Why Amphetamine Addiction Leads to Compulsive Behavior

Why Amphetamine Addiction Leads to Compulsive BehaviorAmphetamines are phenethylamine-class stimulants that boost energy, alertness and concentration. Prescription amphetamines like Ritalin and Adderall are used therapeutically to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and other conditions, though many people abuse these drugs for non-medical reasons, including getting high. There are also a number of illicit amphetamines such as speed, crystal methamphetamine and amphetamine-type derivatives like MDMA (i.e., “ecstasy”). Depending on the amphetamine abused, physical side effects can include hypertension, restlessness, headaches and cardiac and respiratory problems, while the behavioral side effects can include unhealthy compulsions.

Amphetamine Addiction Effects

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) website defines addiction as a chronic neurobiological disease of reward, motivation and memory, that affects users in several ways, including the following:

  • Compromises the frontal lobe’s ability to inhibit impulsiveness and delay gratification
  • Decreases natural dopamine production due to drug-related spikes in neurotransmission
  • Shifts motivational hierarchies to prioritize addictive behavior over personal health
  • Alters the reward structures in the brain causing dysfunctional judgment and compulsion
  • Limits the brain’s ability to experience reward from anything other than amphetamines

Inherited genetics make certain people more susceptible to these neurobiological changes, but socio-environmental factors influence the extent to which these biological vulnerabilities lead to substance abuse.

Addiction and Compulsive Behavior

Once the addiction takes hold, amphetamine users experience diminished judgment and impulse control, and this leads to behavioral, cognitive and emotional changes, including the following:

  • Obsessive preoccupation with procuring and taking more amphetamines
  • Skewed perceptions of the benefits and detriments involved in the drug abuse
  • Transference of blame to other people and causes for addiction-related problems
  • Increased anxiety and stress sensitivity that the user believes drug use will relieve
  • Narrowing of behavior to focus on the perceived rewards of amphetamine use

These changes manifest as compulsive behavior. The addict will often say, do and risk anything to feed the amphetamine hunger. However, amphetamine addiction can have even more serious mental health consequences, including the following:

  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) lists 10 amphetamine-related psychiatric disorders
  • A Cochrane Library-published study in 2009 stated that 18% of frequent amphetamine users develop psychotic symptoms
  • Some users develop full-blown psychosis requiring emergency medical care

While amphetamine abuse causes compulsive behavior in most addicts, some people experience significant mental health issues that can motivate more pronounced compulsion.

Amphetamine Addiction Treatment

Professional rehabilitation is the safest and most effective way to overcome an amphetamine addiction. Treatment centers start with medically supervised detoxification, which may involve gradually eliminating the amphetamines from the system. Therapies, including the following, are then utilized to empower the recovery and remove relapse risks:

  • Integrated screenings and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Strategies to identify and neutralize cues that trigger amphetamine cravings
  • Counseling to address the original motivations for the substance abuse
  • Behavioral therapies that target the cognitive processes related to conduct
  • Holistic options that reduce withdrawal symptoms and promote overall health
  • Group therapy to share experiences and discuss healthier coping skills

For the most positive long-term outcome, recovering addicts should also engage in local support groups and aftercare counseling following their primary treatment period. This includes finding a recovery sponsor to provide guidance and support.

Amphetamine Addiction Recovery Help

Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to provide whatever help you might need. Whether the addict is you or a loved one, we can discuss treatment options, facility locations and specialized services. Health insurance companies often cover rehabilitation, and we can check policies for the exact benefits offered. Our helpline is toll-free so please call now.