amphetamine and its substitutes use and abuse

Amphetamine is a drug that was discovered close to 100 years ago. Since the, it has been transformed from being a freely available drug that does not need any prescription to a highly controlled and restricted drug. The use and abuse of amphetamine in the United States has changed from the 1950s to the present. In the 1950s, some legally manufactured tablets of methamphetamine and dextroamphetamine became easily available (Healey, 2007). They were being used for non-medical purposes by truck drivers, college students and athletes. As the use of amphetamines spread, its abuse also went on the rise. Amphetamines were taken as a cure for many things such as the treatment of mild depression to controlling weight. In the 1960s, the pattern changed drastically due to the increase in availability of methamphetamine that can be injected (Healey, 2007). However, in 1970 the controlled substances Act went ahead and restricted the legal production of this injectable methamphetamine and hence its use decreased greatly.

The current resurgence of amphetamine was due to a combination of the fashion cycles of recreational drugs and an increase of its illicit supply. Over the past few years, the abuse and trafficking of amphetamine drug within the U.S has gone up. This is indicated by investigative, price, purity, seizures and abuse data of the drug. This has resulted to the drug having a devastating impact in different communities within the United States. The current amphetamine abuse epidemic has reached almost the same extent and severity as it was in the 1970s(Healey, 2007).There has also been a surge in the legal supply and use of amphetamine. Amphetamine is increasingly being prescribed by physicians and people consider it as necessary in their daily struggles.

Drug schedule

Amphetamine is classified as a schedule II controlled substance according to the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. Due to the manner in which amphetamines work within the body, they were placed as schedule II drugs by the federal government. Amphetamines are placed in schedule II because they have a high potential for abuse (Rasmussen, 2008). The other reason for this placement is that amphetamines have a medical use that is accepted but with severe restrictions. The abuse of amphetamines can lead to severe physical or psychological dependence. Amphetamine is classified under controlled substances since it has to be strictly regulated in order to reduce any risk of illegal distribution and abuse (Rasmussen, 2008).

Effects of regular amphetamine use

There are various effects that Aaliyah might be experiencing due to her regular amphetamine use. The acute effects include an increase in alertness and concentration. This is evident by the fact that Aaliyah is able to stay awake and alert when she is studying for her exam. Another acute effect is having feelings of well-being and euphoria. This is exhibited by the fact that Aaliyah feels as though she is learning her material better as a result of taking amphetamine. Another effect of amphetamine abuse is headaches. Aaliyah experiences an increase in headaches when she takes amphetamine but she still takes them because they are helping her be successful at work and school. The chronic effects of amphetamine abuse include inducing dependence. Tolerance of amphetamine slowly develops leading to an increased intake compared to the amount originally ingested. The tolerance of the effects of amphetamine intake also develops unequally.  In the case study, we can see that Aaliyah has developed a tolerance for amphetamine. She notices that one pill no longer keeps her awake as long as she needs. This means that she has to increase the number of pills she is taking in order to get the desired effect. Incase Aaliyah wants to stop taking amphetamine, she might experience some withdrawal symptoms like depression, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty in making decisions, insomnia and inability to concentrate.

Effects on physiology, behavior, mood and toxicity

Amphetamine use and abuse has various effects on the physiology, behavior and toxicity to an individual. The physiological effects of amphetamine include increase in the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate of an individual. The mouth of an amphetamine abuser becomes dry and it becomes difficult for them to swallow things and urinate. The person’s pupil becomes dilated and there is an increase in reflexes. Extremely high doses lead to a user to become pale and rapidly increase their heartbeat. Chronic use of amphetamine can lead to an inflammation of the lining of the heart, skin abscesses and damage of blood vessels. Amphetamine abusers have episodes of paranoia, violent behavior, insomnia, confusion and anxiety.

Amphetamine affects the personality of the abuser and they turn out to be harsh and harmful. Heavy use and abuse of amphetamine leads to mental health effects like paranoid hostility and aggression. Ingestion of large doses can lead to amphetamine-induced psychosis. This causes the amphetamine abuser to exhibit violent behavior which disappears when they stop taking the drugs. Toxicity or overdose of amphetamine can lead to chest pains, nausea, dizziness, hypertension, diarrhea and vomiting. It can also affect the CNS by toxic psychosis and acute delirium. An overdose of amphetamine can lead to stroke, muscle rigidity, seizures, and hyperthermia. All these effects can precipitate rhabdomyolysis that can cause renal failure.

Indicators of amphetamine abuse problem

There are various symptoms that indicate an amphetamine abuse problem. These include mood or psychological symptoms like improved mood and increase in self confidence. This is seen from the fact that Aaliyah feels that the drugs are enabling her to learn the material better and hence good grades in school. There are also some physical symptoms such as continued use of the drug despite health or physical problems associated to amphetamine (Spotts, 2000). Aaliyah continues to take amphetamine despite of the headaches that amphetamine causes.  Another indicator is tolerance whereby an individual needs to take more amphetamine so as to achieve the desired effects. Aaliyah starts taking more than one pill at a time in order to get the same effect she had initially with one pill. Other physical symptoms include increased alertness this is evident from the fact that Aaliyah is able to stay awake and alert and hence able to study for her exam.  Some of the behavioral symptoms that indicate amphetamine abuse include taking large amounts of the drug. Another symptom is unsuccessful attempts to cut down on amphetamine use.Aaliyah continues to take amphetamine because the drug is helping her be successful in school and at work.

Dependency or abuse problem

In this scenario, we can conclude that Aaliyah has a dependency problem. According to the DSM-IV-TR criteria, dependence is manifested in the following ways. Tolerance whereby Aaliyah is now taking more than one pill to get the same effect she initially got with one pill. Aaliyah is taking a larger amount of amphetamine over a longer period than intended. She had promised herself to take amphetamine only that one time during exams but ended up suing it more and more often so as to be able to stay awake. Another indicator of substance dependence is continued use regardless of problems associated with the drug. In this case, Aaliyah continues to take amphetamine despite having headaches.


Healey, J. (2007). Amphetamine use. Thirroul, N.S.W.: Spinney Press.

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Rasmussen, N. (2008). On speed: The many lives of amphetamine. New York: New York University Press.

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Spotts, J., & Spotts, C. (2000).Use and abuse of amphetamine and its substitutes. Rockville, Md.: National Institute on Drug Abuse ;.


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