What are amphetamines?

Amphetamines are stimulating substances, meaning they speed up the central nervous system. The term “amphetamines” groups both amphetamines and other molecules derived from this substance, such as:

  • dextroamphetamine
  • methamphetamine
  • methylphenidate
  • methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) or ecstasy
  • diethylpropion, mazindol and phentermine, which are appetite suppressors
  • etc.

Some of these substances can be legally prescribed for the treatment of certain pathologies. For example, methylphenidate is used to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and is sold, under the name Ritalin®, among others. Dextroamphetamine is used to treat narcolepsy, which is an overwhelming need to sleep at any time. Others can be used to treat obesity because of their appetite supressing properties.

Pure amphetamines are fine, white and odourless powders.  Once transformed, they can come in the form of pills, crystals or powders. And depending on their form, they can either be swallowed (pills), injected, smoked or sniffed.

Although amphetamines have therapeutic benefits for the treatments of ADHD and narcolepsy, they are usually taken at much greater doses for their euphoric and stimulating properties, and even for their hallucinogenic ones.


The effects of amphetamines

Their effects are similar to those of cocaine but they are more powerful and longer lasting. Among their effects, people can feel:

  • a sense of well-being
  • an increase of energy and alertness
  • an increase of self-confidence
  • powerful
  • a lack of appetite and fatigue
  • an increase in libido and loss of inhibition
  • etc.

When the substance is ingested, the effects can be felt 15 to 20 minutes later, whereas, effects are felt immediately when it is injected or sniffed and can sometimes last up to 12 hours.

Like any other psychoactive substance, the effects of amphetamines depend on many factors other than the substance itself:  the quantity that was taken, the absorption method, the psychological state of the person using, etc.

In addition, as with any substance produced and distributed on the black market, amphetamines can be mixed with other products. Which means that people who are using cannot be sure of the exact composition of what they bought and therefore cannot anticipate the effects they will feel.


Known as meth, crystal meth or tina, methamphetamine is a substance in the family of amphetamines. However, it is two times more powerful than amphetamine, which makes it one of the most powerful psychostimulants.

The effects that are felt are similar to those of other amphetamines but are more intense and can last longer, up to 12 hours, even a whole day.

The risk of getting addicted to methamphetamines is greater than with other amphetamines since it is more powerful.

Along with other drugs such as GHB or Ketamine, methamphetamines are part of the substances at the heart of chemsex1, a phenomenon involving taking drugs and having sex.

Side effects and other risks

As with other psychoactive substances, using amphetamines can have adverse effects whose severity depends on various factors. For instance, amphetamines can cause:

  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • cardiac problems
  • fever
  • acne
  • confusion and disorientation
  • paranoia
  • delusions
  • hallucinations

Episodes of prolonged use can also lead people to push their bodies to extreme limits since they can spend many days without eating or sleeping. Thus, such an episode can lead to a state of exhaustion that can have severe physical and psychological consequences.

An amphetamine overdose can cause the following symptoms:

  • high fever
  • convulsions
  • stroke
  • coma
  • death

Tolerance, addiction and withdrawal

Amphetamines can quickly cause an addiction to their euphoric effects. Since the euphoric state is usually followed by a bout of anxiety and even depression, people are prone to use again in order to relive the previous, enjoyable, state.

In the long term, amphetamines can create a strong physical and psychological addiction, as well as an increasing tolerance. People using must therefore constantly increase their doses to be able to feel its effects, which puts them at a greater risk of overdosing.

When someone who is addicted stops using, they can feel the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • intense cravings
  • anxiety
  • exhaustion and insomnia
  • agitation
  • depression

We can help

If your use of amphetamines or that of a loved one worries you, you are not alone: call us at 1-800-265-2626 or chat with us, bottom right of page. We can provide support, personalized information and refer you to resources adapted to your situation. Our services are available 24/7.


Sources: Drogues, savoir plus, risquer moins, 7e édition, Mohamed Ben Amar, quebec.ca, Centre de toxicomanie et de santé mentale (CAMH), Institut national de la santé publique du Québec (INSPQ), DSM-5, Le manuel Merck,