Published: 15 November 2011
Medical use of amphetamines has been associated with a number of side-effects including anorexia, insomnia and headaches. Illicit amphetamines use is associated with a broader set of negative consequences (EMCDDA, 2010), such as short-term negative effects (restlessness, tremor, anxiety, dizziness), a ‘crash’ or coming down after-effect (depression, sleeping difficulties, suicidal behaviour), psychological and psychiatric effects of long-term use (psychosis, suicidal behaviour, anxiety and violent behaviour) and dependence with a wide range of withdrawal symptoms.
Many studies on the health consequences of amphetamines use have been conducted in Australia and the United States, countries where methamphetamine use, notably crystal methamphetamine smoking, is a significant part of the drug problem. Although methamphetamine use is comparatively rare in Europe, these health effects
have also been reported in Europe. Cerebrovascular problems have also been identified (risk of ischemic and haemorrhagic stroke), as well as acute and chronic cardiovascular pathology (acute increase in heart rate and blood pressure). In the context of chronic use or pre-existing cardiovascular pathology these may trigger serious and potentially fatal events (myocardial ischemia and infarction). Other health effects include neurotoxicity, foetal growth restriction associated with amphetamine use during pregnancy and dental disease.
Injecting, although rare among European amphetamines users, increases the risk of infectious diseases (HIV and hepatitis). High rates of sexual risk behaviour have been reported in Czech Republic for methamphetamine users, making them more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections. Studies in the Czech Republic, Latvia and the Netherlands showed elevated mortality rates among dependent or chronic amphetamines users. However, estimating the mortality associated with amphetamines is complicated by polydrug use (mainly concurrent use of heroin and cocaine).
EMCDDA (2010), Problem amphetamine and methamphetamine use in Europe, Selected issue, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.