Amphetamine is least dangerous when swallowed.
Some users sniff ("snort") speed up the nose, through a straw or a rolled-up banknote, which produces a faster, more intense effect than swallowing it. Snorting is, however, rough on the nostrils (one user described it as "like shoving chilli powder up your nose").
Some users inject speed, which is extremely dangerous. There's a real chance of overdosing because you never know how strong the dosage is, and the heart can't take the shock. What's more, if you share needles, you risk being infected with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C. So don't inject.
Amphetamine stimulates the nervous system. It acts like adrenaline: your blood pressure goes up, your heart thumps and your body temperature rises.
The effects of amphetamine are quite predictable, but only when a very small amount is taken. More can cause unexpected adverse reactions.
- Within 20-30 minutes of swallowing speed (less if it's snorted or injected) there's a "rush" through the body and a feeling of being energetic, alert and self-confident.
- Everything speeds up and seems urgent. Users feel they're capable of doing things beyond their ability, such as driving safely at a high speed. THEY AREN'T.
- There's often a sense of feeling pumped up that lasts for hours. People stay awake for long periods and dance non-stop.
- People become very talkative but, although what they say will sound good to them, it's likely to be gibberish. They may start talking to strangers, which isn't a good idea.
- Amphetamine raises body temperature, so there's a real risk of overheating, which can be very dangerous especially if it's taken with alcohol or ecstasy.
Amphetamine is short for AlphaMethylPHEneThylAMINE, a man-made drug first created over 100 years ago. It's a powerful stimulant that triggers the central nervous system, making a person more alert and energetic.
- Amphetamine comes as a white powder that looks like salt, or sometimes as a pill or paste.
- The powder usually comes in a folded paper envelope called a "wrap" that contains about 1 g of powder.
- However, most wraps only contain about 5 mg of actual amphetamine as it's often been "cut" with rubbish to pad it out. The extras could harm you, especially if snorted or injected. No-one knows how much is in a wrap - even half a wrap can have a powerful effect.
Amphetamines were discovered in 1887 by a German chemist. In the 1930s they became popular as over-the-counter "pep pills". Soldiers were given amphetamines during the Second World War to stop them from falling asleep on the job. In the 1960s, people began to take them so that they could party all night. In the 1970s, amphetamine sulphate became an illegal recreational drug.
Is it addictive?
Strictly speaking, speed isn't addictive. Users don't become dependent quickly, BUT with regular use they will reach a stage where they can't manage without it. The only way to combat the depression and exhaustion that can follow a speed high is to take more. And if this goes on for days, you'll finally collapse, becoming jittery and paranoid as if suffering from a psychotic illness.
THE HIGHS GET LESS HIGH AND THE LOWS GET MUCH LOWER WITH PROLONGED USE
Taking stimulants in a hot club raises your body temperature even more. If you're dancing for hours your temperature is likely to go through the roof. If you OVERHEAT your body sweats buckets and you must replace these lost fluids. Make sure you drink a half-pint of non-alcoholic liquid every half an hour. BUT DON'T DRINK TOO MUCH WATER TOO QUICKLY.
Taking amphetamine doesn't necessarily lead to a fun-filled evening. Different people react in different ways:
- the rush of energy you feel may make you anxious and nervy, instead of self-confident - you may even have a panic attack
- your pounding heart and twitching limbs may make you feel out of control and one step away from a heart attack
- you can still be "wired" 12 hours after taking even a small amount, and unable to sleep. For the next few days you'll feel run down and low. In addition, you'll have wrecked your body's sleeping pattern
- you may also need to go to the toilet a lot
There can be some serious physical side effects to taking amphetamine.
Overheating A rocketing body temperature over 38°C will make you delirious. If you're dehydrated, you risk getting heatstroke, which can result in unconsciousness.
Brain swelling If you drink too much water too quickly your brain may suffer water poisoning, leading to unconsciousness and rapid death. The risk depends on how much you sweat, but drinking more than three pints of water per hour is very dangerous.
Pain and sickness You may get body cramps, a splitting headache and be sick.
Increased heart-rate Even if you're young and healthy, using amphetamine can lead to a heart attack. Your heart could stop altogether and that equals DEATH.
Liver and kidney failure Can occur if a high dose of speed is mixed with alcohol, and both conditions are fatal.
