Amphetamines are stimulant drugs. They speed up the brain, which helps you stay alert and awake, and sometimes provide an energy burst. Explore this page to find out more with videos, factsheets and real stories.

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We have partnered with headspace to bring you the best factsheet information we can on this topic. headspace is Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation. headspace provides health advice, support and information for young people aged 12-25.

Amphetamines The Facts

Amphetamines AKA: speed, crystal meth, ice, shabu, phet, billy, whizz, sulph, base, paste, dexies, meth

amphetamines the effects

Credit User: yago1.com at flickr

Amphetamines are stimulants. This means they speed up the messages going to and from the brain, assisting a person in staying alert, awake and sometimes providing an energy burst. There are a number of different street names for amphetamines, with the most common being ‘speed’ and ‘ice’. Amphetamines come in different forms, including powder, tablets, liquid, crystal or a paste.

There are a few prescription drugs that have amphetamines as an ingredient. Excluding these, the possession, use, supply and manufacture of amphetamines is illegal in Australia. Because amphetamines are a synthetic (i.e. not plant-based) substance, and made illegally, the ingredients used to make the drugs can be variable and unknown, leading to different purities of the drug, which increases the risk of overdose and the negative effects of taking the drug.

how it is taken

How the amphetamine is taken is dependent on the form it comes in, but it can be swallowed, injected, smoked, inhaled (vapours) or snorted.

the effects

the immediate effects of amphetamines

Usually, amphetamines sold on the illegal market are mixed with other substances, and these ‘cutting’ agents can have dangerous effects. There are a number of immediate effects that a person may experience soon after taking an amphetamine which can include:

  • Feeling excited, happy and well
  • Feeling alert
  • Having more energy
  • Increased confidence
  • Being more talkative
  • Tremors in hands and fingers
  • Increased heart rate and body temperature
  • Sweating a lot
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea, stomach cramps and dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Nervousness, panic attacks, anxiety and paranoia
  • Irritability leading to aggression, hostility and possible psychosis which includes hallucinations, delusions and bizarre behaviour.

The effects someone will experience will be dependent on how strong, the purity, the type and the amount taken, a person's body size and health, mood prior to taking the drug, as well as how the drug is taken and whether anything else has been taken. As the effects of amphetamines wear off (the time is dependent on how the drug is taken, its form and the amount taken, but it could be anywhere from an hour to 6 hours), a person may experience a range of symptoms including tension, depression, major mood swings, uncontrollable violence and exhaustion.

the effects over time

Long term use of amphetamines can cause some serious health issues. These health issues can include:

  • High blood pressure leading to increased risk of heart attack
  • Weight loss due to reduced appetite
  • Sleeping problems
  • Increased risk of infections
  • Brain damage (There is some evidence that amphetamines may damage brain cells resulting in reduced memory function and other impairments in thinking.)
  • Dental problems (from grinding teeth)
  • Smoking amphetamines can damage the lungs
  • Snorting amphetamines can damage the lining of the nose
  • Injecting amphetamines can lead to scarring, abscesses and vein damage. Sharing injecting equipment also increases the risk of contracting blood-borne viruses, such as hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

Amphetamines + Mental Health

amphetamines effects

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Amphetamine use can cause psychosis which can include symptoms of paranoia, delusions, hallucinations and bizarre behaviour. Heavy use of amphetamines can trigger acute paranoid psychosis. Amphetamine use can also lead to delirium, which is a state of mental confusion and disorganisation.

managing drug use

If you or your family and/or friends think your drug use is becoming an issue the best thing to do is seek help and talk to people about it. When trying to reduce the amount of drug you may get cravings which can be hard to work through yourself and difficult to overcome, but it’s worth the persistence.

You may be able to reduce or stop drug use on your own, but it may also be worthwhile speaking with a trusted family member or friend. Otherwise doctors and counsellors can also help. Check out headspace's getting help section to find services near you.

For more information on ICE - check out our topic page. You can also download a copy of this factsheet from the resource area below.

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