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Amphetamines: Uses, Side Effects, Medicolegal Effects & Postmortem Appearances

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Amphetamines: Uses, Side Effects, Medicolegal Effects & Postmortem Appearances
Amphetamines drug in the form of powder
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Amphetamine is a psychoactive drug stimulating the central nervous system and produces a false sense of euphoria which is followed by depression. It affects the chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. It also acts as a cardiovascular stimulant.

Amphetamines is a psychoactive drug stimulating the central nervous system and produces a false sense of euphoria which is followed by depression. It affects the chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. It also acts as a cardiovascular stimulant.

They are popular among people under the names ’pep pills’, ‘ups’ and ‘speed’.

Amphetamines are available in varied forms from a powder/tablet to crystals and capsules. The color of the powder can range from white to brown, sometimes it may have traces of grey or pink. It has a strong smell and bitter taste. It can be administered orally, by injection or smoking.

IUPAC name of amphetamine is 𝛂-methylphenethylamine. The molecular formula of amphetamine is C₉H₁₃N and molecular weight of 135.2g/mol.

Uses of Amphetamines

Amphetamines are used legally and prescribed by the doctors to treat problems like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, narcolepsy, obesity, chronic pain, parkinson’s disease, etc.

Amphetamines increase the synaptic concentration of neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. It blocks re-uptake of norepinephrine and causes an increase of catecholamine release which produce cardiovascular side effects.

Amphetamines act as appetite suppressants, mood elevators and relieves fatigue. Therefore, they are used for treatment of above mentioned diseases.

Effects of Amphetamine

The effects of amphetamine vary from person-to-person depending upon their health, weight, amount of drug taken, route of administration and strength of drug.

The injecting/smoking of amphetamines shows immediate effects which lasts for a few minutes whereas oral administration shows effects within 30 minutes and lasts for longer time.

The following effects observed after administration of amphetamines are:

  • Happiness and confidence
  • Talkative and feeling energetic
  • Large pupils and dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat and breathing
  • Teeth grinding
  • Reduces appetite
  • Increased sex drive

Negative Effects

Amphetamine causes tolerance rapidly and leads to addiction. The side effects include:

  • Euphoria
  • Talkativeness
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Palpitations and Tachycardia
  • Mania
  • Delirium with hallucination
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Acute paranoid schizophrenia

Drug dependence is common and giving up is challenging. Withdrawal symptoms should settle down after a week and will mostly disappear after a month. The withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Aches and pains
  • Exhaustion
  • Restless sleep
  • Vivid dreams and nightmares
  • Depression and paranoia
  • Strong craving for amphetamine

Polydrug Use of Amphetamines

Amphetamine is involved in polydrug use where it is used in combinations with other drugs including over-the-counter drugs or prescribed medications. This can cause unpredictable and dangerous effects like:

Amphetamine + alcohol = Increased heart rate and blood pressure

Amphetamine + Opioids = Increases the risk of irregular heartbeat and seizures

Amphetamines + Antidepressants = Increases the risk of seizures and irregular heartbeat

Medicolegal Importance

Fatal Dose = 150 mg to 2 gm

Fatal Period = 5 days after ingestion of 140 mg of amphetamine

Amphetamine is a drug of addiction and causes drug overdose leading to accidental deaths.

Suicide is sometimes triggered by the prolonged depression and errors of judgement which follow intense stimulation from continued dosage.

40% of amphetamine is excreted unchanged in urine. The term liquid gold is a slang term for urine of amphetamine addicts which is collected and sold.

Postmortem Appearances

The post-mortem appearances of amphetamine poisoning are similar to those of asphyxia. They include:

  • Cyanosis
  • Increased capillary permeability
  • Pulmonary petechial haemorrhages
  • Particles of unabsorbed substance may be found in the stomach
  • Reddish blotches on the skin
  • Generalised oedema of the lungs
  • Haemorrhagic reaction on adrenals
  • Myocardial fibrosis

Conclusion

Amphetamine is a synthetic psychoactive drug having stimulating effects on the central nervous system and cardio-vascular system. In fact it has medicinal value in treatment of severe diseases like ADHD, Parkinson’s diseases, obesity, narcolepsy, etc.

Although amphetamine is a therapeutic drug, it is still a dangerous addicting drug with high drug dependence. Therefore, it requires proper regulations for the illegal production and supply.

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