Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants that treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, obesity and similar conditions. They include drugs like methylphenidate, diethylproprion, fenfluramine and brands like Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall and Concerta. In a report covering 2002 to 2004, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 3 million Americans had used amphetamine-type stimulants in the past year for nonmedical reasons, and up to 350,000 of those users were addicted. Amphetamine abuse is a growing problem, particularly on college campuses, but understanding the drug’s origin and past problems can help with addiction recovery.
In 1887, chemist Lazar Edeleanu synthesized the first amphetamine in Germany, but more than four decades would pass drugs like it were put to medical use. Ironically, though, when these drugs first hit the shelves, they were not used as stimulants. The pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline and French (SKF) introduced the Benzedrine inhaler in the 1930s as a decongestant, though recreational drug users learned to remove the inhalers’ amphetamine strips to produce a stimulant high. Amphetamine use quickly expanded to treat depression, narcolepsy, opiate addiction and other conditions, and Benzedrine sulfate tablets and other formulations quickly followed. When the SKF patent expired in 1949, the production and consumption of amphetamines grew dramatically.
In 2008, the American Journal of Public Health published “America’s First Amphetamine Epidemic 1929 – 1971,” and it noted the following key historical moments:
- Consumption rates by 1962 reached 43 doses per year per person in the US
- The harmful effects were more widely recognized by the early 1960s
- The amphetamine epidemic peaked and started to recede by the late 1960s
- Amphetamines became a Schedule III controlled substance in 1970
- A precursor to the Drug Enforcement Administration used its authority to shift amphetamines to Schedule II the following year
- Use declined under the new restrictions, and the cocaine epidemic began
After detailing the first amphetamine epidemic, the journal then demonstrated that the US is currently experiencing a second epidemic, evidenced by the following statistics:
- Amphetamine use doubled from 1983 to 1988, and again from 1988 and 1992
- Amphetamine use quintupled (multiplied by five) between 1992 and 2002, and abuse rates continue to grow rapidly
- Adjusting for population, amphetamine use in 2004 reached 70% of its pre-1970 peak
- The 2.6 billion units used medically in 2005 exceeded the 1960s peak for the first time
Amphetamines like Ritalin and Adderall are in the same controlled substance class as OxyContin, opium, cocaine and morphine, yet the medical community widely prescribes them to adults and children alike. In fact, the New York Times notes in 2013 that the number of children taking amphetamines grew to 3.5 million, up from 600,000 in 1990. While basic amphetamine side effects include high body temperature, nausea, headaches and palpitations, long-term use can result in toxic psychosis, behavioral disorders, cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory problems, convulsions, coma, death and addiction.
Whether the initial use involved medical or recreational use, amphetamine addicts have the best chance of recovery by seeking professional treatment. Rehab centers provide the following services:
- Supervised drug detox in a safe and comfortable environment
- Behavioral, motivational and lifestyle therapies in group and individual sessions
- Relapse-prevention tools to identify and avoid amphetamine abuse triggers
- Integrated physical and mental health care for co-occurring disorders
- Optional holistic therapies to promote overall wellness and health
Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day at a toll-free helpline to answer questions, discuss treatment options and even to check health insurance benefits. They are available to you, so please call now.