A Elements Behavioral Health Guide to Drug Rehab
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The Origins of Illegal Drugs in the United StatesThe United States as a nation is the largest single consumer of illicit drugs in the world. In addition to consuming the largest number of illicit substances overall, the U.S. is also either the largest or one of the largest consumers of each of the principle varieties of illicit drugs.

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Amphetamine and methamphetamine are both psychoactive drugs in the subcategory known as psycho stimulants. They are chemically similar, and have similar effects on the brain. However, the small differences that exist between the two drugs give them a very different character in the world of drug use and abuse. While the psycho stimulant effects of amphetamine can be used medicinally to treat certain conditions, methamphetamine almost always appears in dangerous and illegal form.

Chemical Differences

Amphetamine and methamphetamine are so chemically similar that the difference between them is essentially a matter of intensity. Amphetamine is methylated phenylethylamine, while methamphetamine is double methylated phenylethylamine. When methamphetamine is metabolized in the body, it turns into amphetamine and is excreted as amphetamine. Both drugs cause the brain to be flooded with norepinephrine and dopamine. This can stimulate feelings of euphoria, and increase energy and concentration levels.

The additional “methylation” of methamphetamine means that it acts more strongly and more rapidly in the body. As a result, methamphetamine is considered to be too volatile and dangerous for use as a therapeutic drug. In the past, methamphetamine was used to treat everything from alcoholism to Parkinson’s Disease. Once the true dangers of the drug were recognized, its therapeutic use was discontinued in almost every area. The only place methamphetamine currently appears as a legal drug is in over the counter nasal decongestants that are CSN (central nervous system) inactive.

Legal Amphetamine Use

The qualities of amphetamine have made it a popular drug for various conditions. The drug can be used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, because the stimulant effects allow the brain to concentrate more easily. It is also useful in the treatment of narcolepsy, since it increases alertness and energy. The drug can be found in diet pills, because it also serves as an appetite suppressant.

Amphetamine and Methamphetamine Abuse

The qualities of amphetamine also lend themselves to abuse. Stimulant drugs like amphetamine are at the forefront of the growing problem of prescription drug abuse in the United States and other countries. Academia is one area where illicit stimulant use is ever more popular, as students look to increase their academic performance in competitive and high-pressure environments. Amphetamine is also popular among athletes who rely on their performance for their livelihood.

Methamphetamine is a popular drug among growing numbers of people due to its fast acting high and accessibility. Methamphetamine is one of the easiest illicit drugs to manufacture, and as a result it is very cheap to purchase. When methamphetamine is sold on the street, it is most commonly referred to as meth, speed, or crank. The term “crystal meth” refers to methamphetamine hydrochloride, which has been processed to take the form of clear crystals that can be smoked.

Both amphetamine and methamphetamine are very addictive, which adds to the risks of using them recreationally. The risk of addiction with amphetamine use is generally negligible when it is used to treat a diagnosed condition under the supervision of a medical professional. However, using amphetamines for non-medical purposes without supervision greatly increases the potential for addiction in addition to presenting other dangers.

Abuse Around the World

According to the World Drug Report, confiscations of amphetamine-type stimulants stayed at roughly the same level in 2010 as in previous years. However, the year marked a significant shift in the amount of amphetamine confiscations vs. methamphetamine confiscations around the world. Amphetamine confiscations dropped by 42 percent to 19 tons. In contrast, global methamphetamine confiscations increased by 44 percent, indicating a significant increase in the production and use of methamphetamine around the world.

Mexico and the United States accounted for the majority of the increase in methamphetamine confiscations, as well as the majority of amphetamine-type stimulant confiscations overall. However, methamphetamine confiscations also increased by a smaller percentage in Europe, indicating that the market is growing elsewhere as well, even if it is at a slower rate.


Adderall, the drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, is an amphetamine that mimics the effects of speed in the body and because of this, it is often abused. The high potential for misuse has created an underground market where those seeking the medication can get it online with little or no restrictions.

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Nausea, sweating, fevers, trembling and vomiting or diarrhea – these flu-like symptoms are common for people going through withdrawal from drugs like heroin. While crystal meth detox may not lead to the same type of physical symptoms, crystal meth changes the way the body’s neurotransmitters respond to pain.

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Young people who use drugs often take a careless approach, believing that their choices are a harmless part of adolescent freedom. Dangerous behaviors such as drug and alcohol use are especially risky for teens, because they often experience a delusion of invincibility, thinking that the risks associated with a certain behavior can’t apply to them.

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The pure form of methamphetamine, crystal methamphetamine, is most often referred to as simply crystal meth. It is a manmade substance that affects a person’s central nervous system. Crystal meth can be inhaled, smoked or swallowed, but taken in any form, it leads to psychological and/or physical dependence or addiction.

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People who use methamphetamines may have a 76 percent higher likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health say the connection may lie in the way methamphetamines, or meth, harm the neurons related to dopamine. Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system that kills the cells located in the midbrain region that contains dopamine, although researchers do not know exactly what causes these cells to cease.

Over time, methamphetamine has been shown in brain imaging studies to change the way the dopamine system functions and to cause problems with motor skills and the ability to retain verbal information. Serious structural damage has also been noted in the brain areas linked with the ability to remember information and to manage emotions.

Methamphetamines, part of the stimulant class of drugs, belong to one of the most commonly used illegal categories of drugs across the globe. Because of its high potential for abuse, methamphetamine is a Schedule II drug and is available to patients only by a prescription and in limited quantities.

Researchers also stated in an article on CBC News that the higher risk of Parkinson’s disease is not applicable to patients taking amphetamines for conditions like ADHD or medicinal purposes, because they use much smaller, medically approved dosages. The research study results are included in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal.

During the study, researchers looked at the medical reports for 40,000 California patients who had been hospitalized for methamphetamine use over a 15-year period. They also examined thousands more records for patients admitted for cocaine and appendicitis. They compared this data to records of Parkinson’s disease found on death records or hospital records, determining a link between methamphetamine use and the presence of Parkinson’s disease.

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