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Amphetamines & Methamphetamines

and the effects on the Brain



Methamphetamine and Cocaine are termed 'psycho-stimulants' as they artificially excite the production of certain 'feel good' neurotransmitters in the brain and the 'reward system'. Binges and excessive use or abuse can often lead to a 'crash' when the drug is withdrawn. Emotional & physical exhaustion, depression & the capacity to react to stress are symptoms that can be experienced. Extended use of amphetamines can result in a type of 'Parkinson's Disease' symptomatology (pseudo-parkinsonism) due to the decrease in Dopamine and the permanent cerebral cell damage caused. Psychotic symptoms seen in 'Schizophrenia' can also be manifested; paranoia, delusions, hallucinations; sometimes permanently.



Amphetamines were first synthesized in 1887, and its derivative 'methamphetamine' in 1919. They were both initially used for the treatment of obesity, as a nasal decongestant, in bronchial inhalers (as used for asthma), narcolepsy, depression, childhood hyperactivity, 'hangovers' & as an anti-emetic during pregnancy. Amphetamines affect neurotransmitters such as Norepinephrine - involved with energy, arousal, and heightened senses; and are similar in effect to that which is produced by cocaine. Many researchers believe 'Meth' may be toxic to the brain, causing cell damage, even after abuse has ceased. It alters the brain chemistry in the long term and is proven to reduce the amount of a chemical called 'N-acetyl'aspartate'. This chemical's loss has been identified in diseases such as 'Alzheimer's', 'Epilepsy', and 'Brain Tumours'. Methamphetamines also cause a 'massive' & 'rapid' release of the 'feel good' neurotransmitters Dopamine; involved in the 'reward centre', 'motivation', 'pleasure' & 'motor function'; and 'Serotonin'; involved in 'mood' & 'emotions'. Chronic 'meth' users very often experience emotional retardation or 'blunting', depression and cognitive problems; having 'burned-out' their synapses. Sadly there has been a dramatic increase in admissions to emergency departments for the adverse effects of methamphetamines & amphetamines; these being related to psychotic symptoms & violence. This can be as a result of the immediate efffefcts or that of 'tweaking'; the behaviour associated with sleep deprivation of between 3 to 15 days and where the user is unable to obtain the high initially acheived. The frustration, anxiety & paranoia can often quickly excalate into violence, crime and serious accidents....even suicide.


 Methamphetamine & 'Aggression'



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Michael J. Salamon, Ph.D., FICPP
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ADC Psychological Services, PLLC
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