Amphetamine addiction: symptoms, withdrawal and treatment

Discussing the symptoms of amphetamine addiction, withdrawal symptoms and treatment options.

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Page was clinically reviewed by Claire Rimmer (BA (Hons), Dip.Psychology, FDAD (NCAC)), Lead Addiction Therapist at Priory Hospital Altrincham in November 2021.

What are amphetamines?

Amphetamines, otherwise known as ‘speed’, are stimulant drugs that affect the central nervous system (CNS). Amphetamine use results in increased alertness which means that these types of drugs can be used to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the sleep disorder, narcolepsy.

Amphetamines are also sometimes referred to as ‘smart drugs’ or ‘club drugs’ and there's widespread use among younger generations who believe these drugs are accessible and ‘safe’ in comparison to more potent drugs such as heroin. Despite this perceived positive image, the effects of an amphetamine addiction on your health and other aspects of your life can be equally as devastating.

What is amphetamine addiction?

The addictive qualities of amphetamines such as Adderall and Ritalin are mostly observed within party scenes across the world. They might also be used by people who are trying to enhance exam performance, or even as an alternative to dieting due to the weight loss properties of these drugs.

Much like the abuse of other stimulant drugs such as the amphetamine derivative, MDMA (ecstasy), people who take amphetamines with the intention of suppressing appetite or to feel less tired can become trapped in a cycle of repeated use, which can lead to dependence and addiction.

Signs and symptoms of amphetamine addiction

The symptoms of amphetamine addiction can vary from person to person, and also depend on the amount of the drug that you're consuming, the frequency of your amphetamine use, as well as the type of amphetamine that you've been taking.

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia and psychosis
  • Hostility and aggressiveness
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t real)
  • Loss of inhibitions, leading to risky behaviour
  • Impaired judgement, which can lead to accidents
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Euphoria
  • Difficulties in problem solving
  • Inability to focus or concentrate at work, home, or in any other areas of your life, as taking amphetamines has become your main priority
  • Consuming amphetamines in order to relieve stress; this can often be the trigger for many people who go on to become addicted
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health problems such as depression, anxiety or stress
  • Frequent use of amphetamines in everyday life
  • Feeling as though you want to stop taking amphetamines, but finding that you're unable to
  • Taking amphetamines becomes more important than engaging in activities you once enjoyed
  • Inability to stop thinking about when, where and how you'll get your next amphetamine fix, and feeling as though this is taking over your life
  • Devoting an excessive amount of time to obtaining and using amphetamines
  • Continuing to take amphetamines even after suffering negative consequences as a result of this
  • Being secretive and defensive about your use of amphetamines
  • Neglecting responsibilities due to being high on amphetamines, or experiencing a ‘comedown’
  • Friends and family have noticed dramatic changes in your appearance and behaviour
  • Avoiding contact with loved ones, leading to social isolation
  • Relationship problems
  • Finding that you only tend to socialise with people who take amphetamines or other drugs
  • Poor performance and/or attendance at work
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased body temperature
  • Muscle cramps and tension
  • Feeling faint and dizzy
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Palpitations and heart arrhythmia
  • Faster breathing
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, including insomnia
  • Increased energy
  • Seizures
  • Decreased appetite leading to weight loss
  • Dehydration which can lead to hospitalisation
  • Intense thirst leading to over-hydration (drinking too much water), which can cause brain swelling, brain damage and even death
  • Finding that you've built a tolerance to the drug, meaning that you need to take higher doses on a more frequent basis, in order to experience the desired effects

Over time, it’s possible that amphetamine abuse can result in long-term health problems, including:

  • Permanent brain damage, affecting your behaviours, thoughts, emotions and memory
  • Long-term depression and anxiety
  • Drug-induced psychosis
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Anger management problems
  • Heart damage and cardiovascular failure
  • Frequent headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Convulsions, seizures and stroke
  • Malnutrition
  • Skin disorders

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Treatment for amphetamine addiction

If you or someone you care about is struggling with an amphetamine addiction, then comprehensive treatment at Priory can help to break the cycle of amphetamine abuse and allow you to regain control of your life. Treatment for amphetamine addiction can take place as part of our 28-day addiction treatment programme, which can be tailored to you.

Acknowledging that you need help for a stimulant addiction, or trying to persuade a loved one to get help, can be difficult. At Priory, we aim to ease those concerns by offering a free initial assessment with a specialist addiction therapist. They'll be able to discuss the issues you're facing with addiction in confidence.

After you've discussed your addiction and decided what goals you want to achieve during addiction treatment, a tailored treatment plan built around your specific circumstances will be arranged. This comprehensive approach to treatment enables you to learn healthy coping mechanisms to replace learned thoughts and behaviours that contribute to ongoing addiction. This means that once the drug is out of your system, you're less likely to relapse and turn to the drug in future.

Medically assisted detoxification from amphetamines

Residential treatment might include a medically assisted detoxification programme as a first step. During this, we'll support you to come off the drug and help you to manage withdrawal symptoms.

During detox, you'll receive 24-hour medical and nursing support, within a safe and understanding environment. We want to make sure that you're as comfortable as possible throughout this process. This first step can appear daunting at first, although you can be assured that you'll be in the best place for getting your addiction under control and continuing your recovery journey.

The length of your detox programme will depend on the severity of your amphetamine addiction and how long you've been using the drug. However, detox usually lasts for between 7 to 10 days.

After you've completed the detox process, you'll be able to continue on an addiction treatment plan involving one-to-one and group therapy sessions to further understand your addiction and the ways you can prevent it from impacting your life in the future.

Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms

When a person stops taking amphetamines, the sudden absence of this drug in their system may cause them to experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. These can include:

  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Exhaustion
  • Vivid nightmares
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia
  • Irritability, frustration and impatience
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increased appetite
  • Memory loss
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Psychomotor retardation (slowing of movements)

Drug counselling for amphetamine addiction

Counselling for amphetamine addiction aims to support you to give up amphetamines completely, rather than simply reducing the amount you take. We'll help you to manage stressful situations and problems in your life that may previously have led to you taking the drug.

A combination of one-to-one psychotherapy and group therapy sessions work towards building your self-esteem and challenging any unhelpful thoughts and behaviours which lead to a cycle of drug abuse. We use problem-solving talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), helping to instil a positive attitude going forward.

Our team of consultant psychiatrists and addiction experts, some of whom are also in recovery themselves, provide an unrivalled insight and approach towards your recovery from amphetamine addiction.

Outpatient treatment for amphetamine addiction

Your amphetamine addiction doesn’t have to be severe for you to get help and support from us. We also offer outpatient addiction therapy, which is suitable for people stepping down from more structured inpatient, detox or day care programmes, and can fit in around other life commitments.

Private medical insurance

We are a registered and approved provider for all of the UK's leading private medical insurers. All of the services we offer at Priory can be funded through private medical insurance. This includes:

  • Mental health treatment
  • Addiction treatment
  • Eating disorder treatment

All clients will have access to our highly skilled and accredited clinicians, many of whom are published experts in their fields of treatment. Whatever your requirements, we're committed to working with you to get your life back on track.

Registered and approved provider

We are a registered and approved provider for all of the UK's leading private medical insurers.

Addiction treatment near me

We have addiction treatment centres located throughout the country, ensuring that you can access the support you need in a location that's convenient for you. To find your nearest addiction treatment centre, please use the search form below.

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