Tox Tuesday: Amphetamines

Although amphetamines have approved medical uses in the U.S. and abroad, they also have a high risk for abuse.

While certain amphetamines are used to treat attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), the drugs are categorically listed as Schedule II in the U.S., meaning although they have some medical use they also have a high risk for abuse. Abuse of the drug has similar effects to another well known stimulant, cocaine, although amphetamines tend to take effect slower and last longer. Symptoms include increase heart rate and blood pressure, insomnia and no appetite, while symptoms of long-term abuse include psychosis, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

For those with ADHD, amphetamines (when prescribed and taken appropriately) can enhance the ability to focus. Not surprisingly, one common use for non-prescribed amphetamine is to increase energy and focus to study for an exam, for example, according to Drug Abuse.gov. However, when taken in non-prescribed ways and in unregulated amounts, the risk of amphetamine addiction increases.

Amphetamine first was used in the 1930s as a treatment for ADHD as well as narcolepsy. Since then, there has been a boom in the illicit production and usage of amphetamines.  Amphetamine usage peaked in the U.S. in 1981 (at the time, about 26 percent of high school senior had used the drug). From there, the trend declined until 1992, when amphetamine usage once again rose. In 2013, only about 8 percent of eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders said they had used amphetamine in the past 12 months (for seniors alone, the number stood at 12.4 percent), the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study notes. In Europe, amphetamines are the most commonly used stimulants, along with ecstasy. The European Drug Report 2013 also suggests that although amphetamine usage rates have remained about the same during in recent years, the availability of methamphetamine may be displacing amphetamines in some areas.

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