What Are Amphetamines?

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What Are Amphetamines?

What Are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants, also called psycho-stimulants, that are often used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD and ADHD), narcolepsy, Parkinson’s disease and obesity. Amphetamines are derived from ephedra (Ephedra sinica), a plant native to China and Mongolia.

What is a amphetamine drug 

Amphetamine drug comes in three forms: oral tablet, extended-release orally disintegrating tablet, and extended-release oral liquid. But because of their high potential for abuse, the substances are also classified as Schedule II drugs by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Amphetamine is a controlled substance. This is because it has a high potential for misuse. Never give this drug to anyone else. Selling or giving it away is against the law.

Amphetamine plant contains ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which are natural alkaloids, or nitrogenous organic compounds that cause a physiological response in humans. These chemicals are the basis on which amphetamines (including methamphetamine) were created.

Amphetamines are used to treat people with

What Are Amphetamines?
Chemical structure of amphetamine.

Narcolepsy: It helps keep people with narcolepsy awake and Parkinson’s disease, according to CESAR.


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Also read: Adderall: Uses, Side Effects and Abuse

An amphetamine-based medication, such as Adderall or Ritalin, increases dopamine production in the connections between the prefrontal cortex  and other locations in the brain, Catherine Franssen, assistant professor of biopsychology and director of neurostudies at Longwood University in Virginia explained. This allows the prefrontal cortex to regain control.

Certain formulations of amphetamine, typically pseudoephedrine, are used in medications that treat cold symptoms, such as Sudafed. The amphetamine stimulants reduce the swelling of the blood vessels in the nose; this helps open up the airways, allowing for easier breathing. The medications are available without a prescription but are stored behind the pharmacy counter because they can be illegally used to brew methamphetamine, according to the  American Council on Science and Health.

Amphetamine side effects

Amphetamine oral tablet doesn’t cause drowsiness, but it can cause other side effects. When taken properly, amphetamine-based medications can be safe and effective. But as with any prescribed medication, there are potential side effects.

Amphetamines can have a powerful effect on the body and brain, even when taken only once. According to MedlinePlus, side effects of taking amphetamines include:

  • headache
  • upset stomach
  • trouble sleeping
  • decreased appetite
  • unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • nervousness
  • dizziness
  • sexual dysfunction
  • vomiting
  • itching
  • diarrhea or constipation
  • dry mouth
  • weight loss
  • mood swings

Serious side effects of Amphetamine

It is always advisable to call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. If symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:

  • Heart problems that can result in sudden death, including stroke, heart attack, and increased blood pressure.

Symptoms can include:

  • weakness in one part or side of your body
  • slurred speech
  • pain in your chest, left arm, jaw, or between your shoulders

Mental health problems such as:

  • new or worsened behavior and thought problems
  • new or worsened bipolar illness
  • new or worsened aggressive behavior or hostility
  • New psychotic symptoms in children and teenagers who have psychiatric problems.

These can include:

  • hearing voices
  • seeing things that aren’t real
  • believing things that aren’t true
  • being suspicious
  • feeling overexcited
  • Circulation problems. Symptoms can include:
  • fingers or toes that feel numb, cool, or painful
  • fingers or toes that change color from pale, to blue, to red
  • unexplained wounds on your fingers or toes.

Amphetamines also cause an increase in norepinephrine, the hormone involved with the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which is what controls our “fight-or-flight” mechanism. Norepinephrine causes the physical side effects, such as increased respiration, heart rate and blood pressure.

Together, those two chemicals can also have other mental effects.

Amphetamines Addiction and abuse

Amphetamines, particularly methamphetamine, can be highly addictive.

Amphetamine can cause the brain to produce such high amounts of dopamine that the brain compensates by getting rid of dopamine receptors.

Removing these receptors decreases the person’s ability to feel pleasure and can increase depression or suicidal thoughts when the person’s not using the drug, according to American Addiction Centers. Those depressing feelings may drive people to continue using the drug so that the dopamine and the positive feelings it produces return.

In early 2018, The New York Times reported that methamphetamine use in the U.S. had greatly increased over the past decade. In Portland, Oregon, more than 200 people died from methamphetamine use in 2016; that was three times more than just 10 years earlier, the Times reported.

While the physical changes amphetamines cause in the brain are permanent, several therapeutic treatment programs that can help people overcome their addiction. The most-successful treatments include addiction education, family counseling, cognitive behavior therapy and peer-support groups.

FDA Important warnings about Amphetamines

This drug has black box warnings. These are the most serious warnings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Black box warnings alert doctors and patients about drug effects that may be dangerous.

Risk of misuse warning: Taking this drug for a long period of time may lead to drug dependence and addiction. Use caution when taking amphetamine if you’ve ever had substance addiction problems or a family history of addiction.

Sudden death or heart problems warning: Taking this drug incorrectly may lead to sudden death or serious heart problems. These problems include increased blood pressure and heart rate, stroke, and heart attack.

Slowed children’s growth warning:This drug may cause a child’s growth to slow down. Children should have their height and weight checked by their doctor during treatment. If they aren’t growing in height or gaining any weight, treatment with this drug may need to be stopped. After stopping this drug, growth rate should return to normal. However, the child may never make up the growth that was lost while on the medication.

Clouded judgment warning:This drug may impair or cloud your judgment. Use caution while driving, using heavy machinery, or doing other risky tasks while taking this drug.

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to it. Taking it again could be fatal (cause death).

Warnings for people with certain health conditions 

For people with heart problems: People with serious heart problems may be at risk for sudden death when taking usual doses of this drug. They shouldn’t take this drug.

This drug may increase blood pressure and heart rate. If you have high blood pressure, heart failure, a history of recent heart attack, or an irregular or abnormal heart beat, you and your doctor should discuss if this drug is safe for you. If you decide to take it, use this drug with extreme caution.

For people with psychiatric disorders: If you or your child already has a psychotic disorder and take this drug, symptoms of behavior problems and thought disorders may get worse.

For people with anxiety or agitation: If you or your child tends to be very anxious, tense, or agitated, don’t use this drug. It can worsen these symptoms.

For people with a history of drug abuse: If you or your child has a history of abuse, don’t use this drug. It can be highly addictive.

For people with seizures: If you or your child has a history of seizures, don’t use this drug. It may increase the risk of having a seizure.

For people with circulation problems: These problems include peripheral vasculopathy and Raynaud’s phenomenon. Amphetamine may damage tissue in your or your child’s fingers and toes. This may cause a feeling of numbness, pain, or cold. Fingers and toes may also change colors from pale, to blue, to red. You and your doctor should monitor your fingers and toes for any of these symptoms. If things worsen, your doctor may decide to decrease the dosage, stop the medication, or refer you to a specialist.

For people with hyperthyroidism: If you or your child has been diagnosed with overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), don’t take this drug. It can make hyperthyroidism worse and cause symptoms such as an increased or abnormal heartbeat.

Warnings for other groups

For pregnant women: This drug is a category C pregnancy drug. That means:

  1. Research in animals has shown adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.

Some infants born to mothers who are dependent on amphetamine during pregnancy have shown an increased risk of being born premature, having a low birth weight, or showing symptoms of withdrawal.

Talk to your doctor if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. This drug should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk.

For women who are breastfeeding: This drug may pass into breast milk and can cause side effects in a child who is breastfed. Tell your doctor if you’re breastfeeding. You may need to decide whether to stop breastfeeding or stop taking this drug.

For children: This drug is safe and effective for children ages 3 to 17 years when used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Long-term safety and effectiveness of this drug in children are not well-established.

Further reading:

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