Amphetamine Dependence: Symptoms, Risks, Treatment, Diagnosis, How Does Amphetamine Work

What is Amphetamine Dependence?

Amphetamines dependence is a habit of using certain stimulants to function on a daily basis.

What is Amphetamine Dependence?

Amphetamines refer to the type of stimulants used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, and sleep disorder. Its abuse leads to structural abnormalities in the brain(1)

Two types of amphetamines are:

  1. Dextroamphetamine
  2. Methamphetamine

Amongst both, methamphetamines is the most commonly misused amphetamine.

Using amphetamines frequently makes a person dependant on them. If these drugs are used without any prescription, there are more chances of a person becoming dependant on it. But some get used to the drug even when prescribed to treat certain disorders and if taken more than required.

Amphetamines are actually beneficial when used correctly as they have the potential to:

  • Enhance focus
  • Increase attention
  • Manage sleep disorders
  • Maintain alertness

If addicted to them, withdrawal symptoms are noticed if a person abruptly stops using it.

How Does Amphetamine Work?

Amphetamines act by increasing the activity of the brain chemicals, known as neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters increase the activity of the brain and its reward system thereby reinforcing pleasurable behaviors. The increase in activity of the reward pathway results in an increase in pleasure and satisfaction.

Prolonged exposure to these molecules can make a person addicted. It can cause paranoid, delusional psychotic state accompanied by auditory and tactile hallucinations(2) It is important to know about the drug even if it is prescribed, as a prescription drug can also lead to dependency.

People At Risk Of Amphetamine Dependence

A person may be at a higher risk of developing amphetamine dependence disorder in the following cases:

Symptoms of Amphetamine Dependence

If a person is dependent on amphetamine, he would display the following symptoms:

  • Will not be able to complete or perform tasks
  • Would miss work or school
  • Suffer from a severe dental problem
  • Lose a lot of weight even by eating properly
  • Would find it difficult to stop using amphetamines
  • There would be anxiety, insomnia or paranoia
  • A person may notice an increase in body temperature
  • There can also be skin disorders
  • Chest pain might be observed by a few
  • There would also be episodes of violence and mood disturbances
  • Would experience withdrawal symptoms, if not using amphetamines
  • Feel confused and have visual and auditory hallucinations
  • He might have delusions with a sensation that something is crawling under the skin.
  • There would be reduced socioeconomic functions
  • The physiological and neurological effects of amphetamine dependency would put a person at an increased risk of cardiovascular and neurological conditions.
  • Prolonged amphetamine dependency may lead to brain damage, including symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and stroke. It may even lead to death.

How To Diagnose Amphetamine Dependence?

For the diagnosis of the condition, the doctor may:

  • Take a medical history where he would inquire about the duration of consumption of amphetamines
  • Take a blood test to detect amphetamines in the body
  • Perform a physical examination and advice test to detect the effect of amphetamine dependency on health

Amphetamine dependence is diagnosed if the patient covers three or more of the following symptoms within a period of 12 months.

  1. A build-up of tolerance: Those who experience a build-up tolerance would require a larger dose to achieve the same effect once created by the lower dose.
  2. Mental health gets affected: There may be withdrawal symptoms that are characterized by depression, paranoia, and aggression, excessive craving for the same, fatigue, and anxiety.
  3. Inability to stop or cut down the dose: The person addicted would find it difficult to cut down or stop the drug and continue to crave it in spite of the physical and psychological problems due to it.
  4. Lifestyle changes: The person may miss out on social activities, work activities, and recreation because of the addiction.

How is Amphetamine Dependency Treated?

There are few treatment options, a combination of which can be used to treat the amphetamine dependency


  • Hospitalization is beneficial for those with severe addiction and a lack of support at home.
  • The main benefit of this treatment is that it takes the patient out of his everyday environment and minimizes the temptations.
  • Here the main focus is on the recovery. Hospitalization would also help to deal with the negative mood changes, aggression, and suicidal thoughts.

Therapy To Treat Amphetamine Dependency

There are various therapies that can be helpful in coming out of the addiction to amphetamines. The different therapies include individual counseling, family therapy, and group therapy which may include the following:

  • Identification of feelings associated with amphetamine usage
  • Repairing relationships with the family
  • Different coping mechanisms
  • Development of strategies to overcome amphetamine dependency

Medications To Treat Amphetamine Dependency

The patient may be prescribed certain medications to ease withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and aggression.

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