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Amphetamines are part of a larger group of drugs called psychostimulants. They affect the central nervous system in a way that is roughly comparable to a shot of adrenalin (if it lasted several hours). Amphetamines can be taken orally (in pill form), injected, snorted and smoked.
The short-term effects of amphetamine use include feelings of euphoria; increased heartrate, breathing rate and blood pressure; dilated pupils; sweating; dry mouth; aggression; talkativeness; lowered appetite; headache; dizziness; loss of coordination; hallucinations; and the urge to repeat a single action many times. The long-term effects include a tendency toward violent behavior (“tweaking”), seizures, sores on the skin, rotting teeth (“meth mouth”), weight loss and malnutrition (as a result of appetite suppression).
Methamphetamine, more commonly known as crystal meth, is chemically related to amphetamine, but its effects on the nervous system are greater. Meth has recently become the drug of choice for users across the nation, mirroring the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s. The intense high from a single hit of methamphetamine can last up to 15 hours. Methamphetamine accounts for the majority of amphetamine abuse in the United States. It is highly addictive and highly damaging to the brain. Over time, use of crystal meth permanently damages brain cells that contain the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
Ten Things You Need to Know About Amphetamines
- Only a small minority use them. Around 6 percent of college students have used amphetamines in the past year.
- They are highly addictive. Tolerance to and dependence on amphetamines can develop after very few uses, particularly if the drugs are injected or smoked.
- They used to be sold legally in drug stores. The chemical amphetamine was first synthesized in 1887. It became commercially available in the United States in the 1930s.
- Doctors used to prescribe them. In the early to mid-1900s, amphetamine capsules were prescribed by doctors as a treatment for narcolepsy, bronchial problems, obesity, depression and symptoms that would be diagnosed as attention deficit disorder (ADD) today.
- Doctors still prescribe them. The prescription drugs Adderall and Dexedrine, which are used to treat ADD today, are both amphetamines.
- The government gives them to soldiers. During World War II and the Vietnam War, the U.S. government supplied amphetamines to soldiers and pilots to counteract fatigue and heighten alertness. They have also been used for specific military missions since then.
- They hurt the environment. The toxic chemicals that are required in the underground production of amphetamines (especially crystal meth) are often disposed of in rivers and forests, causing major environmental damage and forcing governments to spend thousands of dollars on cleanup.
- Amphetamines and other drugs don’t mix. Mixing speed with other drugs (particularly alcohol) greatly increases your chance of death.
- Crystal meth can destroy your body. Every dose of crystal meth contains a mix of poisonous chemicals.
- Crystal meth can destroy your brain. Prolonged use of crystal meth can produce extreme anxiety. It can also induce symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease, a severe muscle disorder that typically affects the elderly.