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Amphetamine Addiction: Signs, Effects, Withdrawal, and Treatment

Written By Brian Davis
Reviewed By Tiffany Green
Medically Reviewed By Dr David Barker
Updated December 13, 2023

A lot of people seem to have a very one-dimensional understanding of what amphetamines are. The public mind might quickly jump to gaunt and emaciated figures smoking crystal from a pipe or mugshots featuring people with sunken eyes and severe skin problems. While these results of a subset of amphetamines (commonly known as crystal methamphetamine or ‘crystal meth’) certainly aren’t made up, the reality is that hundreds of thousands of people around the world, many of them children, rely on amphetamines as a medicinal drug.

Although there is some disagreement over the exact discovery of amphetamines, they were used as a treatment for depression, narcolepsy, and asthma between the 1940s and 1970s and have been known to the medical community for more than 100 years. Like many other drugs (think ketamine, barbituates, benzos, and more), amphetamines found a second life in the recreational market after strict international controls were imposed in the 70s. Although they’re still used in the treatment of certain conditions like ADHD, traumatic brain injury, and exogenous obesity today, their use is heavily regulated. 

(Rasmussen), (Morelli and Tognotti)

As a drug and alcohol rehab clinic, we support the legitimate medical use of these substances when prescribed by a physician. Unfortunately, the vast majority of patients that we treat for substance abuse did not obtain them from a hospital, nor were they trying to treat a medical condition. When amphetamines are abused, whether to experience a euphoric high or to stay awake for extended periods of time, the long-term effects on both body and mind can be catastrophic.

Need help in battling amphetamine addiction?

Gladstones Clinic has a proven track record and more than 20 years’ experience in helping people recover from ketamine addiction.

Different types of amphetamines and how they’re taken

Amphetamines come in a variety of isomers (molecular structures), each with its own effects and medical and recreational uses.

Type of Amphetamine Trade Names (Medicine) Street Names (Recreational) Medical Use
Dextroamphetamine Dexedrine, Zenzedi, ProCentra Dexies, Uppers Treatment of ADHD, narcolepsy
Levoamphetamine None specific to just the L-isomer Bennies (though this can sometimes refer to amphetamines in general) Rarely used on its own; often part of mixed amphetamine salts
Methamphetamine Desoxyn Meth, Crystal, Crystal Meth, Ice, Glass, Crank Treatment of ADHD, exogenous obesity (short-term use)
Mixed Amphetamine Salts Adderall, Adderall XR Addys, Beans, Black Beauties Treatment of ADHD
Lisdexamfetamine Vyvanse Vy, V-twins Treatment of ADHD, moderate to severe binge eating disorder

It’s important to note that all of these amphetamine isomeres are still stimulant-class drugs and that their physiological effects on the body do not differ by much.

When prescription amphetamines are abused, they’re usually bought on the massive black market for amphetamines and consumed in pill form. Alternatively, they’re opened up and the contents snorted (insufflation) for a faster onset of effects. Methamphetamine resembles glass shards and can be smoked, while all amphetamines are ethanol-soluble and can be injected or administered rectally. Other ways of taking amphetamines include sublingual (under the tongue) diffusion, or transdermally through a patch on the skin for a slow release. In summary, amphetamines are taken in just about every way you can imagine.

Amphetamine abuse signs and long-term effects

While the ‘high’ from amphetamines can last for several hours, ‘coming down’ happens rather quickly. This causes many users to take repeated doses as the high comes to an end, leading to a ‘binge and crash’ pattern of use (also called a ‘run’), where amphetamines are taken every few hours for up to several days. During these periods, the user might completely give up food and sleep, and long or repeated ‘runs’ could very well result in a fatal amphetamine overdose. This pattern of behaviour is particularly associated with methamphetamines.

Some signs that someone might be on an amphetamine ‘run’ include:

While many of these signs will subside within a few hours after the last use, regularly repeated ‘runs’ can have significantly more serious long-term physical and psychological effects:

Amphetamines act on the neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine, which is associated with learning and coordination. Over time, dopamine imbalances can cause cognitive impairment, leading to amphetamine abusers struggling with memory, emotional, and other cognitive problems. These are serious long-term effects that last long after skin, teeth, and weight loss issues have been resolved, often leading to a dramatic loss of quality of life, even years after recovery.

(National Institute on Drug Abuse), (Berman et al.)

Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms and timelines

Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms hit hard and fast and are the main reason why users resort to repeated use within short succession over a period of days, an ‘amphetamine run’ as described in the previous section. As we described in more detail in our drug withdrawal symptoms article, withdrawal symptoms caused by the rebound effect have the opposite effect of the drug. This means that amphetamines that have a strong positive effect on immediate happiness and feelings of euphoria hit back with the opposite during withdrawal. Amphetamine withdrawal symptoms are consistent with other drugs that act as a stimulant on the central nervous system.

