Amphetamines are drugs which stimulate the central nervous system eg laevoamphetamine ( benzadrine ), dexamphetamine ( dexadrine ) and methyl amphetamine ( methadrine ). Structurally, these compounds closely resemble the naturally occurring neural-transmitter norepinephrine, and mimic the action in the brain. There are several other amphetamine-type stimulants including methylphenidate ( ritalin ), and diethylpropion ( tenuate, durophet etc ). There have also been a number of hybrid drugs eg, ( drinamyl, durophet-m ) which combine amphetamine and barbiturate.

In the past, amphetamines have been prescribed for conditions ranging from night blindness to seasickness, migraine and impotence. They are occasionally prescribed in the treatment of hyperactivity in children, depression, obesity and sleep disorders ( narcolepsy).

As well as pills, amphetamine also comes in the form of amphetamine sulphate. This is a white crystalline powder containing equal amounts of laevoamphetamine and dexamphetamine. Sulphate sold on the “street” is often cut with other products such as glucose, and is rarely sold in its pure form at that level. Sulphate can be snorted, where it is absorbed into the blood stream via the nasal membrane. It can be dabbed meaning taken orally off a spoon or wet fingers. Amphetamine in this form can also be injected.



The effects of taking a standard 5mg amphetamine tablet are evident within 15-30 minutes, whilst snorted, sulphate takes effect within a minute or two depending upon the amount taken. These effects last an average of 6 hours.

The physical sensation is often said by users to start in the gut, travelling outwards to all parts of the body. Users will tend to feel a sense of elation as heart and breathing rates are increased, pupils are dilated and appetite is suppressed.

This elation tends to be accompanied by feelings of confidence and energy~ On higher doses, the user may experience rapid flow of ideas and feelings with increased physical and mental capacity. However, as the body’s energy store starts to decrease, feelings of panic, anxiety, restlessness and irritability may set in.



As amphetamines have relatively low toxicity, many of the Long term effects have to do with lifestyle and excess. Overdose is possible on amphetamines as a result of collapsed blood vessels in the brain, or heart failure, following a sudden and rapid rise in blood pressure. Long term users may experience chronic sleep problems, irritability, anxiety, malnutrition and palpitations.

Traditionally, it has been believed that amphetamines give rise to minimal tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, with psychological dependence playing a major role in continued use. However, as more studies are undertaken, opinions are starting to change. Currently, it is suggested the amphetamine withdrawal syndrome might involve disrupted sleep and eating patterns, rapid mood swings, sweating, fatigue, and palpitations.

Along with the above effects, heavy stimulant users may risk what has become known as “amphetamine psychosis”. This is regarded as a temporary state which subsides gradually when use is stopped. It may involve quite severe mental disturbance similar to paranoid schizophrenia.

Amphetamine users who repeatedly sniff their drugs, risk damage to the membranes lining the nostrils. Intravenous users run the same risks as with any injecting drug user if needles are dirty or shared eg HIV, AIDS infection, hepatitis B infection, abscesses, septicaemia, embolism etc.




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