Amphetamines are probably the second most widely used illegal drug in the UK after cannabis. More commonly known as speed, are a type of synthetic stimulants. Sold on the street as a powder which can vary in colour, they are usually white, grey, yellow or a pinky hue. Speed also comes as substance which is putty like, and this is referred to as “base.” Of course, like any street drugs it is mixed with a variety of substance is and generally the actual amphetamine content is quite low. Amphetamines can be cut with other powdery substances, most commonly good cause, drive baby milk, caffeine or even laxatives. They have been known to be cut with even less desirable substances such as powdered beach or cleaning materials.
Amphetamines do have a medical use: Dexedrine (dexamphetamine sulphate) is used for treating narcolepsy, a condition where the sufferer is unable to stop themselves from falling asleep. Riyalin and Adderal (used to treat ADHD in children) are not strictly amphetamines but have a similar chemical compound and mimic the same effects.
Amphetamines are taken usually by snorting of swallowing. In some cases they are even injected. It is a stimulant drug which keeps the user week, gives a feeling of extra energy and decreases appetite. Speed is particularly popular amongst people who go to all night parties, raves and nightclubs who find that the ability to stay awake for long periods of time aids their partying.
Amphetamines are not a new drug. They were discovered in the 19th century but their medicinal uses were not recognised until the fast half of the 20th century. They were used to help asthmatic conditions, to help treat low blood pressure and as an appetite suppressant. They have also been used to treat many other conditions including epilepsy, insomnia, depression and hyperactivity in young children. In the 1950s and 60s, amphetamines were very popular and marketed as a slimming aid.
There are more side effects to speed then just staying awake though. Whilst the effects may last anywhere from 4 to 24 hours depending on the strength and dosage, the after-effects last much longer as the body struggles to deal with the drug. Someone who has been taking amphetamines may feel tired and lifeless and may even feel down or depressed afterwards. This is often called a “come down,” and can last for days after the drug has last been taken.
Speed remains popular in the current day as it is cheaper than other stimulant drugs such as cocaine. The affordability and easy availability of the drug means that has remained and increased in popularity over time. Amphetamines are addictive and users build up a tolerance and may find that they need to take more and more of the drug to get the same effects as time goes on.
Like any addiction, amphetamine addiction can be dangerous and difficult to treat. A user may be defensive about their drug use and may find it difficult to envisage life without it.