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Amphetamine Addiction: Uses, Side Effects, and Treatment

4 min read · 8 sections
Prescription stimulants like Adderall and Dexedrine, along with illicit amphetamines like methamphetamine and ecstasy, are highly addictive and can have a serious impact a person's life and health. Understanding more about these substance and drugs and how they work in the body helps people to understand the risks of misuse, and underscores the importance of getting help for yourself or a loved one struggling with addiction.
What you will learn:
What amphetamines are and types of amphetamines.
Signs of amphetamine addiction.
Side effects of amphetamines.
Getting help for amphetamine addiction.

Amphetamine misuse can have serious consequences on an individual’s physical and mental health, relationships, and overall well-being. According to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 4 million people reported prescription amphetamine misuse, and 1.8 million people had a prescription stimulant use disorder.1

This page provides information on the types of amphetamines and signs of amphetamine addiction, and it explains the ways this drug can be misused. It also describes the effects of amphetamines, including overdose and withdrawal symptoms, and how to get help if you or someone you love is struggling with amphetamine addiction.

What Are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are a class of drugs that belong to the larger category of stimulants, substances known for their ability to increase alertness and energy levels.2,3 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of amphetamines to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.4,5

Types of Amphetamine

There are several types of amphetamines, including amphetamine sulfate, mixed amphetamine salts, dextroamphetamine, and lisdexamfetamine, which are prescription medications.6 Methamphetamine is also available by prescription, but is also commonly sold on the street, either in powder or crystal form. Commonly known amphetamine prescription drugs include the following:6

  • Adderall. Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.7
  • Dexedrine. Dexedrine is the brand name for dextroamphetamine and is used for ADHD and narcolepsy.10
  • Vyvanse. Vyvanse is lisdexamfetamine specifically and it is used to treat ADHD and moderate to severe BED in adults.11
  • Desoxyn. Desoxyn is a brand name for methamphetamine and is used to treat ADHD.

What Is Amphetamine Addiction?

Amphetamine addiction means that a person continues to use amphetamines despite them causing significant problems in their life or to their health.14 There is no single factor that causes addiction, but rather, some factors can increase the risk that a person might develop an addiction.14

Risk factors for addiction include:14

  • Having a mental health condition.
  • Misbehavior in childhood or adolescence.
  • Drug and alcohol use or experimentation before adulthood.
  • Substance use by parents or peers.
  • Negative or traumatic life events.
  • Genetics.
  • Misuse of prescription medications.

Signs of Amphetamine Addiction

An addiction to amphetamines is diagnosed as a stimulant use disorder.15 Signs of amphetamine addiction include:15

  • Taking amphetamines for a long time or in larger quantities than was initially intended.
  • Experiencing a continual desire or unsuccessful attempts at stopping or reducing the use of amphetamines.
  • Continuing amphetamine use despite it causing problems in relationships.
  • Giving up important activities to use amphetamines.
  • Experiencing an inability to fulfill responsibilities at work, home, or school due to amphetamine use.
  • Spending a significant amount of time in acquiring and using amphetamines or recovering from their effects.
  • Experiencing cravings or a strong desire to use amphetamines.
  • Recurrently using amphetamines in dangerous situations, such as while driving.
  • Continuing amphetamine use despite having psychological or physical health problems caused by or worsened by them.
  • Developing tolerance to amphetamines or needing to take them in larger amounts to feel the same effects.
  • Experiencing withdrawal from stopping amphetamines.

According to the DSM-5 criteria, a diagnosis of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) requires meeting at least two of the specified criteria within a 12-month period. However, it’s important to note that for prescription medications taken as directed by a doctor, developing tolerance or dependence does not necessarily indicate an SUD and would not be counted among the two required criteria.

How Are Amphetamines Misused?

People may misuse amphetamines for a variety of reasons and in diverse ways. College students my take them to increase alertness and focus attention while studying for exams.14 Still other people may misuse prescriptions to “get high” or experiment.14

Misuse can occur when someone takes pills or capsules orally in larger doses than prescribed to them.4 Or, amphetamine powder can be mixed with water to create a solution that is then injected.16  Some people may snort the powder, and yet another method of use is to smoke crystal meth.6

What Are the Side Effects of Amphetamines?

As with any medication, amphetamines come with side effects. Some are common, and others are more serious, especially with misuse or use in combination with other substances like alcohol, opioids, or other stimulants.

Common Side Effects

Side effects commonly associated with stimulant medication include:7-12

  • Headache.
  • Upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Serious Side Effects

Some serious  amphetamine side effects can include:7-12

  • Circulation problems in toes and fingers.
  • Kidney damage.
  • Mania.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Serious cardiac events.

Serious side effects are more likely to occur when amphetamines are used in high doses or with other stimulants.17

Can You Overdose on Amphetamines?

Yes, you can overdose on amphetamines, and an overdose may be fatal.  If the body has more amphetamine in the bloodstream than it can handle, this can lead to:7-12, 16

  • Agitation.
  • Increased body temperature.
  • Convulsions.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Heart and circulatory failure.

Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Dependence occurs when the body has become accustomed to the presence of amphetamines. It is characterized by the emergence of withdrawal symptoms, as the body struggles to function without it if use is abruptly stopped or significantly reduced.9

Symptoms of withdrawal from amphetamines include:15

  • A deep sense of unease or dissatisfaction.
  • Too much or too little sleep.
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams.
  • Fatigue.
  • Increased appetite.
  • Restlessness or very slow movement.

Amphetamine Addiction Treatment

There are evidence-based treatments available for stimulant use disorder that include the use of behavioral therapies, which can be crucial for getting on the road to recovery and back to living the life you deserve.17

Amphetamine addiction treatment programs use several evidence-based behavioral therapies. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, is used to help a person explore how their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are interrelated, teaching strategies for healthier coping.18 Contingency management involves providing tangible rewards for achieving specific measurable goals, like consistently participating in treatment or maintaining abstinence.18

Behavioral therapies are generally used across all levels of addiction treatment. Levels of treatment can be broadly categorized as:18

  • Inpatient Treatment. Inpatient rehab, sometimes called residential treatment, involves living at the facility in a more structured intensive setting. This setting may be a good fit for someone with severe addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Partial hospitalization. A partial hospitalization program (PHP) requires participants to attend the facility daily for a few hours per day. PHP is generally a fit for someone who needs intensive treatment but does not require around-the-clock care. It can also be used as a step-down treatment after a person completes inpatient rehab.
  • Intensive outpatient. Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) provide services a few times per week for a few hours each time. They can also be a step-down program from residential rehab or PHP. IOPs often offer treatment in the evenings and on weekends to help accommodate those who need to work or attend school.
  • Outpatient. Outpatient treatment usually involves receiving treatment a few hours per week, on a more flexible basis. This type of treatment is a fit for someone with a mild addiction or for someone who completed more intensive treatment to maintain progress made and help prevent relapse.
  • Sober living. Sober living housing is an option for someone who either wants to live in a drug-free environment or wants to live there after inpatient treatment to slowly adjust back to living independently.

You don’t have to live with addiction, and it’s never too late to get help. If you or someone you love are struggling with Adderall addiction or addiction to other amphetamines or stimulants, American Addiction Centers (AAC) is here to help. We also offer rehab for young adults.

Call us today at . Our admissions navigators are here 24/7 and are happy to go over you treatment options, help you verify your insurance, and answer any questions you might have.

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