The Effects of Amphetamines
The initial effects of amphetamines are often feelings of euphoria and energy because the drugs are strong stimulants. This explains their popularity with clubbers who find themselves able to dance and socialise all night without getting tired.
As the drug hits the central nervous system the body is flooded with adrenaline giving the "rush" that so many users find exhilarating. The whole body speeds up, increasing the heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Users report feelings of confidence, excitement and boundless energy. They can't sit still and they don't need sleep. They don't need to eat either as the drug shuts down the digestive system to allow more blood to rush into the muscles.
Used properly, amphetamines can counter the effects of sleeping sickness, help with obesity by suppressing the appetite and control hyperactivity in children and young adults.
Like most drugs the speed and intensity of the effects depend on how the amphetamines are taken. When injected, they take effect almost immediately. Those who swallow them or who sniff and smoke the powdered form normally feel the effects within 40 minutes. A single dose can last for up to six hours.
As one user puts it: "It's a buzz. It makes me feel confident and I feel as though my batteries will never run out. I want to be doing something all the time and I find that I am really alert at work. And when I go out with friends, I could just keep going on and on."
Effects of Amphetamines: With every High comes a Low
But as with all uppers there comes a downside. About 24 hours after taking amphetamines, users normally feel tired, irritable and depressed and this can last for a couple of days as the effects wears off.
In the short term the effects range from alertness, lack of appetite, dilated pupils, irritability and sweating to tiredness, paranoia and fits. Longer term use can result in chronic sleep problems, anxiety and problems with the heart and blood pressure. Some long term users become anorexic and frequent heavy use can lead to "amphetamine psychosis" involving paranoia, hallucinations and bizarre behaviour. This usually disappears when a person stops using the drugs.
Smoking the very pure methamphetamine in crystal form (known as ice or crystal meth) can give an instant and intense high. Feelings of confidence and energy are far stronger than with less powerful amphetamines but the comedown is usually far worse. Extreme fatigue, mood swings and paranoia are all common after effects. This can lead to users taking more methamphetamine in a bid to regain the original feel good factor.
Amphetamine Tolerance Build Up
Tolerance to methamphetamine and amphetamines increases with regular use. When this happens users often find themselves tempted to move onto injecting straight into the blood stream to get that immediate hit. Then comes the physical risk associated with injecting drugs - veins collapsing and the possibility of contracting HIV and hepatitis from infected needles and other drug paraphernalia. It's also difficult to know how pure the stuff is or what rubbish it's been cut with. Problems like this can prove fatal.
Many users decide the lows are just too high a price to pay for the highs. "A friend got me on to meth. It was great to start off with but when I didn't take it I felt crap. I couldn't sleep and I lashed out at people. I eventually ended up injecting it just to avoid feeling like that. After three months, I was exhausted and constantly ill and I had lost so much weight. I have been off it now for a year - never again."