Last updated: September 28, 2020
Amphetamine is a psychostimulant drug of the phenethylamine class that causes increased wakefulness and focus in association with decreased fatigue and appetite.
Brand names of drugs that contain, or metabolize into, amphetamine include Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Desoxyn, Didrex, ProCentra, and Vyvanse, as well as Benzedrine or Psychedrine in the past.
The drug is also used recreationally and as a performance enhancer. Recreational users of amphetamine use several street names for amphetamine, such as “speed,” “meth,” “crank” and “go fast.”
Amphetamine use increases heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, breathing rate and dilates the pupils. Other effects include temporary hyperactivity, insomnia, anorexia and tremors. High doses or chronic use have been associated with increased nervousness, irritability, paranoia, confusion, anxiety and aggressiveness. It can also cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, producing strokes. Death can result from hyperthermia, convulsions and cardiovascular collapse.
Chronic, high-dose amphetamine abusers are susceptible to violent and erratic behavior, hallucinations, and a psychosis similar to schizophrenia. Psychotic episodes may occur for months or years after amphetamine abuse has stopped. The neurotoxic effect of amphetamines cause damage severe to brain cells that contain dopamine. Over time, reduced levels of dopamine can result in symptoms like those of Parkinson’s disease, a severe movement disorder.
Other side effects that may occur due to speed abuse include memory loss, severe dental problems (often called “meth mouth”, where the users’ teeth rot from the inside out), weight loss, and malnutrition.
Withdrawal from amphetamines may produce severe depression, anxiety, fatigue, and a powerful craving for more of the drug. Many of the health hazards from chronic use of amphetamine appear to be at least somewhat reversible. Recovery of dopamine transporter activity has been shown on brain neuroimaging studies after roughly 2 years. Motor skills and verbal memory tests showed some recovery, but not all changes have been shown to reverse.
The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse estimated that the number of recent new users of amphetamines among persons aged 12 or older was 105,000 in 2010, which was similar to the 2009 estimate (154,000), but lower than the 2002 to 2007 estimates (ranging from 157,000 to 318,000).