The following research is dedicated to the study amphetamine addiction. In particular, the work describes the physiological effect of this drug, i.e. its influence on the human body, including the cellular level. It also describes the mechanism of the development of amphetamine addiction by giving an insight of the three ways of the systematical abuse of this drug – weekend excesses, Swedish cycle, and the constant abuse. It also tracks the changes in the behavior of an addict, which occur as a result of the long influence of amphetamine (including its intake in combination with the other drugs) on the human brain. In addition, the research describes the potential mental disorders that can emerge as a result of amphetamine abuse, including dysphoria, Kandinsky-Clerambault syndrome, and schizophrenia. Finally, the work gives the recommendations for the treatment of amphetamine addiction, which includes a set of measures on detoxification of the addict’s body and the regulation the abnormal levels of important neurotransmitters in the brain. Moreover, it offers psychiatric methods, namely the cognitive-behavioral therapy, as a means of prevention of the addiction from occurring in the future after the treatment is complete.
The drug abuse, known since ancient times, is now widespread, disturbing the entire world community. The people use drugs for thousands of years, but the science has started studying them only recently. Drugs include a variety of substances with the ability to induce euphoria, cause addiction, and deal substantial damage to the mental and physical health of the person consuming them. One of these drugs is amphetamine. Being once considered a harmless stimulant and a means for weight loss, nowadays, it is equated with narcotic substances. Its use is life-threatening, and the effects of amphetamine addiction can take years to be removed. Nowadays, amphetamine addiction has become a trend. Moreover, this trend is frightening: the number of the people that abuse stimulants is steadily increasing. All the above mentioned facts contribute to the relevance of the selected topic. Therefore, the following research is dedicated to the study of the influence of amphetamine on the human behavior, the mechanism of the development of addiction, and the ways of treating it.
The Effect of Amphetamine
Amphetamine is a stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS), a derivative of phenylethylamine. It is used as a recreational psychoactive substance which, however, may cause psychological addiction. In many countries, it also finds limited use in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. The stimulating effect of this drug is manifested in an increase in the activity and vitality, reduced fatigue, high spirits, loss of appetite, and the decreased need for sleep. It is caused by the release of norepinephrine and dopamine in the CNS. The indirect influence of the drug is also mediated through the release of norepinephrine and leads to an increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, mainly due to the stimulation of adrenergic receptors in vascular muscles and heart. High doses of amphetamine can cause seizures, stereotyped movements or psychosis. As the effect of the drug expires, these behavioral responses are followed by depression and fatigue. In general, this stimulant is characterized by the cumulative effect of fatigue – after the break in its intake, the need for food and sleep, which were repressed by the drug, appear again. This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that the stimulant activates the reserves of the body, and it is necessary to restore them after the expiration of its effect. The long-term use of amphetamine can lead to mental exhaustion that often manifests itself in the form of psychosis, as well as physical in the form of weakness and severe weight loss. The drug can also lead to a malfunction of the kidneys, liver, decreased immune response, and blurred vision while its abuse may result in heart failure.
The amphetamine abuse without addiction is often limited to occasional oral or intravenous injections. However, in the case of continuous drug intake, the psychological dependence occurs rapidly. Its first manifestation is an irresistible desire to repeat the injection of amphetamine or take it again during the post-intoxication period (the so-called second phase of the action). The drug is taken to avoid the depressed mood, inner concerns, and somatic discomfort. The desire to take sleeping pills or tranquilizers during the aftereffect of the medication, and even more so in advance, can also be an indirect sign of the emergence of the addiction. Sometimes, these drugs are taken simultaneously with amphetamine (e.g. amphetamine is injected intravenously while tranquilizers are taken orally).
In most cases, amphetamine addiction is characterized by frequency of abuse, reminiscent of binges in chronic alcoholism. Namely, there are the so-called weekend excesses, when the drug is repeatedly taken by the end of the week. In this case, the post-intoxication period brings a state of dysphoria – the drug addict becomes irritable and aggressive towards people, especially his family. Such a state lasts for one or two days. Another type of abuse, the so-called Swedish cycle, is much more severe. In this case, the drug addict repeatedly injects amphetamine intravenously or takes orally in large doses for two or three days, bringing the daily intake of up to several hundred milligrams, i.e. several tens of times higher than the therapeutic dose. The intravenous infusion is repeated every three hours. During these days, the addict does not sleep or eat all the time and is on the edge, i.e. in a state resembling angry mania during the affective psychosis. Typically, such a state is combined with delinquent behavior and even the actions of an aggressive nature. As a result, the drug addict often becomes involved in fights or poses as an initiator of such collisions, and can be aggressive, even violent, with respect to random passers-by. In two or three days, he reaches the point of exhaustion, which results in fainting, insomnia, and a blurry consciousness. After taking a large dose of sleeping pills and spending another two or three days on sleeping and eating, the addict resumes the cycle. Such an abuse often results in quickly developing paranoid psychosis. Finally, the constant abuse of amphetamine usually comes to oral reception in the morning or evening, combined with sleeping pills or tranquilizers. In this case, the tolerance to the drug increases slowly – this process can take several months and even years. The addict gradually loses weight and develops a tendency to pyogenic infections, including abscesses and boils. In addition, males suffer from a markedly reduced sexual potency and libido. Over time, the drug addict develops the state of anhedonia – nothing in life is able to give pleasure or generate interest for him. He becomes inactive, introverted, and constantly keeps gloomy and irritable mood.
