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How Amphetamine Abuse Leads to Addiction

Addictive drugs in general exert their effects by interfering with brain and central nervous system chemical processes. Some drugs have a “slowing” effect, while others work to speed up bodily processes. Amphetamines speed up or stimulate chemical processes in the brain and central nervous system.

Amphetamine drugs come in prescription as well as illegal forms. Some of the more commonly known amphetamines include:

  • Ritalin
  • Crystal meth
  • Strattera
  • Ephedra

Whether legal or not, these drugs produce the same effects, especially when a person engages in amphetamine abuse practices.

Over time, amphetamine abuse takes a toll on the body’s chemical processes making brain and central nervous system functions more dependent on the drug’s effects. After a certain point, addiction takes hold as amphetamine abuse effects take over the brain’s ability to regulate cognitive processes.

Brain Tolerance Processes

amphetamines

It is important to understand how addiction can develop from taking amphetamines.

Brain tolerance processes play a pivotal role in the addiction processes. Amphetamines stimulate norepinephrine and dopamine chemical production in the brain. These chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters help regulate any number of psychological and physical processes. Amphetamines target the brain cell receptor sites that secrete these chemicals.

With continued use, receptor sites lose their ability to secrete needed neurotransmitter chemicals. In effect, these sites become over-stimulated which works to weaken their overall functional capacity, according to Semel Institute. As a result, more of the drug is needed in order for cell sites to operate normally.

This cycle continues for as long as a person engages in amphetamine abuse. Meanwhile, brain cell structures undergo considerable damage making it all the more difficult to control drug intake amounts.

Physical Dependence

According to the University of Maryland, ongoing amphetamine abuse will eventually place the brain and body in a drug dependent state. As tolerance levels continue to rise, brain functions become increasingly dependent on amphetamine effects.

After so many weeks or months of amphetamine abuse, the brain reaches the point where only large quantities of amphetamines will produce the desired “high” effect. Large quantities are also needed in order for brain cell functions to secrete needed neurotransmitter chemicals.

At this point, users enter a “binge and crash” cycle. Bingeing entails consuming large quantities of amphetamines within a short time period. Once the drug’s effects wear off, users “crash” meaning they sleep for days on end only to wake up craving more of the drug. This level of amphetamine abuse can cause permanent brain damage to develop.

Addiction

Amphetamine abuse creates a progressive state of chemical imbalance throughout the brain and central nervous system. Even slight chemical imbalances can offset any number of essential brain functions. With long-term drug use, a person’s entire psychological make-up becomes affected.

Chemical imbalances disrupt the brain’s cognitive and emotional processes and also “rewires” the brain’s reward system, which dictates a person’s motivations and drives. These combined effects take the form of destructive behavior patterns that gradually impair a person’s ability to meet daily obligations and responsibilities.

Over time, users will start to neglect work and family responsibilities in favor of obtaining and using amphetamines. At this point, addiction is working at full force.

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