Speed and Amphetamines: Understanding the Impact, Long-Term Effects, and Overdose Risks
What are Speed and Amphetamines? Amphetamines are approved drugs for the treatment of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). But they are also diverted from their therapeutic use and taken in the form of drugs (in particular under the name of “speed”) with heavy side effects.
Amphetamines are synthetic psychostimulants. Their chemical structure resembles those of the stimulants that the body produces naturally: bioamines (adrenaline, noradrenaline, serotonin, dopamine and hydroxytryptamine).
We speak of “speed” when it comes to amphetamines manufactured in clandestine (activities carried out in secret or secretly with a specific purpose) laboratories.
The composition of SPEED is uncertain. It usually appears as a white, sometimes pinkish or yellowish powder.
Methamphetamine comes in the form of pills (Thai pills) or crystalline powder (“crystal”, “ice”). The pills, imported from Asia, contain around 15mg of methamphetamine, including caffeine. The “crystal” comes mainly from the Czech Republic; it has a high purity rate, often over 70%.
The chemical structure of methamphetamine is similar to that of amphetamine, but with more intense and longer lasting effects.
Due to the potency and long duration of its effects, as well as the unpleasantness during the ensuing comedown, methamphetamine is considered a drug with high potential for creating addiction and causing health problems. When smoked, the effects are heightened, as are the associated issues.
It was synthesized in Japan in 1919, taking the amphetamine molecule as a model. However, it only began to be marketed in 1938 under the name of methedrine. It was originally used in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers.
In Nazi Party Germany, methamphetamine was sold without a prescription, under the brand name Pervitin. During World War II it was used by both the Allies and the Axis to stimulate their troops.
In 1971, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances controlled methamphetamine, placing it in Schedule II, so its circulation was drastically reduced, but it continued to be legal.
Amphetamine is available in several forms with a generally bitter taste: powder and paste (which are the most common), tablets and crystals. Their purity varies when manufacturing is illegal. They can be injected, smoked, inhaled or ingested in tablet form. The pills may have logos similar to those on MDMA or ecstasy pills, and it’s common for them to be mixed with other drugs. When they are delivered on medical prescription, their use is very supervised. Considered as narcotics, the prescriptions are for a limited period of 28 days.
Discover the intriguing facts and the hidden dangers behind these potent stimulants in our eye-opening article.
|The most common synonyms are:
Other street names (cool names) include:
222, Amp, C.R., Gak, Geek, Geet, Go, Go Fast, Jib, Ladies Speed, Mye, P2P, Pink Glass, Poor Man’s Coke, Prope Dope, Red Rock, Tweak, Zip, Peanut butter, Peanut, Hawaiian salt, High speed chicken feed, Koolaid, Kryptonite, Rock candy, Sketch, Soiks, Spooch, Stove top.
|Mechanism of action
|Routes of administration
What is the origin of Amphetamines?
The ancestor of amphetamines is the alkaloid ma-huang, a plant that has been used for millennia in China.
In 1895, ephedrine was extracted from it, which served as a support for the synthesis of benzedrine, the first of a long series of amphetamines. Available over-the-counter in 1930, amphetamines enjoyed dazzling success. Their stimulating power is used to fight fatigue, stimulate intellectual activity, fight against excess weight. It was after the Second World War that the first poisonings appeared.
After the war, although amphetamines were no longer available over the counter, forced laborers, athletes, students, housewives, truck drivers, soldiers, etc. will continue to use it widely, until today.
Currently, their medical use is limited to the treatment of a few diseases (narcolepsy and infantile hyperactivity). Sold clandestinely, amphetamines are now consumed during outings (clubs, raves, festivals, etc.), but also during exams, during training and sports competitions, in the event of intense professional activities, etc.
Modes of consumption and general effects from Speed and Amphetamines / Methamphetamine
The speed and can be Amphetamines:
- swallowed (e.g., as a tablet or pellet with powder (“bomb”) in it or diluted in a drink;
- inhaled (“snorted” or smoked);
Depending on the amount and potency of the product, the effects last from 4 to 15 hours, sometimes even 24 hours.
Amphetamines reduce sleep or often prevent it altogether.
