red and white amphetamine capsules

Amphetamines: Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine

What are amphetamines? Amphetamines, also known as “bennies,” “uppers,” and “pep pills,” are synthetic stimulants with effects similar to caffeine and drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy. When used legally, amphetamines are prescribed to treat Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. However, these prescriptions are often abused by high school and college students. Illegal use of amphetamines refers to any usage that is not prescribed by a doctor. Continue reading below to learn about signs of addiction and amphetamine addiction treatment.

What Are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are synthetic, stimulant drugs that speed up functions in the brain and body. The most common kinds are Adderall, Ritalin, and Dexedrine. Due to its stimulating effects on the brain and body, this class of drugs is often illegally misused. Amphetamines and other stimulants are often abused by students hoping to improve their academic performance. However, unprescribed use of these drugs can lead to addiction and other harmful health effects.

What Are Common Street Names for Amphetamines?

Amphetamines have many nicknames and street names. Some popular names include:

  • Addys
  • Black Beauties
  • Crank
  • Dexies
  • Ice
  • Kiddie coke
  • Kiddie-speed
  • Pep pills
  • Speed
  • Uppers
  • Vitamin R
  • Whiz

What Do Amphetamines Look Like?

Amphetamines primarily come in pill or capsule form, but can also be found as a powder, paste, crystal, and liquid. When found in pure powder form, they are usually white, odorless, and have a bitter taste.

Amphetamines that are made and sold illegally are sometimes made from a mix of drugs, binding agents, sugar, and caffeine. As a result, these are especially dangerous because it is difficult to determine the quality and purity of the drugs.

How Are Amphetamines Used?

Amphetamines are typically taken orally, snorted, injected, smoked, or dabbed onto the gums.

Amphetamines that have been prescribed by a doctor are usually used to treat Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. However, these drugs are often misused, and taken only for the “high” they produce. When used illegally, amphetamines are usually taken as study aids, to stay awake or alert, to suppress one’s appetite, and sometimes just recreationally.

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are stimulants that make individuals feel more alert and energetic. In addition, they cause euphoria and reduce inhibitions, making users more talkative and self-assured. Despite these effects, misuse can have unfortunate consequences.

The effects of amphetamines differ from person to person based on the amount used, frequency of use, method of use, age, and other drugs present in the body. Some of the most common short-term effects include:

  • A rapid rush of energy, making the user feel alert, confident, energetic, and excited
  • Paranoia
  • Hostility
  • Increase in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Accelerated breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Twitching muscles

Why Are Amphetamines Harmful?

Misuse of amphetamines can lead to adverse side effects, including negative effects on behavior and heightened risk for addiction. Unfavorable outcomes include symptoms such as physical exhaustion, decreased appetite, high blood pressure, and inability to sleep.

Long-term use can cause addiction as well as permanent damage to the mind and body. Over time, users can develop a tolerance, meaning they need greater or more frequent doses to feel the drug’s effects, increasing the risk of an overdose.

Amphetamine abuse is especially dangerous when taken with other drugs. When mixed with other drugs such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, or opiates, the stimulant properties of the amphetamines can counteract the effects of the other drugs present in the body and increase the risk of overdose.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Amphetamine Abuse?

The longer an individual misuses amphetamines, the more severe the side effects they will experience. Most common side effects occur in the brain, and in some cases, damage to the brain is irreversible. Symptoms of long-term abuse include:

  • Psychosis and hallucinations (hearing voices, imagining scenarios, delusions)
  • Memory loss
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Malnutrition and extreme weight loss
  • Severe dental problems
  • Seizures
  • Changes to brain function
  • Reduced immunity to infections

What Are the Signs of Amphetamine Addiction?

Individuals who repeatedly abuse amphetamines will become neurologically and physically dependent on them. They might become more secretive and progressively isolate from family and friends so they can get high or hide their drug use. Individuals who struggle with amphetamine addiction may exhibit some of the following symptoms:

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Hostility
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Reduction of social inhibitions
  • Staying up for several days straight

Physical Signs

  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Diarrhea/constipation
  • High body temperature

What Does an Amphetamine Overdose Look Like?

Because a tolerance to amphetamines can develop quickly, users constantly take more and more of the drug to achieve the desired effect. However, this can be very dangerous. Over time, individuals are likely to end up taking toxic amounts, leading to an overdose. In addition, mixing amphetamines with other drugs or alcohol increases the risk of a fatal overdose. Signs of an overdose may include:

  • Confusion
  • Paranoia or hallucinations
  • Tremors/shaking
  • Rapid pulse
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of coordination
  • Paranoia
  • Difficulty breathing or rapid breathing
  • Hypothermia
  • Abnormally high or abnormally low blood pressure
  • Passing out

An amphetamine overdose can significantly lower body temperature and cause potentially deadly cardiovascular complications. Individuals who overdose require immediate medical attention.

How Do You Treat Amphetamine Addiction?


The first step towards recovery is to discontinue use. While medical detox is not necessary for amphetamine addiction, it is important that individuals consult with a medical professional on the best course of action for their specific needs. Although physical withdrawal symptoms are not typically life-threatening, psychological symptoms are severe and can pose serious danger. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Low energy and exhaustion
  • Dehydration
  • Increased appetite
  • Stomach pain and discomfort
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Auditory hallucination
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal ideation

Addiction Treatment

Amphetamines are psychologically addictive, so it is important that individuals not only remove the drug from their bodies, but also address the impact it has had on the mind through drug counseling. Inpatient (residential) and outpatient addiction treatment programs can help individuals recognize and address behavioral issues that have developed as a result of their drug abuse, as well as provide them with relapse prevention tools necessary to maintain their sobriety. For example, Professionals Group therapy teaches individuals how to cope in high stress situations at work. In addition, other clinical services such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Seeking Safety Group therapy can be beneficial for addressing trauma in recovery.

Wellness therapies designed to promote good mental health and spiritual strength can help improve treatment results. These are beneficial in rehab and life after treatment. Individuals in recovery can benefit from therapies that promote energy and focus as well as rest. For example, individuals who used amphetamines to stay alert may find sleep education helpful, as it can teach them how to develop proper sleep habits without resorting to drugs. Furthermore, those who aimed to be more physically active through their drug use may enjoy the natural energy boost they can obtain through cardio and weightlifting. Finally, users who previously relied on amphetamines to increase their attention spans can safely sharpen their focus through adventure therapy instead.

Visit our Wellness page to find other therapeutic activities that promote balanced, healthy living.

Although the dangers of amphetamines are often downplayed, these prescription medications are extremely addictive and dangerous. If you or a loved one is struggling, do not wait to seek out help. At Mountainside, we can help you obtain the happy, substance-free life you deserve.

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