Health Risks of Amphetamines
Suppose you are considering getting high with your friends for the first time. They have an assortment of drugs they are willing to share with you. Your friends rave about the spectacular high associated with this drug or how mellow you’ll feel with that one, and with this other one, you’ll have lots of energy and be able to party all night.
What’s missing from this picture? How about a disclosure of what health risks you are taking by using these drugs?
Let’s say you decide you want to party all night so you choose some amphetamines. Your energy lasts all night and you go home to crash the next day. The following weekend, you do it again, and then the next weekend and so on. It’s now part of your lifestyle. But have you looked at what damage you’re doing to your body with these amphetamines? No, you haven’t. You’re now hooked on the drug and it can do severe and lasting damage, now that use is regular. So what damage is it doing?
Because they are stimulants, amphetamines increase the heart rate and blood pressure. In a healthy person, this may not be particularly risky. Blood pressure and heart rate will return to normal when the drug is stopped. But in the person with a preexisting heart problem, use of amphetamines can be serious or even fatal.
Amphetamine users are also increasing their risk of heart disease due to arterial blockage that restricts blood flow to the heart muscle or results in damaged or dead heart tissue. This damage outlives the drug use—meaning that if you stop using amphetamines, the damage is still done.
The tendency for amphetamines to create cerebrovascular problems is also well- known. This means that amphetamines increase the risk of stroke. It also means that if a person using amphetamines has a stroke, there is a higher risk of death than usual.
Here’s another thing no one is going to tell you: If you mix your amphetamine use with alcohol, opioids or cocaine, you get a bigger punch of toxicity and damage from your amphetamines.
Short-Term Negative Effects
Let’s go back to those partying weekends. After a few months of use, you’re really in the swing of things, using amphetamine (along with other drugs sometimes) every weekend from Friday afternoon through Sunday night. Of course, you don’t make it to work on Monday morning anymore because of the short-term wreckage. What’s that feeling like?
When you crash after two-plus days of amphetamine bingeing, you sleep poorly, feel utterly dragged out and you’re totally depressed. You’re so depressed that you think perhaps death would be a better alternative and you consider ways to kill yourself. You finally pull yourself somewhat together and go find some amphetamines to pick up your mood. Because you feel so low, you use a big dose so you can get “back on top.” But now you’re restless, irritable, confused. Your friends try to help but you respond aggressively. Your hands are shaking with tremors you can’t control. The slightest noise makes you panic and you’re on the edge of a psychotic episode.
But this is just amphetamine use. These are the symptoms that gave rise to the term “speed freak” many years ago when amphetamines started being abused around the world.
Mental Effects of Amphetamines
It’s been well documented that amphetamines are liable to create symptoms very similar to severe mental illness. A recent Swedish study reported that amphetamine users were more likely to exhibit severe mental disturbances than were cocaine or heroin users. And if an amphetamine user happens to already possess mental instabilities, abuse of amphetamines is likely to make them worse.
The most serious mental harm that has been shown to accompany amphetamine use is indeed dangerous and severe. Psychosis, depression, suicidal behavior, violence, delusions, hallucinations all can result from heavy amphetamine use. Common hallucinations can include feelings of paranoia, visual or tactile impressions. At one time in the research of effects of amphetamines, it was thought that all these symptoms were just brought out in a susceptible person by the amphetamine use. It has since been proven that heavy amphetamine use can cause these problems in a mentally healthy and stable person.
The Final Straw
While all these effects are bad enough, are amphetamines also associated with fatalities? A study in the United Kingdom collected information on 832 deaths over a 10-year period where the person who died tested positive for an amphetamine-type stimulant. In 108 cases, the person who died had only taken an amphetamine-type stimulant and no other drug or alcohol. In these cases, the deaths were mostly caused by cerebral hemorrhage or a crisis created by the high blood pressure described earlier. Other deaths resulted from an aggravation of preexisting heart or heart-lung conditions. Only nine people died as a result of risky behavior while intoxicated, including traffic crashes.
There is no one standing by to warn you of the risks of using amphetamines, especially not if someone stands to make money by turning you into a paying customer. This is why drug education is one of the most important community activities carried out by Narconon staff and volunteers. Across the United States and around the world, these staff and volunteers carry the Narconon drug education curriculum to young people so they learn for themselves why they should never start using drugs. When the Narconon drug education curriculum reaches school children and businesses and thereby prevents drug use, there is greater hope that drug dealers and illicit labs producing amphetamine and methamphetamine can permanently be put out of business.
If you know someone who has a problem with amphetamines or other drugs, contact a Narconon and learn how we can help.