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Amphetamine Abuse: Signs, Symptoms, Risks & Treatment

Blue and white pill capsules

What are Amphetamines?

‘Amphetamines’ is the contracted version of ‘alpha-methylphenethylamine’, the term used for a group of chemically similar central nervous system stimulants most often used to help people stay more alert, awake for longer or to boost their energy. On the street, they are more commonly known as speed, base, whizz among other names.

Amphetamines have been available since the late 19th century and have been used to treat a wide range of symptoms over time, including nasal congestion. To this day they are still used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, obesity and other issues.

Outside of it’s officially prescribed use, amphetamine is sometimes used as a performance-enhancing drug or cognitive enhancer and is also recreationally used for its feelings of euphoria and/or aphrodisiac qualities.

While some amphetamines are available medically on prescription, they are also a controlled substance in the UK due to their extremely addictive nature. Amphetamines bought illegally on the street are typically manufactured illegally too, and are not necessarily the same product as the forms of amphetamine available through the NHS.

Amphetamines work by increasing the monoamine and excitatory neurotransmission in the brain, having a major effect on dopamine neurotransmitter systems.

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Types of Amphetamines


Benzedrine was the first-ever amphetamine available as a pharmaceutical drug. Made up of levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine, it became a controlled substance in 1959 and has been one of the most commonly found black market drugs ever since.

Like Adderall and Dexedrine, Benzedrine causes rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, higher overall body temperature, and a general sense of “fight or flight” or enhanced alertness. Benzedrine can cause life-threatening damage to the cardiovascular system due to the stress and heightened level of function caused by the drug.


Adderall is used to treat ADHD. It can cause increased attention spans, improved ability to focus on specific tasks or activities, and improve hyperactivity related behavioural issues.

It is also often prescribed to treat narcolepsy, but should not be used to prevent sleep in those without sleep disorders. Adderall has also been known as a “study drug” due to the improvements in focus and concentration and has been used illegally by students around the world in an attempt to increase academic performance.


Dexedrine is similar to Adderall and Benzedrine, and offers similar effects, side effects and health risks but is usually only prescribed after a person’s symptoms do not respond to Adderall or Ritalin due to its higher potency.

Dexedrine has been used commonly by Special Forces and other military units to combat fatigue in long term engagements.

However, it does have the same recreational uses as the other amphetamines too and is commonly available illegally on the street.


Ephedrine is a key ingredient in methamphetamine but alone isn’t illegal in the UK. It used to treat a wide range of medical issues including breathing trouble, asthma, allergies, congestion and more. Due to its legal status, it is also present in a range of diet, health and weight loss products.


Methamphetamine is a synthetic (man-made) substance that is the most destructive, addictive and neurologically damaging of amphetamines.

In fact, methamphetamine is one of the most dangerous drugs full stop. Part of the reason for this is because it impacts the brain immediately, and causes long term damage to the brain that is often impossible to reverse, even when methamphetamine isn’t used again.

Methamphetamine is highly illegal and extremely dangerous.
If you or somebody you know struggles with methamphetamine use, please contact us to discuss (judgement and obligation-free) what we can do to help.

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Amphetamines Effects

Outside of the intended effects for combating narcolepsy, ADHD and other illnesses, people use amphetamines for a range of illegal purposes. The most common of these is to enhance performance (either in an academic environment, the workplace or for physical sports and activities) or for recreational reasons.

When used for performance enhancement, they increase awareness, focus and attention levels, but they also have an effect on appetite and weight loss meaning they can be used for physical performance enhancement too.

When used for recreational reasons, the increased energy and excitement can lead to chattiness, increased sexual arousal, and a sense of euphoria.

These euphoric effects can be increased by crushing the tablets and sniffing them or taking them intravenously, however, the latter causes serious issues with blocked blood vessels due to some of the ingredients used in illegally produced tablets not dissolving correctly.

