Amphetamine addiction is a chronic condition that is reinforced by the effects that the drug has on brain systems related to reward, memory and motivation. The manifestations of addiction can be seen psychologically, biologically, and socially. A person who has become addicted to amphetamines may experience an inability to control use, cravings for the stimulant, and lowered awareness about the impact of addiction on their life and the lives of those closest to them 1.
Although amphetamines are FDA-approved to treat certain medical conditions such as ADHD, narcolepsy, and in rare cases obesity, they are still considered to be Schedule II substances, or substances that have high potential for abuse and psychological and physical dependence. Many of the amphetamines on the black market have been diverted from legal prescriptions. This significantly contributes to the number of people that have access to, abuse, and become addicted to amphetamines 2.
Legal amphetamines with a prescription include Dexedrine, ProCentra, Adderall, Desoxyn, Zenzedi, and Vyvanse 3. Ecstasy, which is an illicit drug with stimulant and hallucinogenic properties, is in the amphetamine family as well 3.
In this article you will learn about:
- The signs and symptoms of amphetamine addiction.
- How to treat an amphetamine addiction.
- How to pay for addiction treatment.
- What causes addiction?
- Long-term effects of amphetamine addiction.
- Get help for amphetamine abuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction
The intoxicating effects of amphetamines may contribute to the progression of amphetamine abuse to addictionAmphetamines are stimulant drugs that activate the central nervous system (CNS) primarily by triggering the release of dopamine and norepinephrine throughout the brain. Amphetamines can be smoked, snorted, dissolved in water and injected intravenously, or taken orally. Many people use amphetamines for their more pleasurable effects, such as enhanced sociability, elated or euphoric feelings, increased energy and wakefulness, and decreased appetite. These intoxicating effects may contribute to the progression of amphetamine abuse to addiction.
The signs and symptoms of an addiction to amphetamines can be behavioral, psychological, or physical, and affect the user’s functioning in a variety of ways. Some behavioral signs of amphetamine addiction include 6:
- Using amphetamines in larger amounts or for longer than intended.
- Spending an inordinate amount of time obtaining amphetamines, using amphetamines, and recovering from their effects.
- Failing to cut back or quit amphetamine use.
- Continuing to use amphetamines despite interference with work, school, and personal life.
- Continuing to use amphetamines despite psychological, physical, and interpersonal problems caused or worsened by use.
- Abandoning previously enjoyed activities in favor of amphetamine use.
- Using amphetamines in dangerous situations, such as while driving.
- Exhibiting secretive behaviors or lying about amphetamine use.
- “Doctor shopping,” or obtaining multiple prescriptions from several doctors.
- Displaying erratic or violent behaviors.
In addition to the above behavioral signs and symptoms, there are many physical and psychological signs of amphetamine abuse and addiction to be aware of, which include 3,6:
- Strong cravings to use amphetamines.
- Tolerance, requiring the user to take increasingly higher doses of the stimulant to achieve the desired effects.
- Withdrawal symptoms with cessation of use. These symptoms may include extreme fatigue, nightmares, increased appetite, slowed movements and thought, and anhedonia—an inability to normally experience pleasure.
- Dilated pupils.
- Excessive sweating or chills.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Rapid, unhealthy weight loss.
- Muscle weakness.
- Respiratory depression.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Chest pain.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Irregular heart rhythm.
- Mood swings.
- Repetitive movements, such as pacing or twitching.
Help Stop Prescription Drug Abuse
Many people get their hands on ADHD stimulant medications despite not having a prescription. This is a big problem that can enable abuse. Where do young men and women get access to the medications? According to a survey conducted by Recovery Brands in 2016, a shocking majority of young individuals 18 to 28 years old get ahold of their doctor-prescribed stimulant medications via their companions. More than 20% acquire them by means of family, more than 18% through people they know from school, and only 14.8% from an actual illicit dealer. Doctor-approved users can reduce the problem by keeping tabs on their doctor-prescribed ADHD stimulants in order to protect susceptible college-age people from the consequences of substance misuse.
How to Treat an Amphetamine Addiction
While addiction to amphetamines can be difficult to treat, by no means must addiction be a life sentence for you or your loved one. Dedication and readiness are two vital factors when embarking on the road to recovery.
Ultimately, each individual and their addiction will be different. Therefore, it is important to remain open to the various options for treatment and, if possible, to speak with someone who can help guide you to the best treatment option for your individual situation. Some of the treatment options available to you include:
- Detox: If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a severe amphetamine use disorder, then detox may be the best place to start recovery. Detox facilities provide 24-hour, supervised medical management of withdrawal symptoms. The program length depends upon your own withdrawal timeline, but most facilities will provide care for several days. Patients tend to transition into a longer-term program, such as inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment program.
- Inpatient facilities: Inpatient or residential treatment provides a safe and controlled environment with group, individual and family therapy sessions, and many offer around-the-clock access to medical and psychiatric care.
- Outpatient: Outpatient services can vary greatly in intensiveness. Outpatient options include Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP), Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP), standard outpatient programs consisting of individual or group counseling. On average, PHP is a full day, 5-day-a-week program that provides group therapy and medication management. IOP is a half day, 5-day-a-week program that provides group therapy, but medications must be managed by an outside addiction or mental health professional. Standard outpatient programs meet 1-2 times per week, for a couple hours each session.
- Luxury and executive facilities: Luxury facilities are residential centers that provide patients with posh amenities in desirable, resort-like locations. Amenities may include swimming pools, nutritional counseling, diet plans, personal trainers, private rooms, intensive individual therapy, and complementary-alternative health and wellness approaches such as energy healing, acupuncture, massage, and meditation. Executive facilities provide working professionals with the opportunity to continue working while recovering from an amphetamine addiction, by giving patients access to the internet, phones, and private workrooms.
