Amphetamine Dependence: What it is, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
That sudden burst of energy you experience with a single dose of amphetamine is all that you need to reach the tipping point. The point where the damage done can feel irreversible! But is that really the case?
Most of us share the assumption of how one can never overcome addiction or dependence but this is far from the truth. With the proper care, support, and guidance getting out of the vicious cycle is possible.
What is Amphetamine?
Legally used to treat mental health conditions like narcolepsy, ADHD, and even Parkinson’s disease, amphetamines are a type of stimulant drug that accelerates the functioning of the brain. Also known as speed, ice, and base, this drug exists in varying forms that are typically snorted, smoked, injected, and even swallowed. Much like its portrayal in movies and tv shows.
What is Amphetamine Dependence?
Before we understand what amphetamine dependence is, it is important to recognize the difference between dependence and addiction. When we diagnose a person with drug dependence, we are referring to a physical dependence on the substance. This is observed through symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal.
Similarly, amphetamine dependence is a stimulant use disorder that occurs due to the persistent consumption of the drug to maintain daily functioning. On abruptly stopping the consumption of this drug, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal characteristic of dependence.
Now although there is a possibility of being dependent and not addicted, in most cases addiction is a probable consequence. This condition is characterized by biochemical changes in the brain resulting in marked behavioral changes.
What Causes Amphetamine Dependence?
As with any other drug, using amphetamines for a long period can lead to dependence. It is important to keep in mind that the duration between drug use and dependence can be shorter for some people as compared to others.
Further, amphetamine dependency can be caused by consuming the drug without a prescription, consuming more than the prescribed dosage, or even sticking to the dosage prescribed by the doctor. If you have easy access to the drug, lead a stressful life, or struggle with mental health conditions (depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, etc) you are at a higher risk of developing dependence.
What are the Symptoms of Amphetamine Addiction?
While recognizing addiction may not always be easy, learning about the symptoms can go a long way in acknowledging the condition and beginning the journey to recovery. Here are the main symptoms of amphetamine addiction-
- Taking the drug in higher and more frequent doses
- Being unable to control or reduce drug use
- Experiencing cravings to engage in substance use
- Difficulties in meeting personal, social, and occupational obligations
- Withdrawing from social and occupational activities
- Experiencing tolerance and withdrawal
- Consuming the drug despite the physical and psychological consequences
If you or a loved one are facing such symptoms, reaching out to a professional and seeking their expertise is essential.
Who is at Higher Risk of Amphetamine Addiction?
People of any age, sex, and economic background can be vulnerable to amphetamine addiction. Nevertheless, certain factors may increase the likelihood of developing this condition. These include-
- Family history of addiction. There is a higher chance of developing amphetamine addiction if you have blood relatives struggling with the same.
- Mental health disorder. For conditions like depression, anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, and more using drugs can be a way to cope which in the long run may lead to addiction.
- Peer pressure.
- Early use. Using drugs from an early age can impact the brain and increase the risk of developing addiction.
How Do Amphetamines Work on the Body?
Amphetamines activate the brain producing a stimulating effect throughout your body. The chemical structure of this drug is similar to two prominent neurotransmitters. Hence when you use this drug, it enhances the functioning of dopamine and norepinephrine.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released in response to a pleasurable experience. It produces a sense of euphoria that increases twofold due to the consumption of amphetamines. Now this so-called advantage can lead a person to engage in repetitive use, hence altering brain chemistry and leading to addiction.
How is Amphetamine Addiction Diagnosed?
The first step toward recovery is reaching out to a mental health care professional and gaining a comprehensive diagnosis of your condition. To diagnose amphetamine addiction, the doctor may ask you a couple of basic questions that cover the duration and quantity of drug use. This is followed by physical exams and blood tests to detect the amphetamine levels in your system and health problems that may have been caused by the addiction.
Finally, to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor may also assess tolerance levels, mental health issues accompanied by withdrawal, the number of attempts made to cut down, and lifestyle changes caused by the drug.
What are the Risk Associated with Amphetamine Addiction?
As a type of stimulant, amphetamines can be highly addictive. There are several risks associated with it. Some of these include-
- Memory loss
- Lack of concentration
- Aggressive or violent behavior
- Rapid heart rate
- Suicidal tendencies
- Loss of appetite
- Tooth decay
- Risk of contracting HIV or other infectious diseases
In the long run, excessive use of amphetamines can also lead to overdose and death.