Amphetamines Side Effects

In more severe cases, the alertness caused by amphetamine can become agitation, paranoia and aggression. There have also been cases where amphetamine use has caused psychosis and delusions.

There is a wide range of potential physical side effects to using amphetamines, even for legal, prescribed doses including:

  • Hypertension or hypotension (high & low blood pressure)
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Reduced seizure threshold
  • Difficulty urinating due to contraction of the bladder sphincter
  • Rapid breathing
  • Nosebleeds

Some of the potential psychological side effects include:

  • Apprehension
  • Concentration
  • Self-confidence and sociability
  • Feelings of grandiosity
  • Changes in libido
  • Obsessive behaviours
  • Psychosis (in heavy users)

Amphetamine Long Term Effects

Long term effects in regular abusers can include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations and toxic psychosis
  • Violent/irritable behaviour
  • An intense desire for more amphetamines
  • Convulsions
  • Personality changes or mood swings
  • Compulsive or obsessive drug-seeking behaviour
  • Issues with coordination/dizziness
  • Respiratory issues and asthma
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Malnutrition
  • Ulcers
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Convulsions leading to coma or even death

Amphetamines Withdrawal Symptoms

When regular users stop taking the drug, they often begin to experience severe exhaustion due to their body being used to operating with the ‘help’ of the stimulants. Other symptoms include restless sleep, depression and extreme feelings of hunger.

Most of the time these symptoms can wear off within just a few (extremely difficult) days, but it can take longer depending on the amount and regularity of the person’s habit and can take several months for the heaviest of users.

Even after withdrawal wears off, it can take up to a year before the body overcomes the majority of the damage and begins to resume healthy functioning.

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Combining Amphetamines and Alcohol

According to a 2015 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, of the 176 million Americans who reported consuming alcohol during that year, almost 5 million also reported misusing or abusing prescription stimulants.

This makes amphetamine one of the most popular illicit drugs to use with alcohol, and we ourselves have found amphetamine abuse is not as uncommon among those struggling with alcohol addiction as you might think.

Despite this, the combination of using both drugs at the same time is extremely dangerous, and the reason for this is that alcohol and amphetamines have opposite mechanisms of action. While amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant meaning it speeds up the function of neurons in the CNS, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant meaning it slows them down.

Essentially, drinking alcohol facilitates your inhibitory neurotransmitters and suppresses your excitatory neurotransmitters, whereas amphetamines increase the availability of excitatory transmitters.

This causes an imbalance that can result in a range of reactions:

  • Individuals taking amphetamines for medical reasons generally only take a small dose. Drinking alcohol is enough to counteract these small doses and negate the effects of the amphetamine.
  • For recreational users, this same effect can lead to taking more and more amphetamines while drinking, leading to a potential overdose.
  • Of course, the opposite can occur too, with the effects of the amphetamines making it difficult for a person to tell how drunk they are, potentially leading to alcohol poisoning or even death.
  • Combination of alcohol and amphetamines can also cause issues like poor judgement, weak emotional control, loss of inhibitions and even aggressiveness.
  • Both can cause nausea, vomiting and dehydration, so a combination can exacerbate this dramatically.
  • Seizures can be caused due to the firing of neurons being out of control. This can also lead to significant brain damage.
  • Cardiac stress is also caused by the combination and can lead to increased chances of strokes and heart attacks.
  • Both have negative effects on the gastrointestinal system, the digestive system, the liver and the kidneys. The common combination of these can lead to liver and kidney failure, stomach ulcers and other internal damage.
  • Of course, becoming dependent on both alcohol and amphetamines can also lead to substance misuse disorder.

Treatment for Amphetamine Addiction

With amphetamine addiction comes serious side effects and a high risk of death. As such, anybody who thinks they may be dependant on amphetamines needs professional help immediately.

If you think this might be the case for you or somebody you know, the first immediate step you need to take is to call us right now on 0203 151 1280 and discuss the problem. Everybody’s drug dependency issue is different and we will be able to talk through all the potential options open to you and come up with a plan to get you through it.

