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amphetamine addiction

Alternative Names 
speed, crank, uppers, meth, white cross

Habitual, repeated use of amphetamines results in amphetamine addiction. Repeated use causes increased tolerance to the drug. As tolerance builds, more of the drug is needed to achieve a desired effect by the user.

What is going on in the body? 
Amphetamines excite the central nervous system and cause an increase in blood pressure and pulse rate. Amphetamines are somewhat less addictive than cocaine, but with use, tolerance grows. Classic signs of addiction are present with amphetamine use. When the drug is stopped, withdrawal symptoms appear.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
A dependent individual will show the signs and symptoms of amphetamine abuse. They may have any of the following long-term symptoms:
  • recurrent failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • use of amphetamines when it is dangerous, such as while driving
  • legal problems
  • disregard for consequences of negative behaviours
Short-term symptoms can include:
  • decreased appetite and weight loss or insatiable or ravenous hunger
  • irritability and mood swings
  • trouble sleeping
  • hallucinations
  • paranoia
  • feelings of well-being
  • feelings of isolation
Symptoms of amphetamine addiction include:
  • depression, anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, paranoia, euphoria and hallucinations
  • tremors, headache, sweating
  • lethargy and fatigue
  • muscle and stomach cramps
  • a great deal of time spent obtaining amphetamines
  • neglect of normal daily activities
What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
Amphetamine abuse may be caused by several factors. These are:
  • frequent exposure to situations that encourage drug abuse
  • peer pressure
  • age, 12 to 25-year-olds are the most frequent users of amphetamines
  • parental dependence on a mood-altering substance
What can be done to prevent the condition? 
Education for those at risk is key. This should start during childhood. This way, healthy attitudes and knowledge of the risks can be learned at an early age. Parents who do not tolerate drug use can be a deterrent.

How is the condition diagnosed? 
Most amphetamine abuse is not identified by doctors. Urine blood screen or blood tests will show if a person has used drugs.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
The long-term effects of amphetamine abuse include:
  • paranoia and being out of touch with reality
  • poor nutrition as a result of low food intake
  • cardiac problems
  • depression, leading to a high risk for suicide
  • development of a psychotic disorder
  • significant insomnia
What are the risks to others? 
Amphetamine abuse reduces impulse and motor control, and impairs judgment. Because of these , an abuser may put others at risk for accidents and emotional injury. Severe hypertensive crises have been reported with permanent risk to the brain as a direct result of amphetamine use.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
Treatment begins by helping the person admit there is a problem. Overcoming an individual's denial of his or her amphetamine addiction is the first step. Recovery programs are helpful and teach coping skills and life management strategies. Self-help groups such as Narcotics Anonymous are strongly encouraged, since these programs have helped thousands to remain drug free. Abstinence from the drug is key to a cure.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
There are no side effects to the treatment.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
Those who complete treatment often continue with counselling or self-help groups.
  • The regional website for Narcotics Anonymous is www.naoz.org.au
How is the condition monitored? 
The condition is monitored by the addicted person, family, counsellor and doctor.

Author: Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
Reviewer: eknowhow Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 12/09/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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