High blood pressure Small blood vessels may burst in your brain, leading to paralysis or coma.
Hyperventilation Your breathing may be irregular.
Life-threatening condition An extreme reaction, sometimes called sledging, to mixing amphetamine with other drugs, such as ecstasy, ketamine or alcohol. It could happen the first time you take it. You'll be freezing cold and shivering violently; you'll feel like you're going to die (and you might); you'll be unable to speak or move your body; you'll feel as though you're drifting into a sleep from which you won't wake (and you might not).
IF YOU SEE SOMEONE WITH ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS, call an ambulance IMMEDIATELY.
Stay with friends Being with friends may improve your mood, and you'll be able to look out for each other. Make sure you tell each other what you've taken.
Replace lost fluids Sip a half-pint of liquid every half an hour: high-energy sports drinks are best, then fruit juice or water. Don't drink alcohol - it makes you more dehydrated, and is nasty when combined with amphetamine.
Replace lost salts When you sweat, your body loses a lot of salt and minerals. To replace these, and avoid aching limbs the next morning, eat salted crisps or peanuts. This isn't easy as you won't feel hungry.
Cool down regularly Non-stop dancing can cause overheating. The chill-out room is there to help your body to recover, so use it. You can also splash water on your face, or try going outside. Don't wear a hat - you're more likely to overheat.
Speed and ecstasy
Many people combine amphetamine and ecstasy because they want the good feeling of ecstasy and the energy of amphetamine. But this double combination of stimulants means that you're twice as likely to get heatstroke or have a heart attack.
BE CAREFUL: THE DANCE/DRUG COMBINATION CAN CAUSE REAL PROBLEMS
- Amphetamine is a Class B drug - this doesn't mean it's safer than Class A drugs.
- You may be charged with possession if you have a small amount of amphetamine on you. However, the more you have the less likely it is to be for your own use and you may be charged with possession with intent to supply.
- The penalty for possession with intent to supply is jail and/or a large fine.
Handling the comedown
- Go home or to a friend's house with a group of people with whom you're comfortable.
- To relax and warm up, have a shower, put on clean clothes and make some sweet tea. It's easy to catch cold after clubbing, especially if you're wearing a T-shirt drenched in sweat.
- You won't feel like it, but eat and drink well. High-energy sports drinks, chocolate, milk shakes, fruit juice, bananas, cereal and ice cream are all good.
- Put on some soothing music; avoid music with a rhythmic beat - your heart will start pounding again and it'll make you panicky.
- Try to get some sleep. It's the only way you'll be able to recover.
This is the bit no-one tells you about. As the high wears off:
- all your energy will drain out of you
- you'll become lethargic, weak and tired
- you may feel slightly paranoid and depressed
- you may well worry about trivial things
- you may well feel isolated and out of touch with people around you
- you'll feel utterly exhausted but your brain will still be racing and sleep will be impossible.
Some people take tranquillizers to help them sleep. You just don't know how your body is going to react to this sort of drug cocktail, either short- or long-term. SO DON'T TAKE THE RISK.
It's your body as well as your pocket that pays. Your body has been forced by the amphetamine to provide extra energy, and this energy "loan" has to be paid back when the drug wears off. You'll be exhausted and feel terrible. Heavy, regular amphetamine use can also have serious psychological effects: it can lead to a complete mental breakdown and amphetamine psychosis, which means you become paranoid, agitated and suspicious of everybody.
If something goes wrong
If your friend is paranoid, anxious and starts to panic take her to a quiet room away from large groups of people and try to reassure her. Offer her a hot drink or some water, and keep talking to her. Don't let her wander off alone. If your friend begins panting (hyperventilating), get her to try to breathe normally by copying you.
If your friend is breathing, place him in the recovery position. Call an ambulance.
Tell the medical staff what your friend has taken - it could save his life.
- Be prepared to resuscitate your friend if he stops breathing.
- If your friend vomits while unconscious, check that he's still breathing.
Move your friend to a cool place and give her sips of high-energy sports drinks, fruit juice or water - don't let her drink too quickly as this is very dangerous. Splash cool water on her head if she's abnormally hot. Get medical help.
inability to speak or move
This may be the first sign of a life-threatening condition sometimes known as sledging. If your friend is also cold and begins to shiver violently, there is no time to lose. Keep your friend awake. Call an ambulance.