All You Need To Know About Amphetamines
Researchers are continuously finding appropriate medications for each of the known diseases in the world. While these substances have been developed to treat diseases, it has become unavoidable that some of these substances may cause some adverse effects. These may not all manifest to all individuals who have taken them, but it is essential that individuals who have been prescribed with such medications may be aware of its possible side effects, especially when it comes to amphetamines.
What is Amphetamine?
Amphetamine is a synthetic central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that was first synthesized in Germany in 1887. Due to its euphorigenic properties and its ability to eliminate fatigue, amphetamine is capable of causing dependency in people. Several studies and book references have shown the mild and chronic effects to amphetamine-type substance abusers, but the cases of abuse and misuse continue to increase globally.
Generally, the effects of amphetamine to its users vary according to the person’s mental state, the dosage level utilized, the relative potency of the specific form of amphetamine, and the manner in which the drug is used.
History of Amphetamine
Amphetamine – also known as “speed” – is a synthetic stimulant used to suppress the appetite, control weight, and treat disorders like narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Chinese physicians were among the first health care experts to explore the use of the amphetamine compound for more than 5,000 years through a native plant called Ma Huang (Ephedra sinica) – for treatment of common cold, coughs, asthma, headaches, and hay fever.
Ma Huang is known to stimulate the nervous system to enhance mood, reduce fatigue, and make a person alert. However, in the passing of years, it was also marketed to produce euphoria and to increase sexual sensations. It wasn’t until 1887 when amphetamines were first synthesized by the drug company Smith, Kline and French.
In 1932, amphetamine was marketed as Benzedrine in an over-the-counter inhaler to treat nasal congestion caused by asthma, hay fever, and colds. Around 1935, physicians successfully used it to treat narcolepsy, and by 1937 amphetamine was found to have a positive effect on some children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Around the same time, amphetamine was available by prescription in tablet form.
Meanwhile, according to Nicolas Rasmussen’s On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamines, it was in the 1940s when amphetamine became hugely famous that it could have been included in the list of medical breakthroughs, alongside insulin and penicillin. During World War II, soldiers were using amphetamines and methamphetamines to increase alertness, boost morale, and fight fatigue.
Furthermore, athletes and students also started using amphetamines to increase alertness levels and physical performance. By 1950, amphetamine became increasingly in demand and doctors embraced it as psychiatric medication for distressed patients.
In addition, it was also considered as a breakthrough in weight loss, and soon after media labeled amphetamine as cure-all medication.
The Amphetamines and Other Stimulants, authored by Lawrence Clayton, noted that advertisements claimed promoted amphetamines to solve problems like alcoholism and obesity. However, in the late 1950s, amphetamines were restricted and could only be acquired with the prescription of doctors.
Unfortunately, people soon discovered the presence of amphetamines in some over-the-counter decongestant inhalers and started becoming addicted and abusing it. It later became a popular recreational drug after young people found that large doses can result in a tremendous high.
The year 1960 became the peak of the drug’s popularity. Young people have been forging prescriptions for the stimulants. Likewise, the addiction resulted in more young people suffering from heart attack and stroke.
During the 1970s, illegal speed labs came into existence on the West Coast, and though the US federal government was able to control prescription stimulants, it failed to control illegal labs. Hundreds of young people were rushed to the hospital, either sick or dying from drugs that had been made from illegal speed labs.
By 1970s, the US government imposed a heavy restriction on the supply of pharmaceutical amphetamines, as reported cases of amphetamine abuse increased.
At present, amphetamine’s popularity refused to fade despite government’s strict prohibition of the drug. Nicolas Rasmussen’s book noted that another epidemic of amphetamine abuse and addiction is driven by the recent surge of crystalline methamphetamine or “ice” as well as the amphetamine derivative “ecstasy.”
According to US government statistics, high dose methamphetamine resurgence started in centers in California, Colorado, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Texas. Between 1983 and 1988, emergency room admission cases involving amphetamines have doubled nationally and increased again between 1988 and 1992. Between 1992 and 2002, cases increased five-fold further.
