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Amphetamine Dependence

What Is Amphetamine Dependence?

Amphetamines are a type of stimulant. They treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.

Dextroamphetamine and methamphetamine are two types of amphetamines. They’re sometimes sold illegally. Both prescribed and street amphetamines can be abused and cause addiction. Methamphetamine is the most commonly abused amphetamine.

Amphetamine dependence occurs when you need the drug to function on a daily basis. You’ll experience symptoms of withdrawal if you’re dependent and you abruptly stop using the drug.

What Causes Amphetamine Dependence?

Using amphetamines frequently and for a long time can cause dependence. Some people become dependent faster than others.

You may become dependent by using these drugs without a doctor’s prescription. You can also become dependent if you take more than you’re prescribed. You may even develop dependence if you take amphetamines according to your doctor’s directions.

Who Is at Risk for Amphetamine Dependence?

You have a higher risk of developing amphetamine dependence if you:

  • have easy access to amphetamines
  • live in a culture where amphetamine use is viewed as acceptable
  • have mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia
  • have low self-esteem or relationship problems
  • have a stressful lifestyle
  • have emotional problems
  • have financial problems

What Are the Symptoms of Amphetamine Dependence?

If you’re dependent on amphetamines, you may:

  • miss work or school
  • not complete or perform tasks as well
  • not care about physical appearance
  • have poor hygiene
  • not eat
  • lose a lot of weight
  • have severe dental problems
  • steal to get money to support your drug habit
  • try to hide your amphetamine abuse from others
  • use amphetamines when you’re alone
  • find it difficult to stop using amphetamines
  • make excuses to yourself and others to use amphetamines
  • experience withdrawal symptoms if you don’t use amphetamines
  • have episodes of violence and mood disturbances
  • have anxiety
  • have insomnia
  • feel confused
  • have paranoia
  • have visual or auditory hallucinations
  • have delusions, such as the sensation that something is crawling under your skin

How Is Amphetamine Dependence Diagnosed?

To diagnose amphetamine dependence, your doctor may:

  • ask you questions about how much and how long you’ve been using amphetamines
  • take blood tests to detect amphetamines in your system
  • perform a physical exam and order tests to detect health problems caused by your amphetamine abuse

Check for the following symptoms. You may have amphetamine dependence if you’ve experienced three or more within the same 12-month period.

Build Up of Tolerance

You’ve built up a tolerance if you need larger doses of amphetamines to achieve the same high.

Mental Health Is Affected

Withdrawal is characterized by depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression, and intense cravings. You may need to use a similar drug to relieve or avoid amphetamine withdrawal symptoms.

Inability to Cut Down or Stop

You have wanted to cut down or stop using amphetamines but have been unsuccessful. You continue to use amphetamines even though you know thye’re causing persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems.

Lifestyle Changes

You miss out on or don’t go to as many recreational, social, or work activities because of your amphetamine use.

How Is Amphetamine Dependence Treated?

Treatments for amphetamine dependence may include a combination of the following.


If you experience strong drug cravings, you may find it easier to go through amphetamine withdrawal in a hospital setting. This setting may also help if you have negative mood changes, including aggression and suicidal behavior.


Individual counseling, family therapy, and group therapy can help you:

  • identify why you use drugs
  • resolve problems that led you to use drugs
  • repair relationships with your family
  • learn ways to avoid amphetamine use
  • discover activities you enjoy in place of drug use
  • get support from others who have been amphetamine users because they understand what you’re going through (usually in a 12-step drug treatment program)


Your doctor may prescribe medication to ease severe symptoms of withdrawal. Your doctor may prescribe methylphenidate if you have severe intravenous amphetamine dependence. Fluoxetine may decrease your cravings. Imipramine may help you stick with your treatment for amphetamine dependence. Your doctor may prescribe other medications to help relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, and aggression.

What Are the Complications of Amphetamine Dependence?

Consistent amphetamine dependence and abuse can lead to:

  • overdose
  • brain damage (you may notice symptoms that resemble Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, or stroke)
  • death

What Is the Long-Term Outlook?

Amphetamine dependence can be difficult to treat. You may relapse after treatment and start using amphetamines again. Participating in a 12-step drug treatment program and getting individual counseling can reduce your chances of relapse.

Can I Prevent Amphetamine Dependence?

Drug education programs can reduce the odds for new amphetamine use or a relapse. Counseling for emotional problems and family support can also help. However, none of these have been proven to prevent amphetamine use in everyone.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Rose Kivi and Winnie Yu
Medically reviewed on: Nov 30, 2015: Mark R LaFlamme, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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