Dextroamphetamine exists as one of two active ingredients in most all prescription amphetamine drugs. The combination of dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine in varying amounts accounts for the handful of prescription amphetamines currently in use.
Typically prescribed to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, some of the more commonly used dextroamphetamine-based drugs include:
According to the University of Maryland, dextroamphetamine belongs to the Schedule II class of controlled substances, which makes for a high abuse and addiction potential. The potential for dextroamphetamine abuse greatly increases when taking this drug for recreational purposes or when exceeding prescribed dosage schedules.
The dangers of dextroamphetamine abuse become more so apparent with long-term use, though this drug’s damaging effects take root during the early stages of drug use. Dextroamphetamine continues to warp brain, body and central nervous system functions to the point where a person’s health and psychological well-being start to deteriorate over time. With continued use, dextroamphetamine abuse will inevitably lead to addiction.
Dextroamphetamine’s Abuse Potential
Dextroamphetamine acts as a central nervous system stimulant, speeding up brain chemical processes, which in turn speeds up most every major system in the body. These effects take a tremendous toll on brain cell functions as well as on the body in general.
Brain cells produce the neurotransmitter chemicals that for the most part regulate brain and central nervous system functions. This excessive toll placed on brain cells causes considerable structural damage to develop.
Dextroamphetamine comes in tablet form to be taken orally according to a prescribed schedule. While exceeding prescription directives carries a considerable risk for dextroamphetamine abuse, methods of abuse work to intensify the drug’s effects.
The most common methods of abuse involve crushing up tablets into powder form and smoking, snorting or injecting the drug as a solution. These practices greatly increase dextroamphetamine’s abuse potential.
In powder form, a person feels the effects of the drug much sooner than when taken in pill form. Dextroamphetamine effects include:
- Increased alertness
- Increased concentration
- Increased energy levels
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Increased breathing rates
In general, drugs that produce near immediate effects carry a higher abuse potential than those producing slower effects. Dextroamphetamine abuse practices not only enhance the drug’s effects but also speed up the rate at which abuse takes place.
The ongoing damage done to brain cell structures makes cells less responsive to dextroamphetamine’s effects. When this happens, users must increase dosage amounts in order to experience the same “high” effect.
As a result, the brain’s tolerance level for dextroamphetamine can increase at an extremely fast rate. With rising tolerance levels comes additional brain cell damage, which in turn drives increased dosage amounts.
Before long, this vicious cycle drives users to engage in bingeing behaviors where large doses of the drug are taken in rapid succession. This practice, in and of itself, can induce any number of serious conditions, some of which include:
- Cardiac arrest
- Violent behaviors
- Psychotic episodes
Ultimately, bingeing practices cause widespread brain cell deterioration. This form of dextroamphetamine abuse also damages most every bodily system in terms of the wear and tear the body undergoes when under the influence.
Anger & Aggression
The damaging effects of dextroamphetamine abuse on brain function in general inevitably affect the areas of the brain that regulates emotional responses, also known as the limbic system. Much like a person feels “fried” after drinking 20 cups of espresso, dextroamphetamine abuse “fries” the neural pathways throughout the brain. Feelings of rage, anger and aggression can happen on an increasingly frequent basis as the drug wears away at essential brain chemical processes.
According to the Center for Research on Globalization, prescription-based amphetamines were once given to soldiers in combat in an effort to enhance feelings of rage, aggression and murderous intent. In spite of dextroamphetamine’s intended medicinal purpose, this inherent potential for inciting anger and aggression-based tendencies can pose real harm to the user as well as to others.
Frontal Lobe Syndrome
The effects of dextroamphetamine abuse can easily be compared to those produced by cocaine. Like cocaine, dextroamphetamine causes extensive damage within the frontal lobe region of the brain. The frontal lobe regulates cognitive functions, some of which include:
- The ability to feel empathy for others
A condition known as frontal lobe syndrome may well develop as brain cells deteriorate from continued dextroamphetamine abuse. Frontal lobe syndrome can also compromise a person’s health status to the point where serious medical conditions start to develop. Signs of frontal lobe syndrome include:
- Unusual risk-taking behaviors
- Depression symptoms
- Anxiety disorder symptoms
- Psychotic-like behavior
- Heart disease
Chronic dextroamphetamine abuse essentially reconfigures brain chemical pathways to the point where widespread cognitive dysfunction creates the perfect conditions for psychosis-based disorders to take root. In this state, addicts experience frequent and sometimes continuous breaks from reality.
Also known as amphetamine psychosis, the psychosis brought on by dextroamphetamine abuse can persist for more than 10 days after the drug clears a person’s system, according to the University of Arizona. Psychotic symptoms will also likely re-emerge in cases where a person resumes dextroamphetamine abuse practices. For some people, stressful situations can also trigger a psychotic relapse when a person has experienced past episodes of amphetamine psychosis.
Considering the impact dextroamphetamine has on overall brain and central nervous system function, chronic dextroamphetamine abuse can cause any number of long-term effects to develop over time.
Long-term effects commonly associated with chronic drug abuse practices include:
- Skin problems
- Respiratory problems
- Pale or flushed skin appearance
- Dizzy spells
- Racing heartbeat
- Severe mood swings
- Heart arrhythmias
- Loss of coordination and movement abilities
- Vitamin deficiencies
Prolonged dextroamphetamine abuse will inevitably lead to addiction as the drug alters brain and central nervous system functions over time. The dangers inherent in addiction have more to do with how dextroamphetamine affects a person’s belief systems and motivations.
As the brain becomes physically dependent on dextroamphetamine effects, brain cells lose their ability to function in the absence of the drug. Once the brain’s cognitive centers reach this point, users come to believe the drug to be an essential part of their daily existence. When this happens, a person will devote his or her entire life to getting and using the drug.