- temporarily increase alertness and limit feelings of fatigue and hunger.
- give the impression of being better and communicating better.
The effects of the product depend not only on the dose, the frequency of use and the mode of consumption, but also on the individual, his psychic state, his personality, his mood and his expectations vis-à-vis product screw. This acts as a mood amplifier: it can thus make a person in a good mood and confident or, on the contrary, anxious and irritable.
Below, we will distinguish the foreseeable effects according to the type of consumption. Attention: the quantities quoted in the examples below must be considered as orders of magnitude because the effects depend on the potency and the degree of purity of the product, as well as on the physical and psychic characteristics of each one.
Be careful, the effects sought may be different from the psychotropic effects (effects on the brain). It is then a question of responding to one or more fundamental needs to be felt by the consumer than the psychotropic effects themselves. For example, the need for transgression, to be courageous, to form a group can constitute reasons for consuming a product. Each product has a social image, for example heroin and morphine are the same basic product, but the first rather evokes rupture, revolt and clandestinity, while the other is more associated with care and the medical world. This image can push a person to consume one product rather than another according to their needs. Note that this need is often unconscious.
Main and long-term side effects from Speed and Amphetamines
The effects of amphetamines depend on the mode of consumption. They are quite fast and generally last a few hours (6 to 30 hours depending on the molecule). When they are diverted from their use, it brings a euphoric and stimulating effect. They increase alertness, self-confidence, concentration and work capacity (they are also often used for this purpose by students or athletes, for example). They limit the feeling of fatigue and hunger and reduce the need for sleep. Taking them regularly can lead to exhaustion of the body and mental disorders.
After each dose, a descent phase that can last several days leads to intense sadness, a feeling of empty head, physical and mental exhaustion and significant sleep disorders with insomnia. It is not uncommon for users to use other drugs such as cannabis or anti-anxiety medications to help overcome this condition.
In the long term, the regular use of amphetamines can cause an addiction that causes the user to use more and more often to feel better, relax and calm down. The risks of repeated consumption in large quantities are convulsions (stiffness of the body and jerky and involuntary contractions of the muscles), dehydration, heart rhythm disorders, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and an overdose which can be fatal. The psychiatric consequences are just as serious with a risk of developing depression, paranoia, hallucinations or suicidal desires.
In contrast, in hyperactive children, amphetamine drugs have calming effects when taken at the prescribed dose.
Effect on the brain
Amphetamines act on the central and peripheral nervous system (ie the brain and nerves) by releasing certain catecholamines, and in particular dopamine and norepinephrine. Their release increases with the dose of amphetamine used. In high doses, they also cause the release of serotonin in the brain. This is how they lead to an increase in alertness and concentration, with loss of appetite and addiction.
Effect in athletes
Some athletes may use amphetamines which give them a feeling of physical and mental power, a decrease in appetite and fatigue, an increase in alertness (ability to concentrate and pay attention) and a feeling of euphoria. However, the long-term risk is not only that of addiction, but also of dehydration and life-threatening heart rhythm disorders. It is for these reasons that the use of amphetamines is not recommended with physical activity.
Amphetamines remain in the body for about twelve hours.
Key Long-Term Effects of Speed and Amphetamines:
While occasional medical use of amphetamines can be beneficial for certain conditions, long-term abuse can have severe consequences on both physical and mental health. Some of the long-term effects of prolonged speed and amphetamine use include:
- Cardiovascular Issues: Chronic use of stimulants can lead to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Mental Health Disorders: Long-term amphetamine use can cause anxiety, paranoia, and aggressive behavior. It may also trigger or worsen underlying mental health conditions such as depression and psychosis.
- Cognitive Impairment: Prolonged use of speed and amphetamines can lead to cognitive deficits, including memory problems and difficulties with concentration and decision-making.
- Physical Deterioration: Users may experience weight loss, malnutrition, dental issues (known as “meth mouth” in the case of methamphetamine), and skin problems due to reduced appetite and poor self-care.
Overdose: signs, what to do?
