What are amphetamines and what do they do?

Amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, methamphetamine, and their various salts are collectively referred to as amphetamines. In fact, their chemical properties and actions are so similar that even experienced users have difficulty knowing which drug they have taken. Methamphetamine is the most commonly abused.

Amphetamines are a class of powerful drugs that act as stimulants on the central nervous system. Popularly known as “bennies,” “speed,” or “uppers,” amphetamines enhance mental alertness and the ability to concentrate; cause wakefulness, talkativeness, and euphoria; and temporarily reverse the effects of fatigue. They have been used to treat obesity, narcolepsy, and minimal brain dysfunction.

Some of the short-term effects of amphetamines are: hallucinations, insomnia, feelings of exhilaration and energy, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, as well as such severe systemic disorders as cardiac irregularities and gastric disturbances.

Long-term side effects of using amphetamines are tremors, loss of coordination, irritability, anxiousness, restlessness, delirium, panic, paranoia, aggressiveness, impulsive behavior, rapid or irregular heartbeat, reduced appetite, weight loss, and even heart failure. The drugs are addictive and easily abused; addiction can result in psychosis or death from over-exhaustion or cardiac arrest.

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