Amphetamines (speed)

Amphetamines belong to a group of drugs called ‘psychostimulants' that stimulate the central nervous system and speed up the messages being sent from the brain to the body. Most amphetamines are produced in backyard laboratories and sold illegally.

What do they look like?

Amphetamines are a whole family of related drugs, each with its own recipe and are used in different ways. They can be in the form of powder, tablets, capsules, crystals or liquids. Amphetamines can vary as a white, yellow or brown powder. They may have a strong smell and bitter taste. Capsules vary considerably in colour and can be made up of a cocktail of different drugs, binding agents, caffeine and sugar.

Why are amphetamines used?

People use amphetamines for different reasons. Some use the drugs to get "high" and dance all night. Others use the drugs to help stay awake for long periods of time, improve performance in sport or at work, or boost self-confidence. Amphetamines can reduce tiredness and increase endurance, making them attractive to people who require a boost in energy levels. 

How are they taken?

Amphetamines are most commonly swallowed, injected or smoked. They are also "snorted", or sniffed, through the nose. Some people insert them anally, which is known as"shafting".

Immediate effects

The onset of the effects of the drug is dependant on the route of administration. If amphetamines are injected, the effects will be rapid, however if the drug is smoked or inhaled (snorted) the effects will take longer to occur. The following effects may be experienced:

  • increased blood pressure
  • dry mouth
  • increased sweating
  • Enlargement of pupils
  • headaches
  • rapid heart rate
  • rapid breathing
  • speeding up of bodily functions
  • reduced appetite
  • irritability

Long term effects

Regular use of amphetamines may result in chronic sleeping problems, anxiety and tension, high blood pressure, malnutrition, fatigue, psychosis and rapid and irregular heartbeat.


There are a number of drug treatment options available in Australia. While abstinence may be a suitable treatment aim for some people, many programs recognise that for others this may not be possible or realistic. Most programs adopt strategies that have an overall aim of reducing the harms and risks related to the person's drug use.

Some treatment options include counselling, group therapy, withdrawal (detoxification) and medication (pharmacotherapy). Residential and "out-patient" programs are available.

Treatment is more effective if tailored to suit a person's circumstances, and usually involves a combination of rehab, treatment and self-help options.

Source of information: DrugInfo Clearinghouse - Australian Drug Foundation

Information and facts about amphetamines by the DrugInfo Clearinghouse

DrugInfo Clearinghouse is a service provided by the Australian Drug Foundation. It functions as a drug prevention network providing information about alcohol, other drugs, and drug prevention. Their pages on amphetamines details information about the drug, its effects, withdrawal and treatment.

It may be difficult to know what to do if you are worried about someone who is using speed. It may be particularly concerning if you think someone you are close to is using and not telling you about it. Helping someone who is not ready to change their behaviour is a challenge, particularly when the decision to get help is ultimately theirs.

If you approach the person you are concerned about there are several things you might want to consider before doing so.

Be informed - Gather information about amphetamines so you can see the signs that someone has been using. It will also help if the person you are trying assist knows that you understand the effects of the drug and what they might be experiencing.

Discuss amphetamine use openly - Try and ascertain if the person has a pyhsical addicition to speed or is using it on a recreational basis. Try not to discuss your concerns whilst the person is effected by the drug or is ‘coming down', as their behaviour might be erratic at this time.

Let the person you are concerned about know that you are open to listening to them without being judgmental.  This may make them feel more comfortable to talk knowing they won't be criticised or put down. 

Speak to a counsellor yourself first - Sometimes it is sensible to seek help and advice yourself if someone's drug-related behaviour is impacting on your life.

Reference - Reach Out! website 


DanceSafe is a US based nonprofit, harm reduction organisation promoting health and safety within the rave and nightclub community.

DrugInfo Clearinghouse - Australian Drug Foundation

DrugInfo Clearinghouse is a service provided by the Australian Drug Foundation. It functions as a drug prevention network providing information about alcohol, other drugs, and drug prevention.


A community based service for people aged 12 - 25 and their families, Headspace provides help for issues including health, education, work, mental health and drug & alcohol use.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC)

NDARC conducts research and related activities that increases the effectiveness of Australian and international treatment and intervention responses to alcohol and other drug related harm.

Reach Out!

An initiative of the Inspire Foundation, Reach Out! is a web based service that provides information, support and interactive features to help young people get through tough times.

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