Let’s discuss amphetamine

Amphetamines are a type of stimulant drug. It can be used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Both prescribed and non-prescribed amphetamine can be abused. Amphetamine-type substances include amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, methamphetamine, and methylphenidate. Street names for crystal methamphetamine are crystals, meth, rock, glass, super ice, hot ice, and Hawaiian salt. The use of amphetamines is commoner in males than females and its use is higher among adolescents and young adults.

Some of the risk factors for amphetamine use are ease of access to the drug, the presence of low self-esteem or relationship problems, emotional and financial problems, the presence of mental disorders such as depression, bipolar affective disorder, and anxiety disorder. They are usually taken orally or intravenously, but amphetamine can be taken by the nasal route (snorting) and the very pure form (ice) can be smoked to produce an immediate and powerful stimulant effect.

Most of the effects of amphetamine and amphetamine-like drugs are similar to those of cocaine but their effects last longer so can be used fewer times in a day. Just like other drugs of abuse, amphetamine use could lead to tolerance, dependence, and can have withdrawal symptoms. Intoxication with amphetamine causes euphoria, anxiety, tension, and anger. It also impairs the individual’s judgment, social and occupational functioning.


Effects of using amphetamine

When an individual is intoxicated the heart rate may be slowed or increased, blood pressure may fluctuate, there could be widening of the pupils, sweating, vomiting, weight loss, muscular weakness, chest pain, seizures, and coma. An individual may go for long periods without food or sleep leading to exhaustion. Intoxication with amphetamine can lead to death even in people using it for the first time.

Depending on the specific drug and method of delivery, this intoxication can occur within minutes to 1 hour of use. Almost all amphetamine users develop tolerance to the drug so they have to keep increasing their dose to still get the desired effect. Intense intoxication may cause paranoid ideas, auditory hallucinations (hearing voices in clear consciousness), and tactile hallucinations (feeling of bugs under the skin). Extreme anger and violence may occur. Within a few hours to several days of cessation or reduction of heavy use of amphetamine, a withdrawal syndrome can develop.

This is characterized by depression, anxiety tension, and anger. Other withdrawal symptoms are inability to sleep or excessive sleep, fatigue, increased appetite, and unpleasant dreams. Amphetamine users also have medical problems due to the method of use. Users who snort it may develop nose bleeds, sinusitis, and perforation of the nasal septum.

Those who smoke amphetamine-like drugs develop bronchitis, cough, and pneumonia. Users who inject the drug have needle marks on their arms and are prone to the contraction of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections through unsafe sexual practices.

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Dr. Charlotte Nwigwe is an MBBS degree holder from the University of Benin and a fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College in Psychiatry.

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