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Amphetamine Addiction

Amphetamine is a stimulant drug that increases the amount of dopamine released within the brain. This dopamine release is what gives people the “rush” or high. It is similar in effects to other stimulant drugs such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and MDMA/ecstasy. Prescription stimulants such as methylphenidate, amphetamine and dexamphetamine have a long history of medical use and are prescribed in ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). However, amphetamine, like other stimulants, can be highly addictive if taken above prescribed doses and is the fourth most common recreational drug.

The addiction

Amphetamine has an ability to promote a state of wakefulness, alertness and greater focus. This is thought to be why it is a valuable type of medication for those who suffer from certain medical conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Prescription amphetamine can be used safely under the strict supervision of a medical professional, but there is a potential for misuse.

Amphetamine is sometimes confused with its more dangerous cousin, methamphetamine, but amphetamine is distinct in that its effects can be harnessed for medical purposes whereas methamphetamine is too strong, too addictive and too damaging to be used medicinally. Methamphetamine is illegal throughout the world. Street names for amphetamine include, Speed, Whizz and Phet.

About amphetamine usage

How does it make you feel?

The same properties that make amphetamines medically useful at prescribed doses also make them extremely addictive when the recommended dose is exceeded.

Amphetamines excite the brain’s reward system – especially at higher doses – creating a short-term sense of euphoria that reinforces further use. When taken recreationally, their use can quickly escalate out of control. When addiction takes hold, risks to physical and mental health escalate and often the only way out of this vicious circle is to seek amphetamine addiction treatment or amphetamine detox.

In the case of amphetamines, the drug’s significant addictive qualities make it profitable to manufacture illegally .

Amphetamine can make people feel:

  • Euphoria
  • All powerful
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Reduce inhibitions such as sexual or social inhibitions

They can appear:

  • Excited
  • Wide awake
  • Very talkative

Negative effects can be feeling:

  • Fidgety
  • Irritable
  • Aggressive
  • Violent
  • Anxious

Amphetamine misuse takes a heavy toll on the body and overuse leads to a wide variety of issues, including;

  • Heart problems
  • Stroke
  • Reduced cognitive/thinking ability
  • Overt hostility and violence
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis

Other harms can come from the method administration: crushing the drug into powder form for injection can lead to extremely dangerous blockages in blood vessels or to blood-borne diseases such as HIV or hepatitis.

For those trying to reduce their use of amphetamines, difficulty sleeping and depression often result.

Amphetamine misuse can lead to overdose which can cause heart attacks, strokes or even death.

The following are signs of amphetamine overdose;

  • Chest pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Rising body temperature but then leading to damaging hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Irregular breathing and hyperventilation
  • Extreme agitation
  • Cardiac arrest

Overdose is always a danger, regardless whether someone is an experienced user or not.

There is no safe threshold for amphetamine misuse. The situation can escalate from bad to fatal in very little time.

  • Unexplained profuse sweating
  • Euphoria for a while followed by looking very down with fatigue and depression
  • Anger problems or irritability
  • Aggression
  • Paranoid ideas
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things)
  • If a person injects, they may have needle marks or get repeated skin abscesses at the injection site
  • Withdrawal symptoms from amphetamines can be varied. They give the brain a big shot of “happy chemicals” from the brain, or “neurotransmitters”, like dopamine, but once that big boost is gone, the brain is left like a dry desert with the neurotransmitters all used up. This causes the down and lots of withdrawals like:

    Physical

    • Tiredness and fatigue
    • Rapid fluctuations in appetite
    • Involuntary movements like twitches
    • Aches and pains
    • Sleep and dream problems – nightmares
    • Agitation and inability to sit still, even though tired

    Mental

    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Loss of enjoyment
    • No sex drive
    • Feeling suicidal

    Detox

    We try hard to control the withdrawal symptoms from amphetamines during a detox and we are proud of the feedback that our patients give us on the Bonds protocol detox process. We specialise in detox usually over 1-2 weeks using non-addictive medication to make it as comfortable as possible. Published evidence shows that even an early version of the Bonds protocol was very well tolerated in opioid detox, for example, and opioid detox is notoriously unpleasant, often worse than a detox for amphetamines or cocaine.  97% of patients* did not report pain during a Bonds protocol detox from opioids. (ref Beaini AY et al (2000, October). A compressed opiate detoxification regime with naltrexone maintenance: patient tolerance, risk assessment and abstinence rates. Addiction Biology, 1;5(4):451-62 ).

    Once the drugs are out of your system, you can then have  naltrexone which can reduce cravings for amphetamines and a wide range of other substances, thus supporting long term abstinence.

    *Outcome measures recorded at a time when Dr Amal Beaini was previously providing the BONDS protocols from the Detox 5 service, not The BONDS clinic at Broughton. These BONDS protocols are now part of The BONDS Clinic at Broughton and Detox5 has closed a few years ago. Abstinence data at 12 months did not include those patients who could not be contacted or lost to follow up.

  • Widespread pains
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Tummy cramps
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Insomnia

These physical symptoms peak in a few days but the cravings can last long term.

Detox

These heroin withdrawals are unpleasant and can be dangerous. We try very hard to control this long list of withdrawal symptoms. We specialise in detox over 1-2 weeks using non-addictive medication to make it as comfortable as possible, and published evidence shows that even an early version of the Bonds protocols was very well tolerated: 97% of patients did not report pain during a Bonds detox from opioids.
(reference again as before: Beaini AY et al (2000, October). A compressed opiate detoxification regime with naltrexone maintenance: patient tolerance, risk assessment and abstinence rates. Addiction Biology, 1;5(4):451-62 ).

*Outcome measures recorded at a time when Dr Amal Beaini was previously providing the BONDS protocols from the Detox 5 service, not The BONDS clinic at Broughton. These BONDS protocols are now part of The New Life Centre at Broughton and Detox5 has closed a few years ago. Abstinence data at 12 months did not include those patients who could not be contacted or lost to follow up.

Once the heroin is out of your system, you can usually then have oral naltrexone on day 4 or day 5 which blocks the effects of heroin or any opioids and can reduce cravings, which can  be useful to support abstinence.

Programme model

Our programme model is tailored to the individual’s needs. Our detox varies depending on whether the substance is a lone problem or is accompanied by misuse of other substances, the amount the patient is using, and if there any underlying mental health issues. The internal audits of the BONDS treatment protocols of many years have shown that approximately 70% of patients with alcohol or substance misuse also have an underlying mental health disorder. This combination of addiction and a mental health disorder is called Dual Diagnosis.

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