Diseases & Conditions

Amphetamine Addiction


Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Amphetamines are powerful stimulants that are highly addictive. Habitual, repeated use of amphetamines results in amphetamine addiction.

What is going on in the body?

Amphetamines excite the central nervous system. They cause an overall sense of well-being for 6 to 8 hours. This period is followed by agitation that can cause violent behavior. Repeated use increases an individual's tolerance to the drug. As tolerance builds, more of the drug is needed to achieve a desired effect by the user. Classic signs of addiction are present with amphetamine use. When the drug is stopped, withdrawal symptoms appear.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Risk factors for amphetamine addiction include the following:

  • being 12 to 25 years of age
  • frequent exposure to situations that encourage drug abuse
  • parental dependence on a mood-altering substance
  • peer pressure

  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    Someone who is under the influence of amphetamines may show the following symptoms:

  • decreased appetite
  • decreased fatigue
  • euphoria
  • hyperthermia, or increased body temperature
  • increased activity and attention
  • increased breathing rate
  • A dependent individual may have the following symptoms:

  • decreased appetite and weight loss
  • disregard for consequences of negative behaviors
  • feelings of isolation
  • feelings of well-being
  • hallucinations
  • irritability and mood swings
  • legal problems
  • paranoia
  • ravenous appetite
  • recurrent failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • sleep disorders
  • use of amphetamines when it is dangerous, such as while driving
  • Someone who is addicted to amphetamines may show the symptoms of dependence, as well as these additional symptoms:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • excessive sweating
  • headache
  • lethargy and fatigue
  • muscle and stomach cramps
  • tremors

  • Diagnosis & Tests

    How is the condition diagnosed?

    Diagnosis of amphetamine addiction begins with a medical history and physical exam. A urinalysis or blood tests will show if a person has used drugs.


    Prevention & Expectations

    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.

    What are the long-term effects of the condition?

    Amphetamine abuse causes long-term changes in the brain that interfere with memory and coordination. People who abuse amphetamines increase their risk of stroke. Other long-term effects of amphetamine abuse include:

  • being out of touch with reality
  • depression, leading to a high risk for suicide
  • exposure to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS
  • heart problems
  • hepatitis B and C from contaminated equipment
  • lead poisoning, from contaminants in the drug
  • malnutrition as a result of low food intake
  • paranoia
  • psychotic disorders
  • violent behavior
  • What are the risks to others?

    Amphetamine use reduces judgment and impulse control. An abuser puts others at risk for accidents and emotional injury. Amphetamine use during pregnancy can cause complications before, during, and after delivery. A child born to a woman who is abusing amphetamines can have developmental problems.


    Treatment & Monitoring

    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. Treatment options include the following:

  • anxiety \ \ depression \ \eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia \ \ alcohol and drug abuse problems\ ',CAPTION,'Cognitive Behavioral Therapy');" onmouseout="return nd();">cognitive behavioral therapy to help the individual change attitudes and behaviors around drug abuse
  • recovery programs to teach coping skills and life-management strategies
  • self-help groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous
  • There is no medication to treat amphetamine addiction. Abstinence from amphetamines is the 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 counseling or self-help groups.

    How is the condition monitored?

    The condition is monitored by the addicted person, significant others, and healthcare providers. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


    Attribution

    Author:Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
    Date Written:
    Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
    Edit Date:04/30/01
    Reviewer:Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed:08/20/01