Amphetamines are stimulants that affect the central nervous system and are generally referred to as "speed." Amphetamines can be taken orally in pill or capsule form, intravenously injected, snorted, or smoked. Amphetamines and meth-amphetamines have a similar but somewhat different molecular structure. Tolerance will develop to all drugs in this class. The slight differences in the pharmacological reactions and side effects of the different varieties of the amphetamines, and their derivatives dictate their principal medical use. Some are used for appetite suppression, respiratory stimulation, etc. Amphetamines can cause both acute and chronic toxicity. Amphetamines are excreted slowly and cumulative effects may occur with continued administration. These effects may include high blood pressure and hallucinations.
In regard to recreational use, the stimulation of the central nervous system usually causes an increase in motor activity and mental alertness, a mood elevation effect, a general sense of well-being, and a decrease in appetite.
Common indicators of amphetamine use include:
- Loss of appetite
- Euphoria and symptoms of excitement
At high doses effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Heart arrhythmia
- Pulmonary hypertension
Symptoms of allergic reactions include:
- Rash and pallor
- Blurred vision
- menstrual irregularities
- Changes in libido
Fever, sweating, chills, muscle pain, and chest pain can also be side effects of these drugs. Long-term use can result in psychological dependency as well as a high degree of tolerance. Stimulation is often followed by a rebound effect manifest as fatigue, and feeling "burned out "or "fried". Withdrawal often include feelings of depression.
Symptoms of acute toxicity or overdose include:
- Rapid respiration
- Panic states
- Circulatory collapse
- Death - usually results from cardiovascular collapse or convulsions
Symptoms of chronic use are characterized by:
- Emotional stability
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Mental impairment
- Tendency to withdraw from social contact
- Teeth grinding
- Ulcers of the tongue and lips
Prolonged use of high doses can elicit symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, including auditory and visual hallucinations and paranoia.
Ritalin is a central nervous stimulant that is often used in children and young adults with Attention Deficit Disorder. In these cases, it decreases motor restlessness and increases attention span. Abuse of Ritalin among college students is growing. (See information specific to Ritalin on other pages.)
Methamphetamine is a very strong form of amphetamine, which is often sold under street names of ice, crystal, crank or glass. It is touted as an aphrodisiac and often has hallucinatory aspects connected to its abuse. Its effects are characterized by an initial "rush" if injected or snorted, and its high usually lasts for approximately 8 hours.