The use of amphetamine, or speed, is increasing worldwide, and while many of the common side effects of amphetamine addiction are known, the long-term effects of the drug are less well reported; clinical studies into the effects of the drug have been limited. A recent study published in the Heart Asia medical journal, however, has found that long-term amphetamine use could have some serious effects on the cardiovascular system.
Amphetamine addiction is a dependency on the drug amphetamine, which is a stimulant drug first developed in 1887. Medically, at low doses, it is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and obesity. But amphetamine is highly addictive, with recreational users developing tolerance to the drug quite rapidly, needing ever increasing amounts to achieve the same effects.
Users can develop a psychological dependence on amphetamine because of the way it affects the chemistry of the brain. Signs of addiction to amphetamine can include problems sleeping, lack of appetite leading to weight loss (often extreme weight loss), anxiety and paranoia. Amphetamine addicts may struggle to maintain their normal daily routine and work and relationships may suffer as a result.
The most common side effects of amphetamine abuse have been known for some time. These include weight loss, often resulting in amphetamine addicts having a gaunt appearance, dental issues due to the teeth grinding often experienced when on amphetamine, and tooth loss due to receding gums and a weakened immune system. Repeated use of amphetamine can also lead to psychological side effects, including depression, and delusions.
It has been known for some time that taking amphetamine affects the circulation, raises the heart rate – sometimes to a frightening level – and can cause both high blood pressure and low blood pressure. These effects usually wear off once the drug has passed out of the user’s system (although the ‘come down’ from amphetamine can last for several days).
Previously, there had been little work carried out on the long-term effects of amphetamine on the circulatory system, but the study published in the Heart Asia journal shows that amphetamine abuse may have some serious and permanent effects on the heart and arteries.
The research, carried out at the University of Western Australia, measured the blood flow in two arteries of the arm, the brachial artery in the upper arm and the radial artery in the forearm. The seven hundred and thirteen participants in the study were all between thirty and fifty years old and were attending a clinic for treatment of substance abuse. To measure blood flow in the upper arm, a normal blood pressure cuff was used, and for the forearm a monitoring system that used software to calculate the ‘biological vascular age’; that is, the apparent age of the artery.
The participants were separated into four groups, depending on their type of substance misuse. The first group consisted of 408 non-smokers, the second group of 107 smokers, the third group of 68 methadone users, and the fourth group of 55 amphetamine users. The amphetamine group was monitored 66 times using the software based monitoring system, over these sessions, 94% of the subjects had used amphetamine within the preceding week, and almost 50% had used amphetamine the day before.
The study found that, when compared to users of methadone and smokers, the arteries, and therefore the whole cardiovascular system of the amphetamine users, had aged significantly, and when other risk factors for cardiovascular damage were taken into consideration, the results remained significant.
The researchers carrying out the study say that the results confirm that amphetamine abuse increases the biological age of the heart, and have cited other research as a plausible reason for this effect. The research they cited had found that amphetamine abuse interferes with the production of new cells in the body, and of the functioning of stem cells. Stem cells are responsible for repairing and rebuilding tissue, so amphetamine use may prevent the body from being able to repair damaged tissues.
The results of this study may give some people who might be abusing amphetamine some pause for thought. If you or a loved one is struggling with amphetamine addiction, then help is available.
At UKAT, we can provide you with free, confidential information on the kinds of treatment available to help you to overcome your addiction. We can help you to decide what treatment would be best for you, and help you find a suitable treatment centre, so please call our free helpline today.
Source: (Medical News Today) Amphetamine use may speed up heart agitation