Amphetamines - abuse and addiction

Ritalin, Speed, Crystal Meth

Amphetamines - more commonly known on the street as speed, uppers, whiz, crystal or meth - are basically stimulants. Certain types of amphetamines are legally prescribed to treat various forms of depression, hyperactivity in children and sleeping sickness. The stimulant effect of the drugs led them to be widely used by soldiers during World War II to combat battle fatigue. Since the 1950s doctors have been prescribing them to obese people as a way of suppressing the appetite.

Wonder Drug Leads to Substance Abuse

Amphetamines hit the headlines as the wonder slimming drug in both America and the UK in the 80s and 90s. But they quickly became abused by those who only needed marginal weight loss and exploited by some private "slimming clinics" which charged a fat fee to prescribe them to desperate women.

More recently the amphetamine like drug Ritalin has received both good and bad press for its effect on children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. Its legal use in both America and the UK is on the increase. However, in general the medical prescribing of amphetamines has fallen as an increasing number of doctors become reluctant to prescribe them legitimately because of the adverse side effects.

Also see the blog - The Truth Behind ADHD

This doesn't mean that the illegal use of amphetamines has fallen. The majority of abused amphetamines are normally acquired via false prescription forms or through conning a doctor into prescribing them. On the streets the most common type, amphetamine sulphate, is usually sold in small paper packets called "wraps" in the form of a dull white or even pink powder. Its purity varies but it is usually about 10% mixed with dried milk powder, laxatives or vitamin C.

There is a smokeable type of amphetamine which looks like putty and is commonly dubbed "base." This is usually stronger - roughly 50% amphetamine. The powder is normally snorted, mixed in a drink or melted and used in needles. Base is wrapped in paper and smoked or swallowed (a practice called "bombing".)

But it's methamphetamine (processed speed), commonly called ice or crystal meth because of its appearance, which is the strongest and most pure. It's manufactured quite easily in illicit laboratories around the world, although it tends to be cheapest and purer from illegal California laboratories. It is often cut with cocaine or heroin and can be swallowed, smoked or injected.

How many people abuse this drug?

According to the UN World Drug report 2004 an estimated 30 million people aged 15-64 had used amphetamines. In Europe the highest levels of use are in places such as the UK , Spain and Denmark , where amphetamine powder is cheap and popular with the club scene. In America and Asia the use of methamphetamines is growing due to the number of illicit laboratories springing it.

The 2000 British Crime Survey says that use in the UK is on the decline with just 13% of 16-19 year-olds having tried it at least once in 2000 compared to 18% in 1998. This doesn't necessarily mean that fewer youngsters are experimenting with drugs, but when it comes to popular club drugs they're more likely to try ecstasy than speed.

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