Overview: Speed is a common name for stimulant
drugs, especially amphetamines. Speed exists today in
two basic forms: prescription tablets and capsules or crystal
meth, a crystalline powder which can be sniffed, ingested, smoked,
or injected. Whatever form it takes, speed causes similar effects
in similar ways, by increasing arousal in the brain and central
Appearance: Tablets, capsules, or white crystal powder
with translucent rocks or chunks.
Street Names: Crystal, crank, meth, go-fast.
Actions/Effects: Speed acts in the brain by boosting levels
of two neurotransmitters that regulate alertness and arousal:
norepinephrine and dopamine. Besides elevating mood, speed also
increases metabolism and blocks feelings of hunger and sleepiness.
Still, overriding such basic drives cancels out the normal maintenance
functions these drives serve, and most speed-related risks derive
from the biological and psychological wear and tear that follows.
Physical effects include increased heart rate, blood pressure,
respiration, and body temperature. At high doses (or with long-term
use), speed can cause paranoia and bizarre behavior.
Medical Uses: Because they reduce appetite, both amphetamines
and amphetamine-like drugs (phentermine, phendimetrazine) are
prescribed to treat obesity. Dexedrine® and other stimulants
(Ritalin®, Cylert®) are used to treat attention-deficit
Risks/Side Effects: Anxiety, mood swings, and paranoia are
common psychological effects of chronic use. With long-term use,
symptoms intensify, and may involve paranoid delusions and hallucinations.
Violent, self-destructive behavior is also common. Overdose can
occur with all forms of speed. Symptoms include fever, convulsions,
and coma. Death can result from aneurysms (ruptured blood vessels
in the brain), heart failure, or high body temperature.
Duration: Depends on dose and user tolerance, but
typically ranges 3-6 hours.
Trends: Trends: Although amphetamine use soared in the
1990’s and early 2000’s with the reemergence of crystal meth,
decreasing levels of use have been reflected in recent national
Demographics: Speed use is most common among teens
and young adults unaware of its reputation for trouble. As a
result, many find out about problems the hard way — firsthand.
Lifetime use by high school seniors in the class of 2010 stood
at 11.1 percent, with 7.4 percent reporting use during the previous
year. U.S. hospital emergency room admissions involving amphetamines
totalled 101,547 during 2009.