Amphetamines are known as stimulants because they stimulate the nervous system.. They were synthesized; and even today, are used legitimately to treat many medical conditions like attention deficit, narcolepsy, obesity and depression. They are often illegitimately used by students to enhance performance in examinations, truck drivers to stay up fresh on long drives, business people to meet deadlines, athletes during competitions for enhancing performance and above all; as illicit drugs of abuse for recreational purposes.
The conventional Amphetamines include Methylphenidate, Methamphetamine and Dextroamphetamine. Newer substituted forms are Methylenedioxy derivative (MDMA) Ethylmethylene dioxy derivative (MDEA) and the Dimethoxy derivative (DOM). Some of the classic amphetamines are colloquially referred to as ice, crystal, crystalmeth or the well-famed ‘speed’. MDMA is the very well known drug ‘Adam’ while MDEA is the famous ‘Eve’.
Amphetamines strongly influence the reward system of the brain giving a sense of well-being, friendliness, euphoria and exaltation. They influence the dopamine and noradrenaline pathways in the brain. Smaller doses have been known to improve attention and increase both verbal and written performance (hence the use in ADHD, and misuse by students before exams). Amphetamines decrease fatigue and raise the threshold for pain. All the substituted synthetic amphetamines are more activating and energizing because of the dopamine action on the reward center of the brain. They generate a sense of familiarity and closeness with other people; at the same time they also offer empathy. Withdrawal reactions include fatigue. Depression and increased appetite with weight gain, along with occasional agitation, anxiety and panic like states too. The reinforcing effects are too strong to negate the ill effects of use and motivation to quit is usually poor..
When it gets bad
Amphetamine use is physically associated with an increased pulse, fever, headache, palpitations, nausea, vomiting, tremors and imbalance. It may cause irritability, restlessness and sleep disturbances. In extreme cases it precipitates hypertensive crisis, heart attack, stroke, or inflammation of the large intestine. These drugs can precipitate delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia thus arousing a brief psychotic episode. In several cases this may be irreversible even with antipsychotic medication owing to the dopamine neuronal alterations in the brain.
MINDFRAMES: Taming the monster
Depending on the severity of the condition, hospitalized inpatient management or outpatient care with medication as well as psychotherapy is suggested for amphetamine abusers. Management is not easy and requires persistence and endurance on the part of the patient, treating physician, counselors as well as the relatives. The underlying depression, anxiety, and personality problem also pose a challenge for treatment. Physical complications add to the trouble while psychoses worsens the prognosis significantly. Medications certainly assist in the detoxification and de-addiction. Recovery from amphetamine use is slow but steady. Substance addiction and dependence is an illness. People with diabetes, cancer and cardiac conditions do get sympathy and understanding from their loved ones; sadly this is not the case with addictive substances. Here the best person who can help oneself is oneself. It makes sense to do it sooner than later.