Signs of Amphetamine Use

One of the fastest growing substance abuse problems in the United States is use of amphetamines, predominantly, those prescribed to treat attentions deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Amphetamines are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants that increase focus, energy, and attention, while suppressing appetite and fatigue. Therapeutic doses are prescribed to be taken orally and in dosage amounts that are not meant to induce euphoria the way other stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine do, but, thousands of individuals use amphetamines for that very same purpose.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “The reasons for the high prevalence of prescription drug abuse vary by age, gender, and other factors, but likely include greater availability.” In a special report by the DEA, the number of amphetamines prescribed over a four year period, between 2007 and 2011 increased 39%, from 34.8 million in 2007 to 48.4 million in 2011.

With increased availability and access to these drugs, knowing the signs of amphetamine use can help lessen the consequences that have gotten steadily worse as reflected in the relative increases in amphetamine treatment admissions, overdoses, and emergency room visits.

Adverse Physical Signs of Amphetamine Use

Amphetamines stimulate nerve cells throughout the brain and body and affect the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS) for hours at a time. The disruptions in nerve cell communications that help to regulate cardiovascular functions and temperature are primary causes of amphetamine overdose even in small amounts. With repeat doses, these systems can begin to break down and function abnormally causing many chronic neurological impairments that result in serious or permanently disabling, and possibly, fatal health consequences.

The most commonly recognized adverse physical signs of amphetamine use are:

amphetamine abuse signs

One sign of amphetamine abuse is insomnia or unusual sleep patterns.

  • Tremors or shakiness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurred vision
  • Hearing loss
  • Hyperthermia or heat intolerance brought on by exertion
  • Inability to regulate body temperature including excessive sweating or inability to sweat when needed
  • Excessive thirst or dehydration
  • Urinary problems including infections or incontinence
  • Exhaustion, fatigue, or weakness
  • Insomnia or unusual sleep patterns
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting often associated with hypotension or abnormally low blood pressure upon standing
  • Cardiovascular problems including rapid pulse or fast and pounding heart rate, arrhythmias, and blood pressure fluctuations
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing, shortness of breath, or irregular breathing
  • Muscle weakness or pains
  • Headache
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Coordination loss
  • Overdose

Adverse Psychological Signs of Amphetamine Use

Amphetamines can be used to enhance mental clarity, increasing alertness and awareness, elevating pleasure, euphoria, moods, sociability, and senses of empowerment. The effects are varied in individuals with some experiencing signs of:

  • Anxiety, panic, fear
  • Confusion
  • Excited delirium or schizophrenic like behaviors
  • Violent or aggressive behaviors
  • Mood swings
  • Cognitive impairments, inability to focus, and loss of inhibitions, or reasonable judgments

One of the most dangerous and problematic signs of amphetamine use is amphetamine psychosis. According to the DEA, “Chronic abuse produces a psychosis that resembles schizophrenia and is characterized by: Paranoia, picking at the skin, preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, and auditory and visual hallucinations.”

Unfortunately, the adverse signs of amphetamine use are not limited to the intoxication state or the time period that immediately follows. Withdrawals from amphetamines usually involve serious emotional instabilities that may include severe depression, irritation, suicidal ideations, and decreased cognitive and motor skills. For some, these adverse psychological signs of amphetamine use are persistent and the person can lose their self identity in the madness.

Chronic Signs of Amphetamine Use

With repeat doses of amphetamines, many of the body’s systems can begin to break down and function abnormally causing chronic physical and psychological impairments that result in serious or permanently disabling, and possibly, fatal health consequences. Poor diet, sleep habits, and the many dangerous behaviors associated with chronic amphetamine users, adds to the risk of these potentials including:

  • Addiction
  • Malnutrition or extreme weight loss
  • Vitamin deficiencies that can lead to diseases and organ malfunctions or impairments
  • Kidney and bladder diseases or failure (bladder disease is
  • Cardiovascular and circulatory problems including diseases, heart attack, stroke, seizures, and infections
  • Pulmonary diseases and infections
  • Bacterial infections or communicable diseases from IV use or sharing paraphernalia with others
  • Circulatory problems and blood vessel deteriorations can
  • Neurological problems such as nerve desensitization or increased susceptibility to pain
  • Emotional instabilities
  • Anxiety or panic disorders
  • Psychosis and persistent psychological disorders
  • Cognition and memory impairments
  • Impaired motor skills including coordination, movement

Dangerous Behavioral Signs of Amphetamine Use

Users may begin using amphetamines occasionally and out of curiosity, but, tolerance develops with every use and dependence potentials run high causing them to frequently, engage in dangerous behaviors that may include:

  • Binging on the amphetamines for days at a time.
  • Taking high doses or frequently
  • Taking amphetamines in ways other than prescribed or for reasons other than prescribed
  • Ingesting amphetamines via alternative routes of administration such as by snorting or injecting
  • Using amphetamine with other substances
  • Using amphetamines despite co-existing health problems or the exacerbation of health problems
  • Committing immoral, illegal, or unwanted acts to maintain their habit