When legally prescribed by a doctor, dextroamphetamine can be safely prescribed to treat conditions such as narcolepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, many people use dextroamphetamine illegally, which can lead to addiction and death.
Understanding Dextroamphetamine Abuse
When prescribed by a doctor, dextroamphetamine is taken in pill or liquid form. When taken illegally, it is sometimes crushed and snorted, or dissolved in liquid to be injected. Taking the drug in this way is dangerous and promotes addiction.
Dextroamphetamine is a stimulant drug. It works to speed up the messages between your brain and your body to make you feel more alert and energetic. People use it illegally to stay awake, increase focus, or suppress appetite. Common street names for this drug include speed, go-pills, pep pills, and uppers.
Dextroamphetamine also causes the brain to release dopamine, which is commonly known as the feel-good brain chemical. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, using dextroamphetamine, especially at higher than prescribed doses, may cause pleasurable effects such as:
- Joy (euphoria, or “flash” or “rush”) and less inhibition, similar to being drunk
- Feeling as if your thinking is extremely clear
- Feeling more in control, self-confident
- Wanting to be with and talk to people (more sociable)
- Increased energy
Signs and Symptoms of Dextroamphetamine Abuse
In addition to the effects above, the U.S. National Library of Medicine lists a number of unpleasant side effects caused by dextroamphetamine, such as:
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- uncontrollable shaking of a part of your body
- dry mouth
- unpleasant taste
- diarrhea or constipation
- loss of appetite and weight loss
- changes in sex drive or ability
Some side effects of dextroamphetamine can be serious. If you or a loved one experiences any of the following symptoms, call a doctor immediately:
- fast or pounding heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- excessive tiredness
- slow or difficult speech
- dizziness or faintness
- weakness or numbness of an arm or leg
- mood changes
- believing things that are not true
- feeling unusually suspicious of others
- hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
- frenzied or abnormally excited mood
- aggressive or hostile behavior
- abnormal movements
- verbal tics
- changes in vision or blurred vision
Long-term users of dextroamphetamine may also experience dysthymia, an affective disorder which features a chronically depressed or irritable mood.
Dangers of Dextroamphetamine Abuse
Abuse of dextroamphetamine can be dangerous in a variety of ways. Sustained use will create a tolerance for the drug, forcing addicts to increase their dosage to experience the same effects. Taking large amounts of dextroamphetamine can have deadly consequences, such as breathing difficulty, heart attack, seizure, stroke, kidney failure, and coma.
Addiction to dextroamphetamine can lead to depression and other withdrawal symptoms whenever the drug begins to wear off—an effect which promotes the cycle of addiction. The paranoia and psychosis caused by heavy dextroamphetamine use can lead addicts to either accidentally or purposefully harm themselves or others. It is important for addicts to seek help before too much damage is done.
Who Abuses Dextroamphetamine?
A person of any age, gender, financial status, or ethnicity can become addicted to dextroamphetamine. Some people take it to try and accomplish more tasks in less time, or on less sleep. Some people take it to try and lose weight or achieve fitness goals. Some take it as a way to self-medicate their depression.
In all of these cases, the dextroamphetamine usage inevitably backfires, resulting in effects that are opposite to those which are desired. For example, while dextroamphetamine will make depressed people feel better initially, their low mood will become worse and worse each time the drug begins to wear off, often leading to severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “a growing number of teenagers and young adults are abusing prescription stimulants to boost their study performance in an effort to improve their grades in school.”
Because the drug does help improve the academic performance of individuals diagnosed with ADHD, many young people without ADHD mistakenly believe that taking dextroamphetamine will result in cognitive enhancement. However studies have shown that while it does indeed keep you awake, dextroamphetamine cannot improve mental sharpness or the ability to learn. In fact, students who abuse the drug tend to have lower GPAs than non-users.
Anyone, from any walk of life, can become addicted to dextroamphetamine. When used appropriately under a doctor’s instructions, the medicine can be beneficial, and improve a patient’s quality of life. But overuse and abuse of dextroamphetamine will lead to addiction, and serious mental and physical consequences.
Because this medication is so often prescribed by doctors, many users believe that dextroamphetamine is harmless, and non-addictive. This is a hazardous misconception. Dextroamphetamine is only safe when it is being used in a precise dosage, as determined by a medical doctor, to treat a specific medical condition. When you use the drug to improve performance or get high, addiction occurs.
Am I Addicted to Dextroamphetamine?
If you fear that you are addicted to dextroamphetamine, honestly answer the questions below:
- Do I abuse dextroamphetamine every day?
- Do I abuse the drug in order to combat feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, depression, etc.?
- Have friends or family members mentioned more than once that they are worried about my drug use?
- Do I become hostile or angry when they do so?
- Do I ever experience withdrawal symptoms such as: an inability to feel pleasure, fatigue and/or changes in sleep or energy levels, thoughts of suicide, anxiety and irritability, or intense cravings?
- Do I feel like I can’t have fun, be normal, or complete everyday tasks without dextroamphetamine?
- Am I secretive about my drug use, lying about when I use or how much I take?
- Am I beginning to experience hallucinations, aggression, paranoia, or any other symptoms of psychosis?
- Do I need more and more speed each time I abuse the drug in order to feel its effects?
- Have I experienced any major problems in the last year, such as a breakup, job loss, car accident, family problems, financial problems, or getting arrested as a result of my drug use?
- Despite these problems, do I feel unable to stop using dextroamphetamine on my own?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be addicted to dextroamphetamine and in need of professional help.
Dextroamphetamine Addiction Treatment
Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that “repeated drug use changes the brain, including parts of the brain that enable you to exert self-control. These and other changes can be seen clearly in brain imaging studies of people with drug addictions.”
This is why addicts require professional help to break the cycle of addiction. The substance abuse specialists at a qualified drug and alcohol treatment center are trained in how to manage addiction and lead addicts safely to recovery.
There are a wide variety of affordable treatment options available, but all of them begin with abstaining from drug use.
Detoxification is the first step to any recovery plan. A person needs clarity of mind and a body free from addictive substances before they can be effectively treated. While there are no drugs that can counteract or alleviate the symptoms caused by dextroamphetamine withdrawal, detoxing in a rehab center under the care of medical professionals will ensure that you detox safely, with as little discomfort as possible.
Whether addicts choose inpatient residential treatment and/or outpatient treatment, all substance abuse recovery plans will include talk therapy.
Individual therapy allows for patients to work intensively on issues specific only to them, while group therapy allows them to both support and experience support from other addicts who are struggling with similar challenges. Family therapy is a valuable tool to ensure individuals receive the best environment possible at home, to prevent relapse.
Other treatment options include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT teaches patients to retrain their brains with new methods of coping with stress and cravings, and avoiding trigger situations
- 12-step meetings: Meetings based on the 12-step program that originated with Alcoholics Anonymous are an invaluable resource to support long term sobriety.
- Nutrition, fitness and recreational therapy: a strong body is just as important as a strong mind when it comes to long-term recovery. The better a person feels, the more prepared they will be to handle life as it comes.
- Treatment for co-occurring conditions: most addicts suffer from undiagnosed mental health issues that underlie and fuel their substance abuse. These co-occurring disorders must be addressed as a part of recovery.