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Amphetamines. 5 examples ranging from white powder, white crystals to brown and crumbly textured.© Australian Drug Foundation 2010Amphetamine facts

What are amphetamines?

Effects of amphetamines

Withdrawal

Further information

 

 

What are amphetamines?

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs, which means they speed up the messages travelling between the brain and the body.

The appearance of amphetamines varies. They may be in the form of a powder, tablets, capsules or crystals. They may be packaged in 'foils' (aluminium foil), plastic bags or small balloons when sold illegally.

Amphetamine powder can range in colour from white through to brown; sometimes it may be orange or dark purple. It has a strong smell and bitter taste.

Amphetamine capsules and tablets vary considerably in colour. They can be a mix of drugs, binding agents, caffeine and sugar.

Crystal methamphetamine (also known as ice) is a potent form of amphetamine, which generally comes in large, sheet-like crystals, or as a crystalline powder.

Some types of amphetamines are legally prescribed by doctors to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (where a person has an uncontrollable urge to sleep).

Other names

Speed, fast, up, uppers, louee, goey, whiz.

How are they used?

Amphetamines are generally swallowed, injected or smoked. They are also snorted.

Effects of amphetamines 

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

The effects of amphetamines may be felt immediately (if injected or smoked) or within 30 minutes (if snorted or swallowed).

Amphetamines affect everyone differently, but effects may include:

  • Happiness and confidence
  • Talking more and feeling energetic
  • Repeating simple things like itching and scratching
  • Large pupils and dry mouth
  • Fast heart beat and breathing
  • Teeth grinding
  • Reduced appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased sex drive

 

If a large amount or a strong batch is taken, it could also cause:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Fits
  • Passing out
  • Stroke, heart attack and death

 

High doses and frequent heavy use can also create an 'amphetamine psychosis', characterised by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and bizarre, aggressive or violent behaviour. These symptoms usually disappear a few days after the person stops using amphetamines.

Snorting amphetamines can damage the nasal passage and cause nose bleeds.

Coming down 

The following effects may be experienced for 4 to 6 days following use:

  • Restless sleep and exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and blurred vision
  • Paranoia, hallucinations and confusion 
  • Irritability, mood swings, depression and violence


Using a depressant drug such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or cannabis to help with the 'come down' effects may result in a cycle of dependence on both types of drugs.

Long-term effects 

With regular use, amphetamines may eventually cause:

  • Reduced appetite and extreme weight loss
  • Restless sleep
  • Dry mouth and dental problems
  • Regular colds or flu
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Shortness of breath from smoking the drug
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Anxiety, paranoia and violence 
  • Depression
  • Heart and kidney problems
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Needing to use more to get the same effect 
  • Dependence on amphetamines 
  • Financial, work or social problems

 

Mixing amphetamines with other drugs

The effects of taking amphetamines with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:

Amphetamines + ecstasy: enormous strain on the heart and other parts of the body, which can lead to stroke.

Amphetamines + alcohol, cannabis or benzodiazepines: enormous strain on the body, and more likely to overdose.

 

Withdrawal

Giving up amphetamines after using them for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms should settle down after a week and will mostly disappear after a month. Symptoms include:

  • Cravings for amphetamines
  • Increased appetite 
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Aches and pains
  • Exhaustion 
  • Restless sleep and nightmares
  • Anxiety, depression and paranoia

 

Further information

Statistics

 

Reducing the risks

 

Resources


ADF SEARCH – Find further credible research and information on amphetamines.

ADIN – Find other credible websites and apps on amphetamines.

Last updated: 3 June 2014

 
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