What is amphetamine dependence?
Amphetamines are a type of stimulant. They treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. They’re also sometimes used by medical professionals to treat other disorders.
Dextroamphetamine and methamphetamine are two types of amphetamines. They’re sometimes sold illegally. Both prescribed and street amphetamines can be misused and cause use disorder. Methamphetamine is the most commonly misused amphetamine.
Amphetamine dependence, a type of stimulant use disorder, occurs when you need the drug to function on a daily basis. You’ll experience symptoms of withdrawal if you’re dependent and you abruptly stop using the drug.
Using amphetamines frequently and for a long time can cause dependence. Some people become dependent faster than others.
You may become dependent if you use these drugs without a prescription. You can also become dependent if you take more than prescribed. It’s even possible to develop a use disorder if you take amphetamines according to your doctor’s directions.
You may be at a higher risk of developing amphetamine use disorder if you:
- have easy access to amphetamines
- have depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia
- have a stressful lifestyle
If you’re dependent on amphetamines, you may:
- miss work or school
- not complete or perform tasks as well
- not eat and lose a lot of weight
- have severe dental problems
- find it difficult to stop using amphetamines
- experience withdrawal symptoms if you don’t use amphetamines
- have episodes of violence and mood disturbances
- have anxiety, insomnia, or paranoia
- feel confused
- have visual or auditory hallucinations
- have delusions, such as the sensation that something is crawling under your skin
To diagnose amphetamine use disorder, your doctor may:
- ask you questions about how much and how long you’ve been using amphetamines
- take blood tests to detect amphetamines in your system
- perform a physical exam and order tests to detect health problems caused by amphetamine use
You may have amphetamine use disorder if you’ve experienced three or more of the following symptoms within the same 12-month period:
Buildup of tolerance
You’ve built up a tolerance if you need larger doses of amphetamines to achieve the same effect that lower doses once created.
Your mental health is affected
Withdrawal may be characterized by:
- intense cravings
You may need to use a similar drug to relieve or avoid amphetamine withdrawal symptoms.
Inability to cut down or stop
You may be unsuccessful at cutting down or stopping your use of amphetamines. You may continue to crave the stimulant even though you know they’re causing persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems.
You miss out on or don’t go to as many recreational, social, or work activities because of your amphetamine use.
Treatments for amphetamine use disorder may include a combination of the following:
If you experience strong drug cravings, you may find it easier to go through amphetamine withdrawal in a hospital setting. Hospitalization may also help if you have negative mood changes, including aggression and suicidal behavior.
Individual counseling, family therapy, and group therapy can help you:
- identify the feelings associated with amphetamine use
- develop different coping mechanisms
- repair relationships with your family
- develop strategies to avoid amphetamine use
- discover activities you enjoy in place of amphetamine use
- get support from others with use disorder as they understand what you’re going through, sometimes in a 12-step treatment program
Your doctor may prescribe medication to ease severe symptoms of withdrawal. Some doctors may prescribe naltrexone to help with your cravings. Your doctor may also prescribe other medications to help relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and aggression.
Consistent amphetamine dependence and use disorder can lead to:
- brain damage, including symptoms that resemble Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, or stroke
Drug education programs may reduce the odds for new amphetamine use or a relapse, but study results are mixed. Counseling for emotional and family support can also help. However, none of these are proven to prevent amphetamine use in everyone.
Amphetamine use disorder can be difficult to treat. You may relapse after treatment and start using amphetamines again. Participating in a 12-step treatment program and getting individual counseling may reduce your chances of relapse and improve your chances for recovery.