US & International Statistics about Amphetamine Use
Amphetamine is defined by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center as a whole family of synthetic drugs that are all chemically related and have pretty similar effects.
Among its short-term effects include euphoria, talkativeness, reduction of appetite, dry mouth, and nausea. On the other hand, extreme mood swings, paranoia, panic attacks, seizures, hallucination, and uncontrolled violent reactions are some of the most visible long-term effects that amphetamine users are expected to experience.
When amphetamines were severely abused by young people and illegal speed labs sprung between the 1960s and 1970s, the federal government of the United States began to crack down illegal manufacturers of the drug and started to pass on laws that would regulate the distribution and manufacturing of amphetamine-type stimulants. Two of the strictly implemented laws is the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and the Federal Domestic Chemical Diversion Act of 1993.
As decades went by, amphetamines refused to die down and many people continued to abuse and misuse the drug. In the 2003 Ecstasy and Amphetamines Global Survey released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, amphetamine-type stimulants are divided into two major sub-groups:
AMPHETAMINES (amphetamine and methamphetamine)
ECSTASY-TYPE SUBSTANCES (ecstasy, MDMA, MDA, MDE)
Meanwhile, the 2010 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that between 13.7 and 52.9 million people used amphetamine-group substances at least once in the preceding year, with a corresponding annual prevalence range of 0.3% to 1.2% of the population aged 15 to 64.
The World Drug Report 2010 noted that in Asia, between 4.4 and 37.9 million people are estimated to have used amphetamine-group substances in the past year. Based on the 2008 UNODC annual reports questionnaire (ARQ) reported by the 13 of 29-member states of Asia, there has been some increase in the use of amphetamine-type stimulants among their respective population.
Bangladesh, China (including Hong Kong), Indonesia, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam were the countries that reported an increase in amphetamine-group substance use over the past year.
Recent data showed the Philippines, Thailand, and Laos have the highest annual prevalence use of amphetamines-group substances in East and South-East Asia.
In Europe, between 2.5 million and 3.2 million people aged 15-64 had used amphetamine-group substances at least once in the past year. The World Drug Report 2010 further documented that there have been high prevalence rates reported for South-East European countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina (1%), Montenegro (0.5%), and Serbia (0.2%).
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Norway and Estonia remain as countries with a higher than average annual prevalence of amphetamine-group substance use.
In Africa, the use of amphetamine-group substances rose during the past year is between 1.5 million and 5.2 million compared to 1.4 million – 4 million people estimated in 2007.
NORTH AMERICA and CANADA
According to the World Drug Report 2010, though amphetamine-group substance use remains high in North America, a recent survey showed a decline in the use of amphetamines. Among the population aged 12 years and older, the annual prevalence of all stimulants use was reported as 1.5% in 2006, 1.2% in 2007, and 1.1% in 2008.
Meanwhile, Canada has registered an increase in the use of amphetamine-group stimulants between 2004 and 2008. The annual prevalence of amphetamine-group stimulants reported in 2008 is 1.5% of the population aged 15-64, compared to 1% in 2004.
Though there have been signs of decline in recent years, the prevalence of amphetamines use in New Zealand and Australia remains one of the highest in the world. Based on the World Drug Report 2010, New Zealand registered 2.1% annual prevalence among the population aged 16-64 in 2008, whereas, Australia registered 2.7% annual prevalence among the population aged 16-64 in 2007.
Effects of Amphetamines
Below is a summary of the most common effects of amphetamine:
Effects on the Body
- Chest pain
- Death due to overdose
- Decreased appetite
- Dry mouth
- Inability to sleep
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased breathing rate
- Increased heartbeat
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle twitching
Effects on the Mind
- Behavioral stereotype
- Decreased fatigue
- Distrust of people
- Fearfulness, apprehension
- Increased confidence
- Increased feeling of alertness
- Increased irritability
- Restlessness, talkativeness
Testing and Diagnosis
To be certain that an individual has been using any type of illicit substance, the usual method of drug testing used is the urine drug test. Aside from it being non-invasive, the result of the test is readily available and it is the most inexpensive method of drug testing. The presence of amphetamine can be detected in the individual’s system 2-4 hours after it has taken the substance. The cut-off level of amphetamine is 1000 ng/ml with a detection window of 2-4 days.
