Amphetamine Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatment

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

August 14, 2023

Table of Contents

Amphetamine addiction is a potentially dangerous issue that many individuals struggle with and require treatment for. Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that affect the CNS (central nervous system). They are used to increase alertness and prescribed to treat conditions like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and narcolepsy.

The euphoric side effects of amphetamines make them appealing beyond medical use. Sometimes informally known as smart drugs or club drugs, amphetamines are popular among younger adults who consider them accessible and safer than substances like heroin or meth. Party scenes worldwide see widespread abuse of drugs like Adderall and Ritalin. Additionally, individuals seeking improved exam performance or weight loss may turn to amphetamines.

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Despite the perception of amphetamines as relatively benign, though, amphetamine addiction can have devastating effects on both physical health and life in general. Similar to other CNS stimulants like MDMA (Molly), using amphetamines to suppress appetite or reduce fatigue can trigger a dangerous cycle of repeated use, culminating in dependence and addiction.

This guide may help if you are addicted to amphetamine and explores the following issues:

  • Is amphetamine addictive?
  • What are the most common amphetamine addiction signs?
  • What is amphetamine addiction withdrawal?
  • What are the most prominent amphetamine addiction withdrawal symptoms?
  • How can you access an amphetamine addiction treatment program in Southern California?

Signs of Amphetamine Addiction

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that affect the central nervous system, leading to increased alertness and heightened energy levels. While these drugs are prescribed for legitimate medical conditions like ADHD and narcolepsy, their misuse and abuse can result in severe addiction.

There are many telltale signs of amphetamine addiction that may indicate a need for professional help and intervention. These include:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Mood swings and aggression
  • Paranoia and anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Neglecting responsibilities and relationships
  • Persistent drug-seeking behavior
  • Increased risk-taking behavior
  • Isolation and social withdrawal
  • Secretive behavior

Increased heart rate and blood pressure

One of the most notable physical signs of amphetamine addiction is an elevated heart rate and high blood pressure. This occurs due to the stimulant effect on the cardiovascular system, putting the individual at risk of various health complications.

Decreased appetite and weight loss

Amphetamine addiction can lead to a significant reduction in appetite, causing individuals to experience rapid and unhealthy weight loss. Persistent malnutrition can have detrimental effects on overall health and well-being.

Insomnia and sleep disturbances

Continuous amphetamine use disrupts the natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to chronic insomnia and difficulties falling or staying asleep.

Mood swings and aggression

Regular amphetamine use can cause erratic mood swings, leading to sudden outbursts of aggression and irritability. The person’s emotional state becomes unpredictable and challenging to manage.

Paranoia and anxiety

Long-term amphetamine abuse can induce feelings of paranoia and intense anxiety, making individuals feel constantly on edge and suspicious of others.

Hallucinations

In severe cases of amphetamine addiction, individuals may experience visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations, suggesting a significant escalation of the drug’s effects on the brain.

Neglecting responsibilities and relationships

Those struggling with amphetamine addiction often prioritize drug use over essential responsibilities at work, school, or home. This neglect can result in a decline in performance and the deterioration of personal relationships.

Persistent drug-seeking behavior

Individuals addicted to amphetamines may devote a significant amount of time and effort to obtaining the drug, engaging in drug-seeking behaviors that interfere with their daily lives.

Increased risk-taking behavior

Amphetamine addiction can lead to engaging in risky behaviors and activities, such as reckless driving or participating in dangerous situations, due to impaired judgment.

Isolation and social withdrawal

As amphetamine addiction progresses, individuals may withdraw from social interactions, isolating themselves from friends and family.

Secretive behavior

Those struggling with addiction may become increasingly secretive about their drug use, attempting to hide their activities from others.

a woman is looking out a window to represent amphetamine withdrawal

Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction

DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), published by American Psychiatric Association, provides specific criteria for diagnosing substance use disorders, including amphetamine addiction. Here are the DSM-5 criteria for amphetamine addiction:

