamines damage the part of the brain that releases neurotransmitters. In severe cases, the person’s ability to feel emotions or pleasure is nearly gone. Therefore, it takes a higher dose to get the same initial boost from the drug. The likelihood of addiction increases when a person is on a high dose of amphetamine or uses the drug for an extended period. Keep open, honest communication between you and your current doctor to avoid becoming addicted.


Withdrawal can be a difficult process for both the user and their family. Professional support is vital during this time. Prolonged drug abuse causes malnourishment and serious mental side effects. The patient may experience symptoms of amphetamine psychosis, including paranoia, hallucinations or physical pain. If you or a loved one need help to recover from amphetamine addiction, you can talk to an Expert. They can provide advice and recommendations for treatment options and help you decide which course to pursue.

Avoiding Relapses

Drug addicts often relapse because of emotional pain. Painful memories can trigger this response. The person may also experience guilt and shame over the choices they made while they were addicted.

It is vital to identify and deal with the emotional triggers that create drug cravings. As the person learns to separate toxic memories and behaviors from their identity, the drug loses its hold. It may be necessary to change behavior patterns, including separating from friends who do not understand the importance of healthy choices. Focusing on gains rather than relapses can help you say yes to the priorities in your life and avoid returning to drug abuse.

Determining the right course of treatment

Taking the recommended dose your doctor provides lessens the risk of amphetamine addiction. You should not take this medication if you

  • Are pregnant or nursing
  • Have issues with high blood pressure
  • Have an overactive thyroid
  • Have a history of drug or alcohol addiction
  • Have an anxiety disorder.
  • Have heart problems

Tell your current doctor if you have a family history of mental illness, heart disease, seizures, kidney disease or circulatory problems.

Medication interactions

Some medications and over-the-counter substances can cause dangerous interactions with amphetamines. Do not take amphetamines if you have taken a MAO inhibitor within the past 14 days.

Avoid alcoholic beverages while taking this medicine. Some antidepressants can cause high blood pressure, heart failure or stroke when combined with amphetamine.

Using cannabis or benzodiazepines with this medicine can cause an overdose. The body cannot handle the “upper” effect of the amphetamine combined with the “downer” effect of the second substance.

When used correctly, amphetamines help people lose weight, improve concentration, and combat neurological symptoms. However, prolonged use can cause significant health problems. Discuss all pros and cons of amphetamine use with your doctor before beginning this treatment.

If you need help deciding the best course of action for you or a loved one, you can talk to an Expert. They can provide advice and recommendations from the comfort of your home. Customized conversations with an Expert are not a substitute for in-person medical care.

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