It is recommended that two samples of urine are taken from the individual. Should the preliminary urine test give a positive result, the second urine sample should be sent for confirmatory drug testing. Not all initial positive result may be true since there are factors which may affect the accuracy of the test such as:
- how the test was performed,
- how the urine sample was stored,
- the type of food or drink that the person had prior to taking the test, and
- presence of prescription or over-the-counter drugs taken by the person prior to taking the test.
Despite the availability of home drug testing kits, laboratory tests are the most reliable way to confirm drugs of abuse. Moreover, it is important that a complete medical history should be taken to ensure that there are no obstacles that may interfere with the test to be performed.
Prescription Drugs Cause a Positive Drug Test Result for Amphetamines
Have you ever had drug testing done? If so, you would know that just before the drug test, you will be asked if there are any prescription drugs you are taking at the moment. Why do they ask this when everybody knows that taking prescription drugs is perfectly legal?
The problem is, while these drugs aren’t illegal and provide much needed medical assistance, they can sometimes give a false positive for certain illegal drugs when a drug test is done. You are asked about these drugs so they can the drug testing authority can rule out any false positive results that might be linked to that particular prescription drug. In this case, we will be discussing prescriptions that can get a false positive for amphetamines.
Several prescription drugs that are used to treat conditions such as fatigue, ADHD and narcolepsy, are a prescription version of amphetamines. In addition, there are also other drugs that are used as appetite suppressants that are amphetamines. This is because amphetamines stimulate the nervous system and are an effective way to treat inactivity, inactive metabolism and an inability to focus.
You will generally know you are taking a drug that falls under the amphetamine classification if you have symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, restlessness and lightheadedness. Generally, these drugs will have warnings about operating heavy machinery as concentration and attention to detail can be impaired by them.
For ADHD sufferers (who while largely under the age of 19 are sometimes also adults), drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, Daytrana (a transdermal patch), Metadate, Focalin, Dextrostat, and Concerta are most commonly prescribed. These drugs allow those affected by hyperactivity to focus and pay attention to detail that they might otherwise miss with their condition. This is caused by increased levels of dopamine, which has a calming effect and norepinephrine, which boosts the ability to focus.
Medications that treat hyperactivity disorders such as ADHD are some of the most commonly used prescriptions of their type.
Drugs that are used as appetite suppressors are also some of the most commonly used. Adipex, Desoxyn, Meridia, and Fastin are some examples of this type of medication as are FenPhen, Pondimin, and Redux, which while being banned for use on the U.S., are still widely available over the internet. These drugs increase the production of certain hormones in the body, which cause the user to feel fuller faster and interrupt the brain’s messages about hunger that can cause overeating. These hormones also increase the user’s desire to be active through increased heart rate and blood pressure, helping weight to be burned off through activity while the user is also eating less.
Narcolepsy is a neurological condition that causes the sufferer to deal with excessive levels of drowsiness during their waking hours, which can then lead to occasional uncontrollable periods of deep sleep. This condition can prevent the sufferer from driving, operating heavy machinery and other attention focused everyday activities.
Prescription stimulants help these patients to remain focused and cognizant. Drugs such as those mentioned above for ADHD and appetite suppression are also commonly used to treat narcolepsy.
When taken by someone who doesn’t need them, however, amphetamines become harmful. According to a feature on The Clinical Advisor, amphetamines are taken by people who want to improve sharpness or lose weight. Some abusers crush amphetamines, then inject or snort them; taking the drug in this manner produces a high that can be addictive.
According to the results of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), around 6.4 percent of full-time college students admitted to using stimulants such as amphetamines for non-medical purposes. Due to its popularity among college students, who use the drug so that they can perform better in school, Adderall is sometimes called “college crack” or “the Adderall advantage.”
This so-called “advantage,” however, comes at a price. Amphetamine abusers put themselves at risk for such serious side effects as seizures and mood disorders – and even stroke.