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Understanding Speed Addiction

Speed is a stimulant drug that makes a person feel hyperactive and alert. It gives them the feeling that they have lots of energy and can do anything. It is usually sold as a pinkish or whitish powder, and can sometimes form crystals. The term ‘Speed’ is a street name for ‘Amphetamine Sulphate’. It can also be used to describe Amphetamines generally. Other street names for Speed include Whizz, Billy, Sulph, Paste, and Base.

Speed is bitter to taste and isn’t usually eaten due to its gritty texture. To take it, some people either dab into their cheeks or gums, crush it up and snort it, or roll the powder up into a piece of cigarette paper before swallowing it like a tablet (known as ‘bombing’). It can also be mixed into a drink, or injected (the latter being incredibly dangerous, as Speed is often impure and cut with other drugs). The drug takes just a few minutes to take effect if snorted. If it has been ingested in another way, it can take up to an hour to kick in.

After taking Speed, a user typically feels a buzz or high for up to three hours. After the high has passed, they will usually feel the after-effects and experience a low mood which can last for up to several days. Speed can be detected in a urine sample for between one and five days after consumption.

What are the Effects and Abuse of Speed?

Speed, as the name suggests, typically makes a person feel energised, excitable, awake and alert. It can also make them very talkative and overconfident. People often take it in nightclubs because it gives them excessive amounts of energy for hours on end, so they can party all night. It also prevents feelings of hunger. It can however make some users feel more negative side effects such as panic attacks, anxiety and agitation. Some people even become delusional when on Speed, as the drug makes them see and hear things that don’t exist, which can be a very frightening experience.

Speed is also taken because it boosts stamina and energy, preventing the normal cycles of sleep so that a person can do more and stay awake for longer. It is popular amongst young people who want to party all night, as well as shift workers and those with jobs that require long hours of staying awake.

Some common signs of Speed abuse are:

  • Happy, confident mood
  • Feeling alert with heightened senses
  • Being overly talkative
  • Excessive energy
  • Going for long hours without sleep or food
  • Raised heartbeat
  • Sweats
  • Teeth grinding
  • Insomnia
  • Clenching of the jaw

What are Warning Signs of Speed Addiction?

It is common for Speed addicts to binge on the drug, taking increasing amounts more frequently to feel an effect. Once the effects wear off, this creates intense periods of stress and agitation for the user, to the point where they might lose consciousness. Colloquially, such behaviour is referred to as being a ‘Speed Freak’. Taking more Speed, more often, is a common sign that a person has a drug problem. Other warning signs of addiction include:

  • Elevated body temperature
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast breathing and heart rate
  • Enlarged pupils
  • High energy and alertness
  • Xerostomia
  • Convulsions
  • Lack of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • A need to borrow money to buy drugs
  • Disinterest and work and relationships

Regular consumption of Speed can greatly impact a person’s physical health. Because the drug causes an increased heart rate, especially when the person has unusually large amounts of energy, it can cause heart problems, cardiac arrest, and even death. As it can also suppress the appetite, it can lead to an individual going for long periods without eating, or going without food because their cash is being spent on their drug problem. Frequent Speed users can also struggle with dental issues and damage to the teeth, as the drug makes a person grind their teeth together.

Speed can also have several effects on a user’s mental health, to the point where they display paranoid and aggressive behaviour more frequently. Long-term use can create permanent brain damage, affecting memory, cognitive function, and emotional capacity. MRI scans have shown that there are abnormalities within the brains of users that take Amphetamines on a frequent basis.

What are Speed Withdrawal Symptoms?

When an addicted user stops taking Speed, noticeable withdrawal symptoms occur, including:

  • Fatigue and a desire for sleep
  • Hunger and an increased appetite
  • Jerking/twitching muscle movements
  • Aching muscles
  • Feeling agitated
  • Nightmares and unpleasant dreams
  • Delayed reactions and cognitive processes
  • Anxiety and Panic Attacks
  • Low mood and/or depression

Unlike other drugs, Speed withdrawal symptoms are not generally considered high-risk to life. However, they can be uncomfortable and may take several days to kick in to their full effect. The amount of time it takes for a person to pass through the withdrawal period depends on several factors including the dose taken, how tolerant a person is to Speed, whether other substances are being consumed, and the age/build of the user. If withdrawal symptoms last over two weeks, they are known as ‘Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms’ or PAWS. These effects can last for up to a year or more.

What Support for Speed Addiction?

If you suspect that you or someone you love has a problem with a Speed addiction, it is important to get help as soon as possible. If you have noticed that someone you care for is abusing drugs, try and talk to them about seeking help in a rehabilitation facility. Give them as much support and care as you can, and be empathetic to their situation. An overdose could potentially happen if Speed abuse continues into the long-term, creating a serious reaction such as a heart attack, stroke or organ failure.

It can be very difficult to talk to someone and inform them that they have an addiction. If you are having problems getting someone to accept help for their drug problem, it may be worth staging an intervention with family and friends. An intervention is a conversation process organised with a health professional, in which the family and friends of an addict gather together and confront the addict about their addiction, encouraging them to get help.

Whats Treatment of Speed Addiction?

How a Speed addiction is treated depends on the severity of the abuse and the overall health of the user. In extreme cases, a 28-day detox programme may be required, especially if Speed is being used alongside other drugs such as Heroin. A patient is medically supervised during the detox procedure, while the drug is safely removed from their system in a healthy way. Unlike other addictions, there are no medication substitutes that are appropriate for countering withdrawal symptoms in Speed addicts, or to help control cravings. Because of this, a detox can be an effective method of treatment, as the user receives ongoing mental and physical support through treatment. After detox, or if detox isn’t required, inpatient or outpatient treatment is commenced.

Inpatient treatment can be highly beneficial for users who have had extreme addictions, and who lack a support network at home to encourage recovery. It takes a patient out of their everyday environment, helping to minimise temptations that may occur in their regular lives and giving the patient the best chance to focus on recovery.

Outpatient treatment shares many features of inpatient treatment, but the patient lives at home and travels to a rehabilitation centre for counselling and therapy sessions. This is often a cheaper solution and is ideal for those with less serious addictions and who still want to remain at home with the support of loved ones. Treatments for clients on and off site typically involve a mixture of mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), counselling, speech therapy and group therapy, as well as educational programmes to prevent relapse.