Addiction Awareness

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Amphetamines are a group of powerful and highly addictive substances that dramatically affect the central nervous system. They induce a feeling of well-being and improve alertness, attention, and performance on various cognitive and motor tasks. Closely related are the so-called “designer amphetamines,” the most well known of which is the “club drug” MDMA, best known as “ecstasy.” Finally, some over-the-counter drugs used as appetite suppressants also have amphetamine-like action. Amphetamine-related disorders refer to the effects of abuse, dependence, and acute intoxication stemming from inappropriate amphetamine and amphetamine-related drug usage.

Amphetamines are also known as sympathomimetics, stimulants, and psychostimulants. Methamphetamine, the most common illegally produced amphetamine, goes by the street name of “speed,” “meth,” and “chalk.” When it is smoked, it is called “ice,” “crystal,” “crank,” and “glass.” Methamphetamine is a white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that dissolves in water or alcohol.

Amphetamines were initially produced for medical use, and were first used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Early in the 1900s, they were also used to treat several medical and psychiatric conditions, including narcolepsy,  attention-deficit disorders, obesity, and depression.

The structure of amphetamines differs significantly from that of cocaine, even though both are stimulants with similar behavioural and physiological effects. Like cocaine, amphetamine results in an accumulation of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is this excessive dopamine concentration that appears to produce the stimulation and feelings of euphoria experienced by the user. Cocaine is much more quickly metabolized and removed from the body, whereas amphetamines have a much longer duration of action. A large percentage of the drug remains unchanged in the body, leading to prolonged stimulant effects.

The DSM-IV recognises four forms of Amphetamine Disorder:

  • Amphetamine dependence, which refers to chronic or episodic binges (known as “speed runs”), with brief drug-free periods of time in between use.
  • Amphetamine abuse, which is less severe than dependence. Individuals diagnosed with amphetamine abuse have milder but nevertheless still substantial problems due to their drug usage.
  • Amphetamine intoxication, which refers to serious maladaptive behavioral or psychological changes that develop during, or shortly after, use of an amphetamine or related substance.
  • Amphetamine withdrawal, which refers to symptoms that develop within a few hours to several days after reducing or stopping heavy and prolonged amphetamine use. Withdrawal symptoms are, in general, opposite to those seen during intoxication and include fatigue, vivid and unpleasant dreams, insomnia or hypersomnia (too much sleep), increased appetite and agitation or slowing down.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | addiction, Amphetamines, dependency, ecstasy, intoxication, withdrawl | , , , , , | Leave a comment