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About Amphetamines

Amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. The term "amphetamines" covers several similar substances, including amphetamine sulphate, dexamphetamine and methamphetamine. Amphetamine is often sold as a powder, but can be made into tablets or capsules. Some of these drugs were used years ago as slimming tablets. They usually come as a white-grey powder, sold in folded paper packages called 'wraps'.

Methamphetamine or "ice" comes in the form of crystals or as a liquid ("leopard's blood"). Amphetamines can be injected, snorted, smoked or taken orally. The type known as 'ice' or 'crystal' can be smoked. Amphetamine is often "cut" with all sorts of adulterants. The purity of street amphetamines is low (typically about 5%) (National Drug and Alcohol Research Council, 1999).

Amphetamine's primary effect is to speed up the activity of the brain and nervous system. Amphetamine increases the user's heart rate and speeds up their breathing. Amphetamine can give users increased energy, alertness and confidence. It can also suppress the user's appetite and make them talkative and excited. Amphetamine's less sought after effects can include heart palpitations, anxiety and irritability. At higher doses, amphetamine can cause irregular heartbeat, headaches, dizziness and panic attacks.

Long term, heavy amphetamine use can lead to insomnia and malnutrition (resulting from the appetite-suppressant effects of the drug). Psychological and emotional problems such as depression, paranoia and extreme aggressiveness can also develop. In some cases, heavy amphetamine users may experience amphetamine psychosis, a psychological state characterised by paranoid delusions and similar to schizophrenia. Amphetamine overdose can cause stroke, heart attack, seizure, coma or even death.

As with other stimulant drugs, users experience a 'crash' after the 'high' caused by the drug. High doses of amphetamines can cause panic, paranoia and hallucinations. With long-term use, a condition known as 'amphetamine psychosis' can develop, with symptoms similiar to schizophrenia. The paranoia can cause people to become violent if they believe they are being threatened or persecuted.

Amphetamine psychosis can continue after the person has stopped using the drug. If a person becomes aggressive or violent, they could get into dangerous situations. The risks from injecting are the same as other drugs, such as heroin.

The Law
Some amphetamine-based drugs can be prescribed by doctors for conditions such as narcolepsy. Ritalin, a dexamphetamine, is used to treat hyperactivity in children. Other than these few specialised cases, possession, use, supply and manufacture of amphetamines is illegal.

Common Street Names
Goey, whizz, ice, uppers, go, goey, go fast, zip, rush - they are all terms used for what is commonly known as speed because they speed up the chemical activity of the brain. Methamphetamine is called "ice" or "shabu" (also "batu", "glass" and "crystal meth"). Liquid methamphetamine is often called "ox blood", "leopard's blood" or "red speed".

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