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Amphetamines: Definition & Types

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  • 0:01 What Is an Amphetamine?
  • 1:25 Legal Amphetamines
  • 2:54 Illegal Amphetamines
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley is an attorney. She has taught and written various introductory law courses.

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs. They come in both legal and illegal varieties. This lesson explains what amphetamines are and identifies the various forms of amphetamines.

What is an Amphetamine?

Collin is a college student. He needs to stay up all night to study for his final exams. He borrows one of his roommates' ADHD pills to help him stay awake and focused.

Uh oh! Collin probably doesn't think he's done anything wrong, but this is a form of prescription drug abuse and is just as illegal as taking drugs sold on the street! Prescription drug abuse is taking a medication that was prescribed for someone else or taking a prescription in a manner not intended by the prescribing doctor. This type of drug abuse has been on a marked increase in recent years, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calling it an 'epidemic.'

ADHD pills and other legal amphetamines are a popular source of prescription drug abuse. Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulant drugs. They are also known as psychostimulant drugs because they work by energizing the user's nerves and brain. Amphetamines increase certain chemicals in the body, which increase heart rate and blood pressure. The drugs stimulate neurotransmitters in the brain, which increases dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline.

Legal Amphetamines

ADHD pills are an example of legal amphetamines. Many amphetamines may be prescribed by a doctor for a medically-recognized use.

Most amphetamines are classified as Schedule II drugs. This means they are heavily regulated by the federal government. Schedule II contains drugs with a currently accepted medical use in the United States but a high potential for abuse and use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. This class is considered to be the second most dangerous group of drugs. Note that the most dangerous drugs, Schedule I, are completely illegal. They are not available by prescription.

Legal amphetamines are mainly prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, narcolepsy, and obesity. Amphetamines, in legal doses, are used to give patients improved wakefulness and focus and reduce appetite.

Some examples of legal amphetamines include:

  • Adderall, which is prescribed to treat ADHD
  • Concerta, which is prescribed to treat ADHD
  • Vyvanse, which is prescribed to treat ADHD
  • Dexedrine, which is prescribed to treat narcolepsy
  • Phentermine, which is prescribed for weight loss

Illegal Amphetamines

Now, let's look at some illegal amphetamines. Amphetamines make popular street drugs. When amphetamines are taken in large doses, the effects can be similar to those of cocaine. Keep in mind that legal amphetamines are often used in illegal ways. Prescription amphetamines are frequently sold on the street. Amphetamines can cause a sense of euphoria, which is an extreme feeling of happiness and well-being. For that reason, they are illegally used to 'get high.'

Some examples of illegal amphetamines include:

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