By Anthony McDaniel, M.D.
Amphetamines are a chemical class of stimulants, entactogens, hallucinogens, and other drugs. They feature a phenethylamine core with a methyl group attached to the alpha carbon resulting in amphetamine, along with additional substitutions. Examples of amphetamines are amphetamine (itself), methamphetamine, ephedrine, cathinone, MDMA ("Ecstasy"), and DOM ("STP").
Amphetamine derivatives occur in nature, for example in the leaves of Ephedra and khat plants. These have been used since antiquity for their pharmacological effects. Amphetamines were first produced synthetically at the end of the 19th century. By the 1930s such synthetic amphetamines found use as decongestants in the symptomatic treatment of colds and also occasionally as psychoactive agents. Their effects on the central nervous system are diverse, but can be summarized by three overlapping types of activity: psychoanaleptic, hallucinogenic, and empathogenic. Various amphetamines may cause these actions either separately or in combination. Improper consumption of amphetamine derivatives may result in addiction and aggressiveness, as well as in rapid deterioration of basic body functions and death. Therefore, production and distribution of most related drugs is controlled by the authorities both nationally and internationally.
After prolonged use, amphetamines, except for classical hallucinogens, can induce strong addiction that can last up to several weeks. Some energy drinks, contain small levels of Amphetamines depending on size and quantity; which can be mistaken in few drug test, depending on time, and amount of consumption. It is believed that psychological dependence on amphetamines, as well as on other drugs, is associated with stimulation by the drug of dopaminergic neurons in the ventral tegmental area. Those neurons are responsible for feelings of reward that affects the processes of learning and adaptation. Physical dependence on amphetamine-type stimulants is controversial. Interruption after their prolonged use results in fatigue, depression, sleepiness and feeling of hunger. These symptoms may be regarded as components of withdrawal syndrome or just as normal response of the body to the lack of sleep and food that accompanies systematic use of amphetamine-type stimulants. Classic hallucinogens (such as DOM) do not cause addiction. Laboratory animals which were taught to use stimulants did not use hallucinogens on their own initiative. Treatment of addiction to amphetamine and its derivatives are similar to those for other stimulants such as cocaine. Because of the weak physical effect of amphetamine addiction, the use of amphetamines is interrupted abruptly instead of gradually reducing the drug dose. The major symptoms of psychological addiction are depression, feeling of boredom, and nostalgia for the pleasure associated with the drug. The treatment is usually based on individual work with the patient and the patient's desire to quit drug use.
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