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Substance Abuse - Speed

Commonly Known As: Speed is the global slang word for Amphetamines. Other terms include jollies, wake ups, bennies, black beauties, dexies, uppers, Dexedrine.

Access to Drug: Available on the street through dealers, friends, at parties, raves, dances, clubs, and by prescription, either legally or illegally. Speed is also made in home labs and is related to methamphetamine chemically but differs in the way it is produced and its impact on the central nervous system.

Scientific Name: alpha methylbenzeneethanamine, C9H13N. It is a central nervous stimulant that is prescribed legally for epilepsy, narcolepsy, Parkinson’s Disease and weight loss. It is highly addictive if not taken as prescribed. It is a white or off-white crystalline powder.

Interesting Facts: Amphetamine was first synthesized in 1887 as a new medicine for asthma. By 1930, Benzedrine inhalers were developed to help with asthma and drug abusers quickly caught on to the stimulating effects of the drug. In World War II, amphetamines were widely abused by American, Japanese and German soldiers to stay awake for long flights, and maintain a level of aggression for battle. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, pharmaceutical companies promoted the use of amphetamines for appetite suppression and mood elevation. Amphetamines, or “Mother’s Little Helpers” as they were labeled in a song, peaked in the 1960’s and it is believed the amphetamines and the resulting violent behavior from abuse helped to end the Summer of Love in Haight Ashbury. With abusers and addicts now finding ways to manufacture speed, home labs have cropped up nationwide and more attention is paid to the stronger speed, or methamphetamine, despite the on-going abuse of amphetamines.

Methods of Use: Swallowed in pill form or home made gel caps. Snorted in powder form or cooked up and used intravenously. Amphetamine is also smoked in glassine pipes or tin foil. Abusers will typically go on a “run” and stay up anywhere from two days to two weeks before sleeping. It is commonly used in combination with Heroin, Marijuana, Alcohol and other sedative-hypnotics. Street Amphetamine will also be mixed in with Cocaine to mimic the speedy effects of cocaine and increase the amount of cocaine a dealer can distribute.

Common Effects When Intoxicated: Reduced appetite, insomnia, dilated pupils, an excited state including grandiosity and invincibility, paranoia, dry mouth, increased heart rate and blood pressure, restlessness. Depending on the dose, there can also be fever and sweating, blurred vision, convulsions and uncontrollable twitching movements. Some abusers will pick the skin on the face and arms and develop sores.

Duration of Intoxication: Intoxication is almost immediate if used intravenously, within several minutes when smoked and in about 20 minutes when swallowed, depending on stomach content. The effects last about 8 hours lingering for approximately 24 hours prior to sleeping. Craving is common at the beginning of a “run” and keeps the amphetamine user in a cycle that is broken either by the drug wearing off and the user sleeping, or taking sedative-hypnotics or alcohol to reduce the lingering effects.

Withdrawal: The intensity of the withdrawal depends on the amount of amphetamines abused and the duration of use. Commonly, there is fatigue, long periods of sleep, irritability, intense hunger, anxiety, and some depression. Heavy users may experience an amphetamine psychosis, similar to paranoid schizophrenia that gradually diminishes within six months of cessation of use.

Effects of Long Term Use: Malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, susceptibility to illness due to decrease in immune system, damage to heart muscle, skin disorders, ulcers, weight loss/anorexia, paranoia/psychosis, and depression. IV users may contract HIV/AIDS, develop Hepatitis C and damage to body organs from blocked blood vessels. Long term amphetamine users also experience gum and teeth problems due to the loss of calcium in the system.

Abuse, Dependence, and Addiction: Amphetamines are abused often by people trying to stay alert or drawn to the effects of the drug. Psychologically, they can develop a dependence on the drug for what they think may be creativity, energy and invincibility. Addiction can result due to the tolerance the body develops and the resulting craving for more of the drug to achieve the same effects.

Associated Risks: Street-bought amphetamines are often mixed with other chemicals such as baby laxatives which can be more damaging to the body. Amphetamine use is also known to be associated with violence and anti-social behavior. Because of the feelings of invincibility, users will take risks that can be deadly. Suicide can occur in people who experience strong depression following the abuse of amphetamines.