Amphetamine Addiction & Abuse
Amphetamines are a type of synthetic drug classified as stimulants with a high potential for drug abuse and addiction.1, 2 Prescription amphetamines, like Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine), are legal and commonly used to treat conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or narcolepsy.1, 3 Adderall in particular is becoming widely prescribed, increasing its potential for abuse.
Adderall abuse occurs when it is taken without a prescription, in larger amounts or more frequently than prescribed. Abuse can also occur when the drugs are taken in a different manner than prescribed, such as by chewing, snorting, or injecting the drug.4, 5 Amphetamine addiction, also referred to as amphetamine use disorder, involves a psychological reliance on the drug to function, an inability to control use, and can include physical dependence, all of which create impairment in one or more areas of functioning.5, 6
How Prevalent is Amphetamine Addiction?
A comprehensive survey of Americans aged 12 or older taken in 2018 estimated that:4
- 1 million people abused prescribed stimulants in the last year.
- Nearly 370,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17 misused prescribed stimulants in the last year.
- Approximately 2.2 million people between the ages of 18 and 25 misused prescribed stimulants in the last year.
- Approximately 2.5 million people aged 26 or older abused prescribed stimulants in the last year.
- About 561,000 people had a stimulant use disorder (addiction) in the last year. Of these, 53,000 were between the ages of 12 and 17, 185,000 were between the ages of 18 and 25, and 323,000 were aged 26 or older.
Effects of Adderall and Other Amphetamines
The effects of Adderall and other amphetamines can vary by many factors. They may appear rapidly, and can affect one physically, mentally, and emotionally. Furthermore, the effects of Adderall and other amphetamines can be both short-term and long-term.
Short-Term Effects of Amphetamine Abuse
When amphetamines are taken, they don’t work as quickly as other stimulants, such as cocaine, and are felt for a longer period of time.1 However, if the pills are chewed, snorted, or injected, Adderall effects may be experienced earlier. The short-term effects of amphetamine abuse can include:
- Hostility or aggression.
- Cognitive impairment.
- Severe anxiety.
- Lack of appetite.
- Heart issues (high blood pressure & elevated heart rate).
- Increased body temperature.
Long-Term Effects of Amphetamine Abuse
The long-term effects of amphetamine abuse can negatively impact both physical and mental health.1, 3Abusing amphetamines can increase the risk of experiencing psychological or physical side effects.1, 2, 5 The long-term psychological effects of amphetamine abuse include:
- Violent behavior.
- Respiratory problems.
- Loss of coordination.
- Other health problems.
Why are Amphetamines Addictive?
How amphetamines work in the brain and the effects that they have play a big role in why they are so addictive, much like other stimulants. Amphetamines cause a release of chemicals in the brain that affect how a person feels and functions, leading to:
- Short-term euphoria.
- Increased alertness.
- More energy.
- Increased productivity.
Chronic use of amphetamines can lead to the development of tolerance, where a higher dose is needed to feel the effects of the drug.2 When the high wears off, withdrawal symptoms can be debilitating and make it difficult to stop using.2 This vicious cycle is why amphetamines are addictive, and why amphetamine addiction can be difficult to beat.
Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction
There are many signs and symptoms of amphetamine addiction. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have an addiction to Adderall or another type of amphetamine, there are two categories of warning signs to be aware of. Physical symptoms of amphetamine addiction affect the body and can be observed by looking at the person, while behavioral symptoms of amphetamine addiction pertain to a person’s actions and habits.
Physical Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction
The physical symptoms of amphetamine addiction can include:3, 6
- Weight loss.
- Dilated pupils.
- Consistent appetite loss.
Behavioral Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction
Changes in behavior can also indicate that someone might have a problem with amphetamines. The behavioral symptoms of amphetamine addiction can include:3, 6
- Acquiring amphetamines without a prescription.
- Snorting amphetamines.
- Inability to stop using the substance.
- Manic highs.
- New financial problems.
- New legal problems.
- Risk-taking behavior.
Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the dangers of amphetamine addiction is amphetamine withdrawal. Most people who use amphetamines will experience symptoms of withdrawal at some point, making detox difficult without the supervision of professionals.6 Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms can be intense and very uncomfortable, and could include:2, 3, 6
- Depression after stopping use of the drug.
- Periods of complete exhaustion following stopping use of the drug.
- Increased appetite.
- Aches and pains.
- Agitation or irritability.
- Vivid nightmares.
Are You Struggling with Amphetamine Addiction?
Do you recognize one or more of the physical or behavioral symptoms listed above? Are you looking for help with amphetamine use, but aren’t sure where to start?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may want to consider seeking treatment for an amphetamine use disorder for either yourself or a loved one. It can be extremely difficult to overcome addiction on your own, and many people find treatment to be an extremely effective step toward recovery.
How American Addiction Centers Can Help
As a leading addiction treatment provider in the United States, American Addiction Centers focuses on not only treating the addiction itself, but the causes that led to its development. At American Addiction Centers, treatment is specialized to meet the needs of each person.
Our Treatment Program
Our treatment model focuses on identifying any existing mental illnesses or mental health issues that may stimulate the need to cope with issues by using alcohol.
Our treatment facilities then focus on providing an initial support system for those attending treatment and teach them healthier ways to cope with their amphetamine dependence.
We offer a full continuum of care that encompasses the primary types of treatment all the way from detox for those initially struggling to aftercare options like sober-living, counseling sessions, and support groups for the recovering alcoholic.
To find out more, or to get started, American Addiction Centers operates a confidential addiction hotline available 24/7 to help people find their path to recovery.
Still Unsure About Seeking Treatment?
Learning about addiction and treatment options may feel overwhelming. If you are still unsure about how treatment works, how to ask for help, or how to get treatment, consider the following guides:
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2017). Drugs
of abuse: A DEA resource guide.
- Center for
Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Amphetamines.
- Food and Drug Administration. (2007). Adderall (CII).
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
(2019). Key substance use and mental health
indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug
Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral
Health Statistics and Quality.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020). Substance use — amphetamines.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and
statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA:
American Psychiatric Publishing.
- American Addiction Centers. (2020). American addiction centers.
- American Addiction Centers. (2020). Our treatment centers.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of drug addiction treatment:
A research-based guide (3rd edition).
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse
treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP)
Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for
Substance Abuse Treatment.