For those who are shy or socially inept, the idea of walking into a social setting with confidence and social prowess is an amazing dream. Many who are lacking in social skills find themselves turning to amphetamines to enhance their abilities. Wakefulness, social adroitness, confidence, increased energy and enhanced mood are just some of the benefits of amphetamines, a type of central nervous system stimulant.
These benefits are great for those prescribed and needing the drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, sleep disorders or another condition in which amphetamines are generally prescribed. However, the seductive allure of the drugs can be habit-forming and lead to addiction for both prescribed users and non-prescription users.
Statistics Regarding Amphetamine Abuse
- As an average, abuse incident rates are estimated at 2% for all age groups and genders though rates were higher in the 18-29 age groups (.4%) than the 45-64 age groups (.1%).
- Girls aged 12-17 show a higher abuse rate (.3%) than boys (.1%) in the same age group.
- The gap between males and females who’ve been admitted for non-intravenous use are similar at 54% admittance for males and 46% for females.
- Males are 3-4 times more likely to use amphetamines intravenously than females.
- In the 12-17 age groups Caucasian and African-Americans had a higher rate of amphetamine abuse (.3%) than Hispanics and Asian Americans (.1%). Use of amphetamine stimulants in Native Americans of this age group is negligible.
- The age groups of 18 and above showed abuse by Native Americans and Native Alaskans highest (.6%) with Caucasians and Hispanics coming in lower (.2%). Abuse by African-Americans and Asian Americans in this age group was negligible.
Situations That May Encourage Amphetamine Abuse
Stress is a major reason for amphetamine abuse in today’s society. The inability to cope with pressure to perform optimally in social, school and work settings may become overwhelming. Expectations are high and some turn to amphetamine stimulants to help get through the stresses of the day. This can cause problems if stimulants are not used as prescribed or abused by those without a prescription. Below are some of the most common stressors that may encourage abuse:
- Life Stress – Without adequate coping skills, some people become overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness and the inability to cope. Stimulants can create an escape and a sense of being able to cope with whatever life throws at one.
- Work Stress – With ever-changing technology and a fast-paced work environment, many are left feeling like they just can’t keep up in the modern work world. Amphetamines can increase energy, sociability and confidence in the over-stressed worker creating an image of capability.
- School Stress – School is another area where students need to excel. New technology, social skill requirements and advanced learning process make this a daunting task. Those who show signs of hyperactivity or anxieties are often prescribed amphetamines.
Social reputation is also a big reason some consider amphetamine use which can turn to abuse. Stimulants are often used to decrease appetite for weight loss. This is the case in both school age children and adults. This approach can lead to abuse in those who perceive their image as less than ideal.
Amphetamines can also help make social events more comfortable and are taken by those who have serious social inhibitions. The ability to fit in and be more talkative in social settings is very attractive to the so-called wall flower. The user may find they need the drug more often or in a larger quantity to get through social events.
Brain chemistry can also affect dependence. Some pathways in the brain are like pleasure centers and stimulants can affect those areas creating the need for more of the drug.
Genetics sometimes play a part in stimulant abuse. Parents exhibiting certain traits may pass them along to their children.
- The parent may have an abuse problem themselves which can predispose the child to like behavior.
- Inherited temperament can lead to personality disorders that predispose one to certain behaviors.
Co-factors may include post-traumatic stress disorder, neurological disorders, gambling disorders and/or anti-social behavior.
Sometimes, amphetamine users will pair the stimulant with other substances like marijuana. Substances having sedative properties combat negative effects of the amphetamine stimulant wearing off.
Signs of Stimulant Misuse
Emotional/Psychological – Though stimulant use may result in emotional problems occurring or worsening, a person will continue to use them. Those abusing stimulants may show improved mood, almost euphoric at times. They may also show more self-confidence and sociability than before taking the stimulant.
Physical Characteristics – As with emotional problems, a person may continue to take amphetamines even if they are causing or making physical problems worse. Cravings may become so intense they can’t stop using it. Also, as time goes by tolerance to the drug builds up and more is required to get the desired effect. Here are some other physical symptoms to note:
- The person may show a decrease in appetite, perhaps resulting in weight loss.
- Body temperature may increase.
- A marked increase in alertness and energy might occur.
- Fatigue will decrease.
- Increases in blood pressure and respiration are common.
- Pupils can seem dilated.
Behavior Issues – With tolerances built up, the user needs more of the drug over time. It is often hard for the user to cut down and attempts to do so are usually unsuccessful. It takes more time to get the drug, take it or deal with coming down from it. Responsibilities at home, work or school are neglected and the user may give up activities that were once important to them.
Social Aspects – Relationships often suffer as a result of overuse of stimulants. A person may find they aren’t able to solve relationship or social problems, but continue to take the drug regardless. Overstimulation can cause almost manic social behavior and the stimulant user will miss obvious cues that their behavior is inappropriate.
Problematic Effects Over Time
Over time, amphetamine abuse can become increasingly worse. This downward spiral, if not corrected, may even result in death. The following list shows the harmful effects that could occur:
- Hostility, aggression or violence
- Anxiety and/or paranoia
- Emotional problems and social retreat
- Depression and extreme fatigue
- Unrealistic evaluation of abilities and talents; feeling of entitlement in obtaining powerful positions or influencing outcomes
- Lessened social inhibitions causing negative behaviors and consequences
- Changing sexual behavior leading to either promiscuity or a decrease in sexual activity
- Impaired judgment and repetitive actions
- Angry outbursts, confusion and incoherence
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Loss of relationships, problems at work or school and/or legal problems.
- Malnutrition, muscle tension, chest pain, stomach pain or other physical problems
- Headaches, convulsions, dehydration, blurred vision and skin disorders
- Seizures, coma and even loss of life may occur.
Those wishing to start a withdrawal program should not attempt to do this on their own. Seeking help from those qualified can help ease transitions of dependence to freedom from addiction. Going it alone can actually be harmful to the person and may result in serious problems. Withdrawal from amphetamines is like other drugs and may include the following:
- Depression, fatigue and inability to stay alert or awake
- Slower motor skills, inability to concentrate or pay attention
- Short-term memory loss
- Insomnia or vivid and unpleasant dreams
- Anxiousness and perhaps increase in appetite
- Perceived inability to make decisions and function normally
When seeking treatment from amphetamine abuse, one should seek inpatient treatment as opposed to outpatient. Inpatient services allow the one in need to focus on their treatment without dealing with the stresses and temptations of outside life. The first days of treatment are critical in the fight to regain control of the body and emotions. An inpatient environment gives one the specialized support, time and treatment methods needed to get positive and lasting results.