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Frequently Asked Questions

Amphetamines

Amphetamines are a group of drugs that increase the activity of certain chemicals in the brain and are classed as stimulant drugs.

Some other names for amphetamine are ICE, speed, crystal meth, meth, whip, goey, shards, rock, uppers, whizz and dexies.

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that increase the activity of certain chemicals in the brain. They refer to a number of slightly different chemical compounds with very similar activities.

Some examples of amphetamines include:

  • dexamphetamine, which is used for medical purposes to treat conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); and
  • amphetamine sulphate, known mainly as speed
  • methamphetamine, which is a more potent form of amphetamine, known mainly as 'crystal', 'meth', 'rock' or 'ice'.

Methamphetamine has four common forms – tablet, crystal (also referred to as ice or rock), base (also referred to as paste) and powder (also referred to as speed).

As such, ‘meth’ is the drug methamphetamine and ‘speed ‘ is the powder form of ‘meth’ and ‘ice’ is the crystal form of ‘meth’.

Methamphetamine ranges in colour from almost clear in its crystal form to white, pink, yellow, orange, blue, green or brown.

Amphetamine increases the activity of certain chemicals in the brain and are classed as stimulant drugs. Stimulant drugs increase the body’s state of arousal by increasing the activity of the brain.

People use drugs for a variety of reasons. Some of these include:

  • To have fun, forget problems or as a form of escapism
  • To gain confidence and socialise
  • Out of curiosity
  • To lessen inhibitions
  • To remove personal responsibility for decisions
  • To celebrate or commiserate
  • To relieve boredom and stress.
  • Self-medication to cope with problems.
  • To stay awake or alert.

The effects of amphetamines include anxiety, depression, paranoia, aggression and psychotic symptoms.

There is no safe level of illicit drug use. All drugs including amphetamines will affect each person differently depending on the persons characteristics (such as physical size, gender, mood, diet, fitness, age, expectations and health), the drug itself (such as the amount used and its purity), and how it is taken and the environment a person is in when using the drug.

Short term effects at higher doses include:

  • Pale skin.
  • Feelings of being powerful or superior.
  • Repetitive movement.
  • Irregular breathing.
  • Very rapid or irregular heartbeat.
  • Jaw clamping/teeth grinding.
  • Panic attacks.

Long term effects in addition to the short term effects include:

  • Malnutrition and weight loss.
  • Reduced resistance to infection.
  • Violent behaviour.
  • Emotional disturbances.
  • Periods of psychosis.
  • Delusional thoughts and behaviour.
  • Mood swings.

The effects of methamphetamine include anxiety, depression, paranoia, aggression and psychotic symptoms. Methamphetamine also increases the risk of mental health problems, especially in people with an existing mental health condition or vulnerability to mental health problems.

As methamphetamine is more potent than dexamphetamine, users are likely to experience more severe side-effects.

Yes. Overdose or toxicity from amphetamines usually results from the drug’s stimulatory properties and can cause strokes, heart failure, seizures and death. The risk of overdose generally increases with a larger dose. As the strength and content of street amphetamines is unknown it can be difficult to judge the dose, increasing the risk of overdose.

A drug overdose is life threatening.  If you suspect bad effects from drugs every second counts, react fast and call an ambulance immediately (dial 000 from anywhere in Australia). Police will not normally attend unless ambulance officers are threatened or there is a death.

There are a number of signs and symptoms that point out someone is in trouble. Some of these include:

  • Hyperactivity, sweating
  • Rapid breathing or a feeling that you ‘can’t breathe’
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Shaking / Trembling / spasms
  • Chest pain, pounding heart
  • Raised temperature
  • Body chills
  • Disorientation
  • Severe Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Paranoid, delusional, agitated, irritable, anxious or psychotic behaviour
  • Convulsions

REMEMBER: It is not necessary for someone to have all of these signs or symptoms for them to be overdosing. Only a few could still mean they are in trouble and need emergency help (000).

There has been emerging evidence that amphetamine use is linked to serious long-term health effects, including depression, anxiety, psychosis and memory disturbance.

A pilot study was developed in Perth to determine if amphetamine users had brain abnormalities that neither they nor their doctors treating them suspected. People who presented to the Royal Perth Hospital Emergency Department with amphetamine-related symptoms were eligible to be recruited for the study. Brain abnormalities were detected using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and is defined when the brain has been injured by drug use resulting in an abnormality in the brain.

The results from this pilot study showed that one in five cases had an brain lesion or brain scarring. The most common MRI abnormality seen was an unidentified bright object (UBO), of which were mostly found in the frontal region of the brain. This finding is consistent with other reports of frontal abnormalities in methamphetamine users.

There has been emerging evidence that amphetamine use is linked to serious long-term health effects, including depression, anxiety, psychosis and memory disturbance.

Amphetamines can bring about psychotic features in people with no history of mental health issues (amphetamine-induced psychosis) or it can expose an underlying vulnerability to a mental health issue.  If you have already been diagnosed with a mental health issue, amphetamines can exacerbate the psychotic features of that illness and can also have a detrimental effect on medications used to control mental health issues.

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