A sudden break in the use of amphetamine leads to withdrawal symptoms. In the case of amphetamine addiction, the withdrawal syndrome is, in fact, a prolonged (up to two or three weeks) post-intoxication state. It results in dysphoria, grim mood, anger, irritability, inner concerns, and the need for something to thwart the evil. These symptoms are often joined by the feeling of exhaustion and painful insomnia. There is also an irresistible desire to take amphetamine once again.
Amphetamine addiction can result in a variety of mental disorders. The first of them is amphetamine confusion – during the first hour after the intake of amphetamine, the addict experiences a state of confusion. It is difficult to establish contact with him, as he is disoriented in time and place, and cannot recognize people. His statements are sketchy but emotionally colored. The addict also becomes restless, fidgety, and prone to sudden aggression. Judging from the behavior, patients sometimes experience auditory and visual hallucinations. The amphetamine confusion may occur not only on the height of intoxication, but as a result of the result of a sudden break from the continuous intake of the drug. It can develop in several days after the interruption of abuse and continue for about a week. Another disorder is chronic amphetamine psychosis, which is manifested in a persistent hallucinatory-paranoid syndrome. On the background of a constant fear or dysphoria, the addict develops not only delusions of persecution, but also the true auditory hallucinations, often with physical effects (hypnosis and telepathy). The addict may also develop the signs of Kandinsky-Clerambault syndrome (a sense of alienation and the unnatural nature of one’s emotions, actions, and thoughts). The mentioned psychoses last from several weeks to many months. Their similarity with paranoid schizophrenia has led to the assumption that amphetamine causes an experimental model of schizophrenia. However, whether the state caused by amphetamine can be considered a model of schizophrenia or it is a provocateur for the pathos of this disorder, i.e. its development depends on the personality of the patient, is still unclear.
The Treatment of Amphetamine Addiction
The treatment of amphetamine addiction resembles that of cocaine. Its first task is the detoxification of the body through the use of solutions that speed up the drug excretion of the organism. In addition, it involves the use of neuroleptic drugs, such as dextroamphetamine and benzodiazepines, which affect the corresponding receptors and soothe the overexcited brain, regulating the abnormal levels of important neurotransmitters. In addition, the patients must receive psychological and psychiatric support (namely the cognitive-behavioral therapy) for at least three months. As a result, they not only recover the normal balance of hormones and neurotransmitters, but also gain the following set of skills and abilities to prevent the addiction from occurring again:
- Identifying the negative thoughts that cause anxiety and depression;
- Evaluating the negative thoughts in terms of their realism and changing them to more constructive that fully reflect the reality and do not provoke anxiety or depression;
- Normalizing one’s lifestyle and eliminating the typical triggers for the abuse (chronic congestion, poor organization of work and rest)’
- Maintaining the active lifestyle and resisting the avoidance by using the acquired skills of coping with anxiety and depression;
- Overcoming the shame of one’s anxiety, do not hide the problems from relatives and efficiently use the others’ support.
During the treatment of amphetamine addiction, one must bear in mind that this drug has a direct toxic effect on the brain. Most of the patients that abuse amphetamine, suffer from mental disorders, including psychosis. They are accompanied by symptoms resembling schizophrenia, including hallucinations and paranoia. In severe cases, drug addicts can also develop motor impairments in addition to the listed mental disorders. Many of them are beginning to be hindered in the terms of dynamics, which leads to abnormalities in walking, violations during a conversation, and a reduced intellectual ability. As a result, due to the similarity of symptoms, inexperienced doctors often make the wrong diagnosis, namely identifying the amphetamine addiction as schizophrenia and treat the patients by using a large number of neuroleptics and powerful antipsychotic drugs. Such a treatment has minimal success and causes serious side effects.
As a conclusion, it is possible to say that amphetamine, like all psychoactive drugs, affects both mind and body of the one who uses it. Therefore, it is important that the approach to the treatment of amphetamine addiction is broader rather than addressing and eliminating only one of its aspects. First of all, the symptoms of the addiction must be thoroughly researched in order to avoid making the wrong diagnosis. The program to detoxify the body must consist of highly accurate sequence of steps, including the use of specific drugs. In addition, it is important to work with the problem at the psychic level. In particular, a person who is not an expert in the field of treatment of addictive behavior must understand that in order to overcome the addiction, it is necessary to know both its aspects and the strength and weaknesses of an addict. In summing up, it is important to know that the two primary factors that contribute to the development of amphetamine addiction are the loss of the ability to cope with difficulties, problems or situations in life without stimulation, and the presence of toxic substances in the body, which affect the condition of the patient. Therefore, these two factors should be considered a starting point for the successful and comprehensive treatment.