It doesn’t take long before occasional amphetamine use turns into a pattern of drug-using behavior that spins out of control. Amphetamines, some of the most powerful stimulant-based drugs in existence, include medications like Adderall, Strattera and Ritalin. While these medications do work well as treatments for conditions involving ADHD and narcolepsy, they can cause considerable disruption within the brain’s chemical system when used for recreational purposes.
Amphetamine withdrawal episodes develop out of the harmful effects of these drugs on the brain and body. Over time, amphetamine withdrawal plays an active role in perpetuating the process of addiction. In the absence of needed treatment help, amphetamine users stand to experience ongoing decline in physical and psychological health.
Amphetamine Mechanism of Action
The allure of amphetamine abuse derives from their ability to produce feelings of elation, enhanced focus and concentration as well as surges in energy level. According to the University of Maryland, these effects stem from a release of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain, such as noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. Unless a person has an already existing chemical imbalance, such as those associated with ADHD and narcolepsy, amphetamine effects can cause widespread chemical imbalances throughout the brain and body.
- Serotonin (also referred to as 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT)
- Norepinephrine (also referred to as Noradrenaline)
Effects of Amphetamine Withdrawal
With repeated drug use, the brain’s chemical system becomes dependent on amphetamine effects to function normally. Once physical dependency takes hold, amphetamine withdrawal symptoms start to appear when needed amounts of the drug are lacking. Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms may take the form of:
- Inability to sleep
- Emotional volatility
Under these conditions, the urge to keep using the drug increases all the more if only to gain relief from amphetamine withdrawal effects.
Increased Tolerance Levels
Normally, the brain releases neurotransmitter chemicals on an as-needed basis. When abused regularly, amphetamines place undo strain on the cells that produce these chemicals.
Over time, cells become damaged, which makes them less responsive to the drug’s effects. When this happens, the brain’s tolerance for amphetamines has increased. Subsequently, users must ingest increasingly larger amounts of the drug to experience a “high.” Larger dosage amounts are also needed to ward off uncomfortable amphetamine withdrawal effects.
Bingeing entails ingesting multiple doses of amphetamines all at once. By the time a person starts engaging in bingeing behaviors, brain tolerance levels have reached a point where its cells will only respond to incredibly large dosage amounts, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
In effect, bingeing takes amphetamine abuse to a whole new level causing that much more damage to chemical-producing brain cells. In turn, amphetamine withdrawal effects continue to worsen in severity in response to the brain’s inability to regulate the body’s systems.
The combined effects of physical dependence, rising tolerance levels and bingeing practices give free rein to the addiction process as brain chemical imbalances overtake a person’s thinking, emotions and behaviors. This cycle of destruction will continue on indefinitely unless a person seeks out needed treatment help.
If you or some you know struggles with amphetamine abuse and have more questions about drug abuse and addiction, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-768-8728(Who Answers?) for more information. Our phone counselors can also help connect you with treatment programs in your area.