- Holistic facilities: These facilities combine traditional therapeutic interventions, such as individual therapy and group counseling, with alternative methods that focus on healing the whole person. These holistic approaches may include art and music therapy, exercise therapy, mindfulness and meditation, yoga, and equine therapy.
- Population-specific rehabs: There may also be treatment facilities that understand the unique challenges of various populations and have in-depth experience in treating specific groups, such as women, men, LGBT, teens, or veterans.
There are no current FDA-approved medications for the treatment of amphetamine addiction. There are three specific therapeutic modalities, however, that have proven efficacy in treating those with an amphetamine addiction. These therapies are 2:
- Contingency Management: This type of therapy provides group members with incentives for participating in therapy, remaining sober, and involving themselves in more positive social outlets.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This type of therapy helps a person discover the link between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in order to uncover maladaptive patterns that are contributing to addiction so that they can be replaced with more constructive patterns.
- Matrix Model: This type of therapy is a 16-week behavioral approach to treating addiction. The treatment modality is comprehensive in that it combines behavioral modification, family education, individual therapy, group support in the form of 12-step groups, drug testing to ensure compliance, and encouragement toward activities that are not drug related.
If you or a loved one suffers from an addiction to amphetamine, don’t hesitate to seek help. Call our hotline at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? to speak to one of our treatment advisors about recovery options.
How to Pay for Addiction Treatment
The cost of treatment for amphetamine addiction will depend on several factors including:
- The state in which you live.
- Current insurance level of coverage.
- Level of treatment you choose.
- Length of treatment.
- Whether the provider is an in or out-of-network provider.
If you have insurance, call your insurance company to learn about your specific insurance coverage and the treatment options that are available to you.
If you are uninsured the following options may help you pay for your treatment:
- Scholarship or charity with a specific facility.
- Payment plans with the facility.
- Credit card.
- Using your savings.
- Utilizing a crowdfunding campaign, such as GoFundMe and IndieGoGo.
- Asking for help from family members and friends.
While the decision to seek treatment can be an arduous task, in the long run, the money and time you invest into your recovery will benefit your mental and physical health, and aid in your long term sobriety from amphetamine addiction.
What Causes Addiction?
There are several things that, especially when combined, can increase the risk of a person becoming addicted to amphetamines. Although the specific mechanisms behind these risk factors for amphetamine addiction are not yet fully understood, there is preliminary research to show that these factors are a significant part of the addiction picture. These risk factors include:
- Genetics 4,7: Addiction is moderately to highly heritable, which means that if your parents or close relatives suffered from a substance addiction, that you have an increased risk of developing one as well. Different substances vary in the amount of genetic influence. Stimulants, such as amphetamines, have a heritability of about .41, which means that an estimated 41% of an amphetamine addiction can be attributed to DNA 8.
- Mental health: Amphetamine addiction often co-occurs with mental health disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), antisocial personality disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and gambling disorder 6.
- Trauma: Research shows that traumatic events, or adverse childhood experiences, are sometimes contributing factors to early substance abuse and subsequent addiction development. These events may include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, or witnessing household violence 9.
Not everyone who has one or more of these risk factors will become addicted, and not everyone who is addicted will have these risk factors. But if you are addicted to amphetamines, you are not alone. Help is available to you whenever you are ready. Call 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? to speak to an addiction treatment support specialist today.
Long-term Effects of Amphetamine Addiction
Addiction is a progressive disorder, meaning the longer an addiction goes on the harder it can be to quit, and the more likely it is that the addiction will cause long-term damage to a person, both mentally and physically.
Some of the potential long-term effects of amphetamine addiction include 3,5,6:
- Perforation of the nasal septum or nose bleeds if abused intranasally (i.e., insufflated or snorted).
- Increased risk of HIV or hepatitis viruses, collapsed veins, and puncture marks if abused via injectable routes.
- Significant weight loss.
- Heart attacks.
- Arrhythmia (i.e., irregular heart beat).
- Respiratory or cardiac arrest.
- Suicidal ideation or behaviors.
These long-term effects range in severity, but some may be lethal. Seeking help sooner rather than later is the best course of action to prevent any long-term consequences from amphetamine abuse.
Get Help for Amphetamine Abuse
If you or a loved one is addicted to amphetamines, help is available whenever you are ready to take the first step toward recovery. You can contact one of our dedicated and knowledgeable treatment placement advisors today at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? . They can help guide you to the treatment options that will be best suited for your individual recovery and long-term sobriety.
- ASAM. (2011). Definition of addiction.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). Research report series: Methamphetamine.
- Berman, S. M., Kuczenski, R., McCracken, J. T., & London, E. D. (2009). Potential Adverse Effects of Amphetamine Treatment on Brain and Behavior: A Review. Molecular Psychiatry, 14(2), 123–142. http://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2008.90.
- Casey, K. F., Benkelfat, C., Cherkasova, M. V., Baker, G. B., Dagher, A., & Leyton, M. (2014). Reduced dopamine response to amphetamine in subjects at ultra-high risk for addiction. Biological psychiatry, 76(1), 23-30.
- European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2011). Health consequences of amphetamines.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.
- Godino, A., Jayanthi, S., & Cadet, J. L. (2015). Epigenetic landscape of amphetamine and methamphetamine addiction in rodents. Epigenetics,10(7), 574-580.methamphetamine addiction in rodents. Epigenetics,10(7), 574-580.
- Bevilacqua, L., Goldman, D. (2009). Genes and Addictions. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 85(4), 359-361.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (n.d.). Adverse Childhood Experiences.