Amphetamines (speed, whiz, sulph, sulphate)

What is it?

Amphetamines are a group of synthetic stimulant drugs. They stimulate the central nervous system – increasing the breathing and heart rate. They also raise blood pressure and reduce appetite. Dexedrine and Ritalin are examples of prescribed amphetamines.

Speed normally comes as a pinkish-white or off-white powder. This is usually amphetamine sulphate – average purity < 5%. It can be taken in various ways: snorted, swallowed, wrapped in a cigarette paper and swallowed, dissolved in a drink or injected.

Short-term effects

The effects depend on how much is consumed. Individual factors such as body weight, gender, the strength of the drug, mood, physical and mental health, how you take it, where you take it  and whether or not it is mixed with other drugs also have an impact.

As with any drug, users should test the strength of it by using a small amount first.

Amphetamine/speed increases energy and confidence, it reduces the appetite and the need to sleep. It also intensifies feelings, speeds up breathing and heart rate, raises blood pressure and increases urine output. Amphetamines can also react with certain food and drink which are rich in tyramine, such as certain cheeses and Chianti red wine. This can produce headaches and a rise in blood pressure.

In higher doses (20mg of pure drug in 24 hours) the lower dosage effects will be intensified and can also result in flushing, jaw clenching and grinding of the teeth, sweating and headaches. The heart may race and the complexion turn pale; hands and feet may feel cold due to blood being diverted from the peripheral vessels.

Even at low doses users may experience amphetamine psychosis. This is characterised by excessive mood swings, confusion, agitation and sometimes violent behaviour. If injected, the psychological and physiological effects are heightened.

When coming down from speed you may feel lethargic and experience low mood;the longer the binge, the worse the comedown.

If you have an underlying heart condition (you may be unaware of this), you increase your risk of a heart attack. It can also cause epileptic seizures if you are predisposed to them.

Long-term effects

Tolerance builds up with long-term use and users need more of the drug to produce the same effects. Heavy regular use can lead to an irregular heartbeat and even a stroke. The retina of the eye can also be harmed due to the small blood vessels in the eye becoming damaged. Speed can also affect your immune system, resulting in increased illnesses – colds, flu and so on.It can cause paranoia, anxiety, increased aggression and depression. Amphetamine psychosis can also result from long-term heavy use – this is similar to schizophrenia, although the psychosis diminishes when amphetamine use is discontinued. For people predisposed to schizophrenia there is also a risk that the condition could be triggered by using speed. Over time, snorting drugs can damage the nose.

Harm reduction

If you are determined to inject, snort or smoke drugs, never share needles or paraphernalia such as spoons, water, filters, straws, bank notes, tooters or pipes with anyone, even if the person is your partner. This will reduce the risk of getting hepatitis B, C and HIV. Rotate your injecting sites to minimise vein damage and always use sterile needles and paraphernalia. This reduces the risk of infection.

If you snort drugs, always clean your nasal passage out to reduce the damage to your nose – dissolve a quarter of a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water, pour a little of the salt water over your pinched thumb and forefinger and gently sniff it so that the warm spray spreads over the inside of your nose. Do this before and after each session. You can also lubricate your nose with Vitamin E oil every few days.

The law

Amphetamines possessed without a prescription are class B drugs. The maximum sentence for possession is 5 years in prison. You can be sentenced to up to 14 years in prison for supplying the drug.

When speed is prepared for injecting it becomes a class A drug. The penalties are up to 7 years for possession and up to a life sentence for supplying the drug in this form.  All sentences can come with an unlimited fine.

Driving while under the influence of drugs is against the law and can lead to a heavy fine, disqualification from driving and even a prison sentence in some cases.

If you are convicted of a drug-related offence it can stop you travelling to certain countries and affect the types of jobs you can apply for.

If you are using amphetamine (or any other substances), are worried about someone else’s use or would just like to know more, please contact us for more information