As innocent as a cup of coffee may seem, caffeine is a distant cousin to amphetamine-type drugs. Both prescription and street-sourced amphetamines produce the same results. These drugs stimulate the central nervous system to create energy, confidence and self-perceived clarity.
Like any other drug of abuse, causes of amphetamine dependence go hand-in-hand with ongoing use. When obtained through a prescription, following the recommended dosage reduces the likelihood of dependence. Nonetheless, the body can still develop amphetamine dependence, even when taken as prescribed.
Drugs classified as amphetamines fall in three categories: amphetamine, dextroamphetamine and methamphetamine. Of the three, illegal drugs are mostly derived from the methamphetamine category. Prescription drugs, such as Adderall, Dexedrine and Desoxyn may contain varying amounts of amphetamine, methamphetamine and dextroamphetamine.
These drugs are commonly prescribed to treat conditions involving obesity, narcolepsy and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. As central nervous system stimulants, amphetamines work well for treating these conditions.
According to the University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research, amphetamine dependence directly relates to how these drugs affect dopamine neurotransmitter processes in the brain. Amphetamine causes brain receptors to release large amounts of dopamine chemicals while blocking the brain’s reuptake functions. With ongoing amphetamine use, the brain starts to secrete less and less dopamine chemicals. This means amphetamine dependence can develop within a short period of time.
Binge and crash episodes involve consuming large amounts of amphetamines to achieve a desired “high” effect. Effects from an amphetamine high include:
Crash episodes happen when the effects of the drug wear off. Amphetamine dependence develops each time a person takes amphetamines to relieve the symptoms caused by crash episodes. These symptoms come in the form of:
Compared to the euphoric feelings from an amphetamine high, the severe discomfort experienced during crash episodes all but drives a person to use again. Inevitably, long term users enter into a “binge and crash” cycle that worsens the body’s amphetamine dependence. In the process, amphetamine’s effects all but take over brain functions to the point where normal dopamine neurotransmitter functions become incapacitated.
Tolerance levels have to do with the amount of drugs a person requires to bring about the same desired effects. Anyone who uses amphetamines over long periods will notice it takes more and more of the drug to reach the same “high” intensity. This is a clear sign that amphetamine dependence has taken hold. With ongoing use, tolerance levels continue to increase as the brain produces less and less dopamine chemicals on its own.
Increasing tolerance levels also place users at greater risk of overdosing. While amphetamine dependence may mean the body needs the drug to function, at some point a large enough dose will be too much for the brain and body to handle. In effect, increasing tolerance levels and amphetamine dependence form a vicious cycle that drives itself. Without proper treatment, amphetamine dependence can cause significant damage to brain and body functions.