  1. Taking amphetamines in larger amounts or for longer than intended: Individuals may find themselves using larger doses of amphetamines or using them for a longer time than initially planned, indicating a loss of control over drug use.
  2. Making unsuccessful attempts to moderate or discontinue use: Persistent efforts to reduce or stop amphetamine use may be unsuccessful, leading to a sense of powerlessness over the addiction.
  3. Spending lots of time obtaining and using amphetamines or recovering from their effects: A significant amount of time is spent engaging in activities related to obtaining the drug, using it, or recovering from its effects, disrupting normal daily routines.
  4. Experiencing powerful cravings to use amphetamines: Intense cravings or urges to use amphetamines can be experienced, making it difficult to resist the impulse to seek out the drug.
  5. Failing to meet personal and professional obligations: Amphetamine addiction may result in neglect of important obligations at work, school, or home, leading to a decline in performance and responsibilities.
  6. Ongoing use of amphetamines even though this is triggering social and interpersonal issues: Individuals may continue using amphetamines despite experiencing ongoing social, interpersonal, or relationship difficulties as a result of their addiction.
  7. Spending less time on important activities due to use of amphetamines: Individuals may give up once-enjoyed activities, hobbies, or social engagements to prioritize amphetamine use.
  8. Using amphetamines in dangerous situations: Amphetamines may be used in situations where it poses a physical risk, such as operating machinery or driving, increasing the potential for accidents and injuries.
  9. Sustained use of amphetamines even though it is causing or inflaming a health condition, whether physical or psychological: Despite being aware of the negative consequences of amphetamine use on physical and mental health, individuals may continue using the drug.
  10. Developing tolerance: Over time, increased amounts of amphetamines may be required to achieve the desired effects, suggesting a development of tolerance.
  11. Withdrawal symptoms manifesting in the absence of amphetamines: The experience of withdrawal symptoms when amphetamine use is reduced or stopped, which can include fatigue, depression, increased appetite, and intense drug cravings.

The presence of at least two or more of these symptoms within a 12-month period is indicative of a stimulant use disorder (amphetamine addiction), and the severity of the disorder is classified as mild (2 or 3), moderate (4 or 5), or severe (6 or more) based on the number of criteria met. Seeking professional help and support is crucial for individuals experiencing these symptoms to address amphetamine addiction effectively.

A woman is resting her head on a table to representing amphetamine addiction signs

How is Amphetamine Addiction Treated?

Overcoming amphetamine addiction requires a comprehensive and personalized treatment approach that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of the disorder. The first step in treatment involves a medically supervised detoxification process to safely manage withdrawal symptoms as the drug leaves the body. Detox helps individuals become physically stable and prepares them for the next phases of treatment.

Evidence-based behavioral therapies play a critical role in treating amphetamine addiction. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), MI (motivational interviewing), and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) are commonly utilized to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with drug use.

In some cases, MAT (medication-assisted treatment) may be used to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Medications like bupropion or naltrexone may be prescribed under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

Participating in support groups – NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or SMART Recovery, for instance –  provides a supportive environment where individuals can share experiences, receive encouragement, and gain insights from others in similar situations.

Many people struggling with amphetamine addiction may also have underlying mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis treatment addresses both addiction and co-occurring mental health issues simultaneously for more effective and lasting recovery.

Holistic approaches like yoga, mindfulness meditation, art therapy, and recreational activities, can complement traditional treatments by promoting overall well-being and reducing stress during the recovery process.

Recovery from amphetamine addiction is a lifelong process. Aftercare programs, such as ongoing therapy sessions, sober living arrangements, and continued participation in support groups, help individuals maintain sobriety and prevent relapse. Each person’s journey to recovery is unique, and a personalized treatment plan is essential to address specific needs and challenges.

FAQs

What are amphetamines?

Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that increase certain brain activity, leading to heightened energy, focus, and feelings of confidence. They include prescription medications like Adderall and Dexedrine, as well as illicit drugs like methamphetamine and ecstasy.

Are amphetamines addictive?

Yes, amphetamines are highly addictive due to their impact on the brain’s pleasure response. Chronic use can lead to structural changes in the brain, making it challenging for individuals to stop using the drug and increasing the risk of addiction.

How are amphetamines abused?

Amphetamines can be abused by taking the pills orally for a mild high or by crushing and snorting them for a faster, stronger effect. Some people dissolve the drug in water and inject it for an intense high. Students may abuse amphetamines as a study aid, mistakenly believing it enhances their performance.

How is amphetamine addiction treated?

Amphetamine addiction is treated through comprehensive and evidence-based approaches, which may include therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), MI (motivational interviewing), and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). Counseling, addiction education, and peer support or 12-step group participation can also be essential components of treatment. Working with a reputable treatment program increases the chances of successful recovery from amphetamine abuse or addiction.

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Get Treatment for Amphetamine Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

If you have developed an addiction to amphetamines, shortcut your search for help by engaging in outpatient treatment at our California substance abuse treatment center. In addition to regular outpatient treatment programs, we also offer more structure and support in the form of PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) and IOPs (intensive outpatient programs).

Access a personalized combination of the following science-backed and holistic treatments:

Call 866.330.9449 immediately for help from detox to discharge and beyond if you are battling amphetamine addiction.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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