Everything you need to know about Amphetamines – the most common drug in Ireland.
Amphetamine use, including dexamphetamine, amphetamine sulphate and methamphetamine, can cause a range of mental health issues. The effects will vary depending on:
- the person – mood, physical size, health, gender, previous experience with amphetamines, expectations of the drug, personality, whether the person has had food and whether other drugs have been taken.
- the drug – the amount used, its purity, how often it is used, and whether it is smoked, swallowed, snorted or injected.
- the place – whether the person is using with friends, on his/her own, in a social setting or at home, at work or before driving.
Short-term effects include:
- Increased confidence and talkativeness.
- Anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks.
- Irritability and threatening manner.
- Short-term effects of high-doses.
- Feelings of being powerful or superior.
- Psychosis including paranoia & hallucinations.
- Hostility and aggression.
- Long-term effects.
- Violent behaviour, emotional disturbances.
- Periods of psychosis with delusional thoughts and behaviour.
When using amphetamines, people can feel nervous and agitated. Feelings of paranoia can occur triggering panic attacks, which cause users to feel suddenly afraid or anxious.
People who already experience depression may find that using amphetamines makes their depression worse in the long term, as it depletes serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ chemical in the brain. Depression is most often felt when the person is not using the drug, which makes them want to go back for more.
Amphetamine use has been associated with psychotic symptoms in people without pre-existing mental health issues. For those who have a pre-existing mental health issue or psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, their condition could become worse.
Common symptoms of methamphetamine-associated psychosis:
- Seeing shadows or lights in the corner of their eye.
- Hearing someone calling their name when nobody is around.
- Constantly feeling self-conscious as though people are watching them.
- Feeling like ordinary everyday things have special importance or meaning.
- Imagining things are changing shape or moving when they’re not.
- Having unusual thoughts (e.g. the user may feel that other people are reading their mind).
- Irrational and explainable suspicious feeling (e.g. the user may feel as though people are ‘out to get’ them).
- Hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there).
- Other symptoms of methamphetamine-associated psychosis:
- Repetitive compulsive behaviour.
- Tactile hallucinations (e.g. feeling things that aren’t there).
- Olfactory hallucinations (e.g. smelling things that aren’t there).
- Muddled thoughts, incoherent speech and going off on tangents.
How common is methamphetamine-associated psychosis?
Up to 1 in 3 moderate users of methamphetamine will experience a symptom of psychosis. This increases to 3 in 5 people in inpatient treatment settings. Heavy use and regular use are the key risk factors for methamphetamine-associated psychosis.
After a person stops using, symptoms can go away within a few hours to days. However, for a small number of people the problems can continue for a longer period of time and may be related to underlying mental health conditions.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of mental health, we recommend seeking help, as these may not go away on their own. You could make an appointment with your GP or health professional for a mental health plan.
25 years old from regional Western Australia
“I broke up with my boy’s mum and used meth once at a party. I loved the way it felt and it stopped the empty feeling I had about my boy’s mum. Over a short time I began to feel like I couldn’t do anything without it. I felt helpless. I began struggling to wake up for work …so I started using more so I had the energy to work.
When you take meth you feel unstoppable, indestructible. When you come down it’s not great. I used to get the shakes in my legs and I’d start to feel all the sores in my mouth from chewing all the time. Then I’d sleep sometimes for days. I would get infections on my chest from picking. I was severely malnourished. And my teeth would sporadically crumble in my mouth.
Meth affected my relationship with everyone I knew. My parents were on the brink of meltdown. At 25 they were still supporting me to live – I was incapable of supporting myself. My siblings hated the sight of me, My son wasn’t getting looked after properly by me so my parents had to do that.
My drug dealer became my only friend. I couldn’t hold a job and I started trafficking for money. A meth addict with unlimited supply is bad news for everyone involved. I got caught with 24 thousand dollars when I was on my way to the city to buy meth to bring back to my town.
I had stopped myself (using) for 6 months then opened a shop and started using again. That’s when I knew I needed help. I went to residential rehab and am happy to say I’m still clean. I’m 10 months clean.
Looking back, there is literally nothing good about using meth. The friendships you think you have are fake. You achieve nothing. It’s just a downward spiral of destruction.”