While withdrawal symptom severity and timelines vary between individuals, even in cases with similar abuse- and general health profiles, some of the more commonly reported amphetamine withdrawal symptoms include:

Mild withdrawal symptoms:Moderate withdrawal symptoms:Severe withdrawal symptoms:
FatigueSlowed movementSevere depression
Excessive sleepinessSevere fatigueSuicidal thoughts and behaviour
Increased appetiteHypersomniaIntense drug cravings
Vivid and unpleasant dreamsIncreased agitationExtreme anxiety
IrritabilitySleep disturbancesParanoia
 Short term memory lossPsychosis

(National Institute on Drug Abuse), (Lerner and Klein)

While amphetamine withdrawal symptoms typically aren’t life-threatening the way that alcohol or opioid withdrawal symptoms are, their extreme psychological effects cause many users to quickly seek more drugs during detox. This makes treating amphetamine abuse very difficult in an outpatient setting where the patient has access to more.

Depending on the severity and length of abuse, amphetamine withdrawal symptom timelines typically vary between 5 days and 3 weeks, although psychological post-acute withdrawal symptoms (cravings, short-term memory loss, sleep disturbances, etc.) might last for several months. Typically, physical withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, increased appetite, and slowed movement are the first to dissipate, followed by psychological withdrawal symptoms. It’s hard to pin down exact timelines as amphetamines are often abused alongside other substances that also affect withdrawal timelines.

Amphetamine addiction treatment

Although the number of patients seeking treatment for amphetamine-only abuse only makes up a very small percentage of people in rehab –remember that a lot of people abuse amphetamines alongside other narcotics or alcohol– there are a number of studies that show that a combination of pharmacotherapy and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) could be effective in the treatment of amphetamine addiction.

From the pharmaceutical side, stimulant agonists (substances that mimic the effect of naturally occurring stimulants in the body and increase levels of neurotransmitters) such as dexamphetamine and methylphenidate, and naltrexone and topiramate (an opioid antagonist and anticonvulsant medication, respectively), yielded the most consistent positive results in a systematic review of amphetamine addiction studies. It’s important to note that while these drugs offer some promise, no pharmacotherapy guarantees a hit against amphetamine addiction and a combination of CBT and pharmaceutical intervention is still the best option.

(Siefried et al.), (Khoramizadeh et al.)

With many patients or rehab facilities not having access to the abovementioned drugs or choosing not to use them due to the questions surrounding their efficacy, behavioural therapy that focuses on teaching patients to recognise, avoid, and cope with triggering situations, as well as providing motivational incentives, remain the most common form of treating amphetamine addictions. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Gladstones Clinic amphetamine addiction rehab treatment

Although the narrative of amphetamine addiction often veers towards the menacing imagery of crystal meth, Gladstones Clinic acknowledges the broader spectrum of amphetamine abuse. We offer proven and effective treatment for all types of amphetamine addictions, whether stemming from a quest for euphoria, enhanced performance, or legitimate medical-use-turned-addiction.

Our specialised addiction experts, many of whom have negotiated their own paths to recovery, understand the nuances of dealing with amphetamine addiction and have a wealth of experience in dealing with patients on the ‘crash-end’ of an amphetamine binge.

Under the watchful gaze of our licenced team of medical professionals, we will help you go through the dreaded detox period as comfortably and painlessly as possible before entering the primary care phase of treatment with experienced, caring, and compassionate therapists. Gladstones Clinic only uses proven therapies and treatments that help break the cycle of abuse, taking special care to develop and implement treatment strategies based on each patient’s individual needs.

If any of these pages apply to you or your situation, please take a look to learn more:

Get professional help in dealing with amphetamine addiction

If you or a loved one find yourself ensnared in the world of amphetamine abuse, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential, straightforward, and obligation-free conversation about all the treatment options available to you.

Works Cited

Berman, S., et al. “Potential Adverse Effects of Amphetamine Treatment on Brain and Behavior: A Review.Molecular Psychiatry, vol. 14, no. 2, 2009, pp. 123-142. National Library of Medicine,,%2C%20and%20chronic%20self-administration. Accessed 04 10 2023.

Khoramizadeh, M., et al. “Treatment of amphetamine abuse/use disorder: a systematic review of a recent health concern.” Daru Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, vol. 27, no. 2, 2019, pp. 743-753. National Library of Medicine, Accessed 04 10 2023.

Lerner, Alicja, and Michael Klein. “Dependence, withdrawal and rebound of CNS drugs: an update and regulatory considerations for new drugs development.Brain Communications, vol. 1, no. 1, 2019. Oxford Academic, Accessed 04 10 2023.

Morelli, Micaela, and Eugenia Tognotti. “Brief history of the medical and non-medical use of amphetamine-like psychostimulants.” Experimental Neurology, vol. 342, 2021. ScienceDirect, Accessed 04 10 2023.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Methamphetamine DrugFacts.National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health, 16 May 2019, Accessed 4 October 2023.

Rasmussen, Nicolas. “Amphetamine-Type Stimulants: The Early History of Their Medical and Non-Medical Uses.” International review of neurobiology, vol. 120, 2015, pp. 9-25. National Library of Medicine, Accessed 04 10 2023.

Siefried, K., et al. “Pharmacological Treatment of Methamphetamine/Amphetamine Dependence: A Systematic Review.CNS Drugs, vol. 33, no. 4, 2020, pp. 337-365. National Library of Medicine,,naltrexone%20and%20topiramate. Accessed 04 10 2023.

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