What are amphetamines?
Amphetamines are stimulant drugs, which means they speed up the messages travelling between the brain and the body.1 Some types of amphetamines are legally prescribed by doctors to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (where a person has an uncontrollable urge to sleep). Amphetamines have also been used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
Other types of amphetamines such as speed are produced and sold illegally.
What do they look like?
The appearance of amphetamines varies. These drugs may be in the form of a powder, tablets, crystals and capsules. They may be packaged in ‘foils’ (aluminium foil), plastic bags or small balloons when sold illegally. Amphetamine powder can range in colour from white through to brown, sometimes it may have traces of grey or pink. It has a strong smell and bitter taste. Amphetamine capsules and tablets vary considerably in size and colour. The gross weight of amphetamines purchased on the street often includes substantial amounts of diluents and impurities.
Also, street drug sellers or ‘pushers’ often misrepresent, either knowingly or unknowingly, the substances that they are selling. As a result, amphetamines bought on the street may actually be partly, or entirely made up of one of the weaker stimulants such as ephedrine or caffeine.
Speed, fast, up, uppers, louee, goey, whiz.
How are they used?
Amphetamines are generally swallowed, injected or smoked. They are also snorted.
Effects of amphetamines
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Amphetamines affect everyone differently, based on:
You might feel the effects of amphetamines immediately (if injected or smoked) or within 30 minutes (if snorted or swallowed).
You might experience:
Snorting amphetamines can damage the nasal passage and cause nose bleeds.
If injecting drugs there is an increased risk of:
If sharing needles there is an increased risk of:
If you take a large amount or have a strong batch, you could overdose. If you have any of the following symptoms, call an ambulance straight away.
In the 2 to 4 days after amphetamine use, you may be experience:
Using a depressant drug such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or cannabis to help with the come down effects may result in a cycle of dependence on both types of drugs.
Long-term effects Regular use of amphetamines may eventually cause:
High doses and frequent heavy use can also create an ‘amphetamine psychosis’, characterised by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and out of character aggressive or violent behaviour. These symptoms usually disappear a few days after the person stops using amphetamines.
Mixing amphetamines with other drugs
The effects of taking amphetamines with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
Amphetamines + some antidepressants: elevated blood pressure, which can lead to irregular heartbeat, heart failure and stroke.
Amphetamines + alcohol, cannabis or benzodiazepines: the body is placed under a high degree of stress as it attempts to deal with the conflicting effects of both types of drugs, which can lead to an overdose.