One option we provide that has been a great help to a huge number of patients is our Home Detox programmes. If you are struggling to kick the habit yourself but don’t have the money or time to attend a full-time Rehabilitation facility, our Home Detox programs are an absolute must.

We provide you with all the resources and professional advice you need to detox yourself of amphetamines at home. We will check in with you on a daily basis, invite you to therapy sessions at one of our centres, and be available at the end of the phone any time you need advice or help.

This is especially important due to the lethargic feelings and cravings experienced by somebody going through withdrawal of amphetamines, which can make it extremely difficult to continue managing your detoxification process alone. Our professional service means you can start your journey to regaining control of your life simply by contacting us right now!

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Rehabilitation from Amphetamines

For extremely heavy and long term users of amphetamines, unfortunately, the Home Detox process might not always be enough to get you back on track. If you think you may be one of these people, or have already failed home detoxification, it’s imperative that you come to stay at one of our friendly and effective rehabilitation centres.

Our therapists, nurses and doctors will be available 24/7 to treat you with medications, therapy sessions, group discussions, holistic treatments and more.

We understand that making the decision to commit to rehabilitation can be extremely difficult. This is why we offer a free amphetamine withdrawal helpline on 0800 118 2892 so you can get extremely qualified advice and discuss how best to go about beating your dependency with trained unbiased advisers whenever you’re ready.

If you’re worried about the costs of attending one of our Rehab Centres, don’t be. We can discuss all that beforehand to make sure you are comfortable with everything, we have great credit facilities and we accept most medical insurance, meaning your recovery is top of the agenda at all times, just the way it should be.

We understand that making the decision to commit to rehab can be difficult, you can schedule a tour at one of your local private rehab centres to see the available facilities, resources and environment. This can help you with taking the first steps towards your rehabilitation.


    • Continuously taking drugs that are no longer needed for a health problem.
    • Building up a tolerance against the drugs.
    • Feel shaky, depressed, stomachaches, intense sweating, headaches and more intense symptoms when the drugs wear off.
    • Even when drug addiction is hurting your loved ones, you still can’t stop.
    • You spend time thinking about how to get drugs, when to take it, how good it feels.
    • Having a hard time giving yourself limitations to drug use.
    • Losing interest in extracurricular or social activities that don’t involve drugs.
    • Losing priority over personal & professional responsibilities.
    • You borrow or steal money to pay for drugs.
    • Having trouble to get along with loved ones and colleagues. They complain about your actions or how you’ve changed.
    • Sleeping and eating too much or too little.
    • Drug addiction reflects on your physical appearance. Bloodshot eyes, bad breath, tremors, blood nose, or you may have gained or lost weight.
    • You have a new set of friends with whom you do drugs and go to different places to use the drugs.
    • Drug inpatient detox
    • Drug home detox
    • Drug rehab
    • Intervention
    • Counselling
    • Group therapy
    • Rehab facilities

We have private rehab and detox clinics all across the UK to help you on your journey to recovery. Click here to find rehab centres & facilities near you.

For more information on how much drug addiction treatment costs, please click here.

The best way to get started is to give us a call at 0800 118 2892 for free advice and assessment. Let us help you or your loved one figure out the best treatment plan for your alcohol addiction so you can get started on your journey to recovery.

    1. Keep track of the volume of your drug use to have a better understanding of the role of drug dependence in your life.
    2. Consider the impact of your drug use to the things that matter most to you, such as your partner, your children, your career and your health.
    3. Consider getting advice from a person you trust about your drug use.
    4. Remind yourself of the reasons why you want to change for the better.
    5. Analyse your attempts at recovery. What worked and what didn’t?
    6. Set specific, measurable goals, such as time and limitations you’ve made to recover from drug addiction.
    7. Consider to open up to your loved ones that you’re committing to recovery and seek for their support.