Consumption of amphetamines in large doses or very close together can cause an overdose, that is to say a potentially fatal overdose. The consumer then feels an acceleration of his breathing, profuse sweating, as well as abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. The muscles tense up, which can lead to convulsions. If such symptoms appear, you must call the emergency services, for emergency medical treatment.
What are the risks? Overheating or heat stroke
In addition to the risks associated with regular or massive consumption of speed, we must point out “overheating” and dehydration. Amphetamines tend to raise body temperature. If intense and prolonged physical activity accompanies this intake, the risk of hyperthermia increases, especially if consumption takes place in an overcrowded and poorly ventilated place (discotheque, for example). The user no longer feels tired and exerts himself without realizing that his body is suffering. If he does not drink enough, he loses more water than he takes in. He becomes dehydrated, sweats less and less. His body temperature rises.
Heat stroke (or “overheating”) can be accompanied by a heart attack or exhaustion (loss of consciousness, coma), sometimes fatal.
Several signs and symptoms announce heatstroke:
- sudden fatigue, irritability;
- stopping sweating;
- burning cramps in the legs, arms, back;
- dizziness, vertigo, headache;
- difficulty urinating, dark urine;
- fainting, loss of consciousness.
The composition of most products being uncertain, mixtures are risky because they lead to unpredictable and not always pleasant effects.
- Amphetamines + opiates (heroin, morphine): their effects counterbalance each other. Mixing the two can lead in the long term to the use of larger quantities of each product. This increases the risk of overdose.
- Amphetamines + hallucinogens (LSD, psilocybin, mushrooms and others): this mixture strongly increases the risk of an anxiety attack (bad trip);
- Amphetamines + XTC: increases the risk of hyperthermia (overheating) and panic attacks. In most of the deaths related to the use of XTC and its derivatives, people were found to have consumed large amounts of amphetamines.
- Amphetamines + alcohol: the consumption of speed masks the feeling of drunkenness, which occurs suddenly in “descent”. In addition, alcohol consumption reduces the perception of warning signals that announce “heat stroke” (muscle pain).
- Amphetamines + smart drinks (or coffee): increases the risk of heart problems (tachycardia, etc.) and causes nervousness and tremors.
- Amphetamines + MAOI-type antidepressants: this combination is highly inadvisable and risks causing a serious hypertensive crisis.
- Amphetamines + cannabis: this mixture, often practiced to mitigate the effects of speed descent, can increase the risk of an anxiety attack in some users.
Signs of addiction
Amphetamines remain in the body for about twelve hours. However, the effects only last for a few hours, and stop while the drug is still present.
Some consumers feel an intense urge to regain the effects of amphetamines. They have the feeling that, without speed, they won’t be able to go out, dance, study, work, etc. In this case, we are talking about psychological dependence.
For other researchers, on the other hand, there is a physical dependence on amphetamines. It would result in physical exhaustion and a reduction in the reserves of cerebral bioamines (adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, etc.). It is this lack that would be responsible for a serious depressive state, sometimes accompanied by suicide attempts. This depression can be treated with antidepressants. Resuming speed aggravates the situation.
This habituation effect contributes to the risk of dependence because the more the user consumes it, the more he is obliged to increase the doses to have the same effect. The loss of control of consumption can then lead to problems on a personal, professional, relational, financial, legal level… Medical help is then necessary.
How to stop being dependent?
There is no pharmacological treatment for the symptoms associated with ecstasy use. When addiction sets in, treatment by an addictologist is recommended, whether in private practice, in a hospital or in a centres for care, support and prevention in addictology. An anxiolytic treatment can be proposed to help manage the descent phenomenon and the anxiety that has set in. Some therapies such as CBT (Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy) have proven themselves in this type of addition.
Speed and amphetamines are potent stimulant drugs with both medical and recreational uses. While they can provide temporary feelings of euphoria and increased energy, their long-term abuse can have serious consequences on physical and mental health. Understanding the risks associated with speed and amphetamines is crucial to making informed decisions about drug use and seeking help if needed.
If you or someone you know is struggling with amphetamine abuse or addiction, it is essential to seek professional assistance and support for a healthier and safer path forward.
Photo description: Amphetamine is potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant which is available in a variety of forms. This photograph is of the powder variety.