Amphetamines are a class of drugs that mimic adrenalin in the body. Although amphetamine is a particular compound, the word is often used to describe similar drugs in the class (methamphetamine, phentermine, Dexedrine, others).
Adrenalin is a naturally occurring hormone that is released in times of stress. The effects are an increase in physical and mental ability designed to deal with an immediate danger. In the natural realm, this energizing by adrenalin can give an advantage when the choice is to fight or run away from danger. Senses are heightened, our vision is sharpened and our minds work faster. But it comes at a cost.
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The natural release of adrenalin is short lived (minutes) and quickly passes. Amphetamines last much longer and give a sense of clarity and well being that addicts become dependent upon. Because our bodies are not designed to remain ‘supercharged’ for more than a short while, the longer lasting amphetamines deplete reserves and quickly lead to a ‘crash’ when our bodies can take no more.
Addiction comes by way of a continual and increased dosage of amphetamine meant to revisit the original high. However, as more is taken (and more often) our bodies react to the higher level of drug. The physical changes that come from repeated dosing make addicts more resistant to the effects, while increasing the severity of the withdrawal.
Paths to amphetamine addiction
Because amphetamines are illegal except by prescription, many users come to addiction by way of using them for another purpose than getting high. The exception to this would be methamphetamine (‘meth’). In other cases, people with an amphetamine addiction may be using the amphetamines to:
- Extend alertness
- As in an all-night study session or for driving long hours.
- Weight loss
- Amphetamines decrease appetite.
- Abuse other substances
- Amphetamines allow for more drinking before passing out.
- They are popular with people who want to party to excess and stay awake the next day.
- Self-treat depression
- Amphetamines can provide feelings of power and control that seem to relieve depression.
There remain a few medical conditions where prescription amphetamine is used, including narcolepsy and morbid obesity. Ritalin is not a true amphetamine, but is sometimes lumped into the class because it has similar effects in some people. It is used to treat ADD and ADHD.
photo by Aleksandra P.