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Abuse of Amphetamine Salts

By Seana Rossi

Amphetamine salts are stimulant drugs that excite the central nervous system, or CNS. They belong to the amphetamine class of drugs. Generally speaking, amphetamines are known to stimulate behavior, ease depression, induce euphoria, increase alertness, decrease appetite, cause arousal and decrease fatigue. Amphetamine salts have a history of prominent abuse that overshadows their many useful medical applications.


The first amphetamine was synthesized in 1887, according to “Drugs and Human Behavior,” but it was in 1927--with the synthesis of dl-amphetamine--that amphetamines' major effects became clear. In the 1930s, amphetamine salts began to be used medically for appetite suppression and conditions such as asthma, narcolepsy, depression and hyperactivity, notes “Drugs and Human Behavior.” In 1945, d-amphetamine, also called Dexedrine, went on the market for use as an appetite suppressant. It was during this time that severe amphetamine salt abuse began.

Abuse in America after 1945

There was significant abuse in Sweden in the 1940s and in Japan the 1950s, and again in the early '70s. In America, the concern over misuse didn't occur until the postwar years. From students to truck drivers to businessmen and athletes, billions of amphetamine salts were circulating by the 1960s, according to "Drugs and Human Behavior." In the '70s, government actions were successful in putting pressure on the channels of amphetamine supply, and abuse declined. However, it resulted in a switch to cocaine, another stimulant drug, notes "Drugs and Human Behavior."

Effects on the CNS

Amphetamine releases newly synthesized dopamine and norepinephrine in the CNS in larger quantities than would occur naturally, notes "Drugs and Human Behavior." Dopamine has pleasurable effects, and norepinephrine causes arousal and alertness, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Amphetamines also ensure these chemicals remain in the CNS longer than they would naturally, so their effects continue to be felt. In addition, amphetamines inhibit MAO or monoamine oxidase, which eases depression, according to "Drugs and Human Behavior." A class of anti-depressant medication called MAOIs has the same effect.


Amphetamine salts are often taken orally, and their effects have a duration of about seven hours, at least in one of the commonly abused forms of MDMA or "ecstasy." Prescription amphetamine salts include Adderall, Dexedrine and Vyvance. These amphetamine salts usually come in the form of tablets that are pressed from a white-ish powder. Amphetamine salts can be altered to permit them to be snorted, smoked, ingested or injected, notes "Drugs and Human Behavior."

Side Effects of Abuse

The most notable side effects of abuse are agitation, confusion, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, tremors, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia and headache, according to "Drugs and Human Behavior." The most marked and severe side effect is a condition called "amphetamine psychosis," which results in paranoia, hallucinations and disordered thinking with alternating periods of mania. This condition is seen more commonly with injection than oral use amongst chronic users, according to "Drugs and Human Behavior."


Amphetamine salts have been and continue to be abused. However, there are some significant clinical uses for amphetamine salts. Most notably, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, amphetamine salts are used to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

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