Amphetamines are used by doctors to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and obesity. They are prescribed as Adderall®, Concerta®, Dexedrine® and Ritalin®, to name a few.

Also commonly taken as recreational drugs amphetamines have slang names such as speed, uppers, whiz, amph or sulph. Amphetamine sulphate is the most common street amphetamine; other varieties include dextroamphetamine and crystal and liquid methamphetamine.

All amphetamines are highly addictive and can have a devastating long-term impact on an individual’s mental and physical health.

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When you take amphetamines to treat a health condition, you are unlikely to get addicted. However, if a person takes more of the amphetamine than prescribed and is using it to improve mood or performance, it can lead to addiction. The body can build up a tolerance to amphetamines very quickly, which means it needs more of the drugs to achieve the same high feeling.

If the user tries to stop taking the amphetamine, their body and mind may react with withdrawal symptoms. These may include a strong craving for the drug as well as mood swings, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, fatigue and insomnia; physical side-effects may include headaches, aches and pains.

Using amphetamines frequently and over an extended period can very quickly lead to dependence. Some people are prone to become addicted faster than others. however. A history of substance abuse, or a mental illness, are more likely to lead someone to become addicted, for example.

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An individual who has easy access to amphetamines may be more at risk, as well as those who have a stressful lifestyle and think amphetamines can help alleviate the pressures of everyday life.

Those prescribed amphetamines to increase alertness, attention and energy may soon feel that they cannot feel ‘normal’ without them, so they take it in higher doses as their tolerance builds.

A family history of drug abuse and/or addiction, as well as mental health disorders, increases the chances of someone developing an amphetamine addiction.

Amphetamines affect the chemical balance and neurotransmitters in the brain, which means users need amphetamines to feel well and can suffer withdrawal symptoms unless use is tapered off slowly.

Amphetamine abuse – and indeed drug abuse of any kind – is different to amphetamine addiction. Addiction means the user has a strong urge to take amphetamines, regardless of the consequences. However, drug abuse is often the first step on the road to addiction.

Many people abuse amphetamines without realising it. Even though they are prescribed by a doctor, taking a larger dose of a prescription medication than is advised is abuse. Individuals may do this automatically if they notice they are not getting the same benefits from the amphetamine that they did at first. Increasing your dose of amphetamine can lead to tolerance and dependence, and amphetamine abuse can lead to addiction.