How is Amphetamine Addiction Treated?
Although the risks or impact of addiction can feel irreparable, there are solutions to help you overcome it and reclaim your life. Treatment for amphetamine addiction may include a combination of the following:
Seeking in-patient consultations or hospitalization is the best option if you are facing severe withdrawal symptoms. Detox is the initial treatment program in every rehab center. This program is aimed to remove unwanted and harmful toxic substances from the body. With a team of experts offering support and care on a 24/7 basis, you can heal and recover in a safe space.
According to the researchers, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective treatment programs for amphetamine addiction. It entails talk therapy, where the expert helps you recognize maladaptive and irrational thoughts and behaviors.
Relapse therapy is a subtype of cognitive-behavioral therapy. This therapy can help you minimize the risk of triggers toward addictive behavior.
Group therapy is another modality where a group of individuals discuss a common issue with the help of a medical professional. Here as the recovering individual, you learn to cope in the presence of a supportive group of residents. Furthermore, this form of therapy helps you to understand that you are not alone in this journey.
Further, Motivation Enhancement Therapy (MET )is aimed to enhance the internal motivation of the recovering addict. Generally, MET is coupled with other therapies for better results to reduce the risk of future relapse. Therapies like CBT, and the 12-Step treatment method are generally coupled. The goal of this form of therapy is to minimize the risk of co-occurring illnesses like depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Finally, your doctor may also prescribe medications to help you manage cravings and relieve symptoms of other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, etc.
When Should I Seek Help?
Seeking help is easier said than done. Now while we understand that accepting help takes time, it is important to keep in mind that the sooner you seek help, the better the process of recovery will be. So if you notice the following signs reach out to a medical professional soon:
- Excessive consumption of the drug
- Consuming the drug regardless of the damage caused
- Severe withdrawal symptoms after stopping drug use
How to Find a Doctor?
Discovering the ideal doctor plays a crucial role in achieving a successful recovery. It entails assessing their expertise, specialization, experience, and other pertinent factors. In addition to their qualifications, it is vital to gauge the level of comfort and connection you feel with the doctor. Building a positive relationship ensures a more seamless journey toward healing. Thus, it is perfectly normal to switch between practitioners until you find the perfect fit.
Can I prevent Amphetamine Addiction?
Raising awareness through drug education programs is one of the most effective tools to prevent any form of addiction. Research also suggests that family support can go a long way in helping prevent relapse.
If you have reached this point of the blog, you are doing your bit in overcoming addiction and preventing future use.
How to Support a Family Member Who Has Amphetamine Addiction?
As a caregiver or loved one, there are several practices to help out a family member battling amphetamine addiction. This can look like this:
- Reading about the signs and symptoms of addiction
- Observing your loved one’s behavior over days or weeks to determine the problem at hand.
- Reaching out to a professional to gain a clearer understanding and begin the process of recovery.
- Ensuring the safety of yourself and other family members, especially if there is a possibility of harm caused by the individual battling addiction.
What is the long-term outlook?
Amphetamine addiction can be difficult to overcome. Research suggests that the rate of relapse after treatment is pretty high. However, being consistent with treatment can help reduce this rate and increase the chances of long-term recovery.
- How do you treat amphetamine use disorder?
There are several treatment approaches for amphetamine use disorder. These include-
- How does amphetamine affect the brain?
The chemical structure of amphetamines is almost identical to that of dopamine and norepinephrine (neurotransmitters). Hence once the drug enters your bloodstream, it enhances the functioning of the two neurotransmitters resulting in a major high.
- How does amphetamine affect the body?
There are several ways in which amphetamine can affect your body. These include-
- Loss of appetite
- Tooth decay
- Does amphetamine increase memory?
There is no clear evidence that the use of amphetamines can improve memory. In the long run, it can lead to memory loss and impair your ability to function.
- Does amphetamine affect depression?
Mood disorders like depression can be elicited by the use of amphetamines. Further, the symptoms of depression can also occur during withdrawal.
- Does amphetamine cause stress?
Long-term amphetamine use can lead to sleep issues, psychotic symptoms, and more which aggravate stress.
- What is amphetamine treatment medication?
Medications that curb cravings for the drug and help manage mental health conditions accompanied by addiction are typically prescribed during treatment.
- Does amphetamine increase dopamine?
Since amphetamines have a similar chemical structure to dopamine, it enhances the functioning of said neurotransmitter leading to a heightened sense of euphoria.