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Amphetamines: the effects and mechanisms of action of this drug

Amphetamines: the effects and mechanisms of action of this drug

November 27, 2021

The consumption of products with stimulating effects It is frequent in today's society. Coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks ... all this has an activating effect on our organism that helps us to be more awake and energetic and that help to maintain the state of mind.

But apart from the aforementioned there are other substances considered to be drugs, whose potency is much higher . These are substances that although originated for medical use nowadays are also used recreationally, illegally since they pose a risk to health due to their addictive potential and side effects.

Within these stimulants we find cocaine and the type of drugs that are going to be talked about along this type, amphetamines .


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Amphetamines: type of substance and characteristics

Amphetamines are a type of substance classified within the group of excitators or psychoanalysts . These are synthetic chemical compounds derived from beta-phenyl-isopropylamine, although they are originally derived from substances derived from the Catha edulis plant.

The term "amphetamine" in question usually refers to the group of Substances derived from amphetamine acid or of similar composition , although within amphetamines there is a subgroup named in the same way. As activating psychoactive agents they cause an increase in the functioning of the nervous system, increasing wakefulness, alertness and physical and mental energy.


Its effects on the body

Its effects on the organism suppose at first a feeling of euphoria and a considerable increase in energy , along with an expansive and uninhibited mood (although in some cases it can improve self-control). The subject remains awake and their cognitive abilities seem to be faster and be enhanced. The consumer tends to increase their level of awareness, attention and concentration.

Amphetamines generate the feeling of increased control and self-confidence , in addition to giving impression of clarity of thought. It also generates an increase in motor activity, increasing the heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate. They reduce sleep, tiredness and hunger.

Amphetamines have been used in a variety of circumstances: from the medicinal use to treat various conditions up to the increase in sports or even academic performance, going through purely recreational use. They are usually consumed orally, although they can be administered intravenously or inhaled as a powder. Its effects are very similar to those of cocaine, although they present fewer risks than cocaine.


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Action mechanisms

The mechanism of action of amphetamines is based on the monoamine reuptake block , with special emphasis on those of dopamine and noradrenaline. In addition, they also influence the synthesis of these substances, causing more to be generated. This causes the effects of these neurotransmitters to last longer by remaining more in the synaptic space and being used by postsynaptic neurons.

Amphetamines are therefore Dopamine and norepinephrine agonists , which causes the pleasurable sensations and energy increase typical of this group of substances. It is also serotonin, but to a much lesser degree.

Medical uses

Amphetamines are substances that, like most illegal drugs, have medicinal origins. In the specific case of amphetamines, said medicinal uses are still valid in a large number of cases, often being used medicines based on or derived from this type of substance s to treat different ailments.

Specifically today they are used in some treatments against obesity (since it causes an increase in activity while decreasing sensations such as fatigue and appetite), narcolepsy (its excitatory effects can combat sleep episodes) and even attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD (in these cases, amphetamine derivatives are used since they improve the attention capacity and reduce the impulsive symptoms in this type of population).

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Side effects and risks

While amphetamine use may be beneficial in some cases and generates a temporary increase in the performance of physical and mental abilities , the recreational and continuous use of these substances can cause serious effects both in the short and long term, especially if poisonings occur or if dependency is generated.

1. Dependence

While they do not have as much hooking capacity as cocaine, amphetamines have a high addictive potential due to their performance on the brain reward system and the Progressive acquisition of tolerance which means that more and more consumption is necessary to notice the same effects.

2. Withdrawal syndrome

Abrupt withdrawal of amphetamine use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which usually generate effects contrary to those produced by its consumption. A) Yes, fatigue and decreased energy are usually observed , nightmares, insomnia, craving or overpowering desire for consumption, motor agitation, anxiety and depression, inability to concentrate or emotional lability.

3. Sleep problems

Whether it is confined to the area of ​​abstinence or not, one of the problems that amphetamine use can cause is difficulties when falling asleep or in the fact that this does not produce a sensation of rest.

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4. Perceptual hallucinations and alterations

Although the performance of amphetamines does not focus on this aspect, they have sometimes manifested the presence of hallucinations of visual type .

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5. Cardiorespiratory problems

Amphetamines have effects on the cardiovascular system, increasing blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. Especially when poisoning occurs, it can generate tachycardia, sweating and pressure increases that can lead to severe cases of cardiorespiratory arrest.

6. Appetite

As we mentioned earlier, amphetamines cause decreased appetite. While it may be beneficial for some people and is actually used to treat obesity, this loss may eventually lead to nutritional problems such as anemia.

7. Motor alterations

Both in intoxication and in abstinence, amphetamines frequently cause alterations in the locomotor system. It is possible that weakness and slowness or, on the contrary, agitation and tremors are generated, and in cases of severe intoxication, it may lead to epileptic seizures.

8. Altered language

It is frequent that the consumption of amphetamines can cause logorrhea derived from the state of physical arousal. The subject has rapid and profuse speech, although there may be a flight of ideas.

9. Emotional problems

In the long run, the consumption of these substances generates emotional lability, going from joy to sadness with great ease and being able to generate anxiety or depression in the consumer. As well they can generate suicidal ideations .

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Bibliographic references:

  • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.
  • Salazar, M .; Peralta, C .; Pastor, J. (2006). Manual of Psychopharmacology. Madrid, Panamericana Medical Publishing House.
  • Santos, J.L. ; García, L.I. ; Calderón, M.A. ; Sanz, L.J .; de los Ríos, P .; Left, S .; Román, P .; Hernangómez, L .; Navas, E .; Thief, A and Álvarez-Cienfuegos, L. (2012). Clinical psychology. CEDE Preparation Manual PIR, 02. CEDE. Madrid.
  • Weiss, R.D. (2016). Drugs of abuse. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders.

2-Minute Neuroscience: Amphetamine (November 2021).


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