Amphetamine is a totally synthetic drug that made its debut in the 1930’s to treat nasal congestion and later, conditions of asthma and low blood pressure. Its ability to increase heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and suppress appetite was just the beginning of amphetamine uses in medicine. It was its effects on mental health that led to its many uses in the treatment of other disorders, including energy and sleep problems, epilepsy, migraines, depression, and hyperactivity in children.
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According to the SAMHSA,” After the introduction of amphetamine, other more potent forms were developed and made readily available to the public. These new forms included dextroamphetamine sulfate (Dexedrine) and methamphetamine (Methedrine).” Although advancements in neuroscience and the increasing effects that amphetamine could have on the person’s overall health, including addiction, were far from being understood until recently, amphetamine now has limited legitimate uses.
Amphetamine and amphetamine containing compounds are mainly used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for which the benefits outweigh the costs as long as the medications are used strictly for the prescribed therapeutic purposes.
More rarely, amphetamines may be used to treat narcolepsy, obesity, or certain conditions that do not respond well to more currently acceptable medications. The side effects and cost to society are becoming more concerning as abuse, addictions, diversions, and illegal manufacturing of amphetamine drugs continues to rise in epidemic proportions.
Collectively, amphetamine and derivatives of amphetamine including dextroamphetamine, levoamphetamine, and methamphetamine are controlled substances under the CSA according to the DEA “based upon the substance’s medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability.” Most are classified as “Schedule II stimulants, which means that they have a high potential for abuse and limited medical uses. Pharmaceutical products are available only through a prescription that cannot be refilled.”
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Methamphetamine is a toxic and powerful amphetamine, for the most part, it is an illegal drug made in secret labs with unpredictable precursors and other poisonous chemicals used for a powerful high sometimes more intense than crack cocaine and lasting longer.
Meth is almost never prescribed because of the high-risk vulnerability in its use and according to the DEA, “Today there is only one legal meth product, Desoxyn®. It is currently marketed in 5-milligram tablets and has very limited use in the treatment of obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”
The precursor chemicals used to make meth have also been placed under the DEA’s control. As a result of increased awareness regarding meth, according to SAMHSA, “focus increased efforts toward the personal and societal effects of this drug.”
Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that speed up systems in the body and increase the levels of dopamine in the brain which is a natural neurotransmitter associated with pleasure, attention, and movement.
For attention deficit disorders, amphetamine medications help to increase focus and attention spans and the increased levels of dopamine helps to balance their brain functions the way most people do naturally, slowly, and gradually. According to the NIDA, “Prescription stimulants have a calming and “focusing” effect on individuals with ADHD.”
When dopamine levels are elevated in others, they feel added senses of satisfaction and pleasure and at abnormally higher rates, euphoria. Most amphetamines are abused for this purpose and for their abilities to enhance mood, cognition, or performance.
According to the DEA, “While legal pharmaceuticals placed under control in the CSA are prescribed and used by patients for medical treatment, the use of these same pharmaceuticals outside the scope of sound medical practice is drug abuse.” Amphetamine abuse can be considered whenever someone uses amphetamine for purposes other prescribed by whom they were not intended, or in ways other than intended.
Higher doses are required to feel the desired effects as tolerance builds from repeat use and since abusers tend to crush and snort ADHD pills this can happen quickly. Unfortunately, any amphetamine abuse can lead to long bouts or binges on the drugs, combining other substances for enhancement effects, or use via more rapid delivery methods such as intravenous use.
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Amphetamine addiction is a result of adaptations that take place in the person’s brain and other physiological processes. Abnormal increases in brain dopamine disrupts normal communication between brain cells and the repeat of these abnormal increases reduces the person’s natural ability to produce dopamine on their own which makes them feel down and out whenever they don’t have the drug. Cravings are a result and their power often supersedes any other stimuli that may deter continued use.
Without the amphetamine, a person who has become physically or psychologically dependent on amphetamine will experience withdrawals including severe depression and dysphoria, physical ailments, intense cravings, fatigue, lack of motivation, and insomnia. A most concerning symptom of amphetamine withdrawal is suicide and a person who is isolated and depressed only adds to the concern.
Combined with the positive reinforcements of the effects one gets from the amphetamine use and the negative forces of withdrawal for which they continue use in order to avoid, addiction becomes the stronghold in the person’s life despite any consequences of use. The changes in their behaviors take on a more negative role and gradually, it becomes more difficult for them to contemplate their life without use of the amphetamine.
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