Central nervous system stimulants

Immediate and short term effects

  • At low doses, effects include increased alertness, energy, and a feeling of well-being, but can also include nervousness, decreased appetite, rapid heart beat and breathing, increased blood pressure, sweating, enlarged pupils, and dry mouth.

  • A person may become talkative, restless, excited, feel powerful, superior, aggressive, and hostile or behave in a strange, repetitive way.
  • At higher doses, a person may feel happy and excited. Smoking or injecting amphetamines can produce a feeling described as extremely pleasurable that lasts a few minutes.
  • Very large doses cause blushing, very fast or unsteady heartbeat, shaking, severe paranoia, and frightening hallucinations. Large doses can also cause death from burst blood vessels in the brain, heart failure, or very high fever.
  • Violence, accidental or not, is the leading cause of amphetamine-related deaths.
  • Overdose can cause delusions, hallucinations, high fever, delirium, seizures, coma, stroke, heart failure, and death.
  • Use with alcohol and other drugs is especially dangerous because it leads to very unpredictable effects.

Effects and harms from long-term use
  • Long-term heavy users tend to be malnourished because these drugs make you lose your appetite.
  • Long-term users are also likely to experience “amphetamine psychosis,” an experience similar to paranoid schizophrenia that usually disappears after the drug leaves the body.
  • Amphetamine users can develop violent tendencies.

Use during pregnancy
  • Babies born to amphetamine users are more likely to be born prematurely, have low birth weight, have a higher risk of birth defects, and experience withdrawal symptoms like distress and drowsiness.

Amphetamines, methylphenidate and dependence
  • Regular users develop tolerance and will experience withdrawal when they stop use.
  • After long-term use, even using small amounts, users can develop psychological dependence.
  • Regular use at high doses can cause extremely obsessive use of the drugs.
  • Quitting can result in extreme tiredness, disturbed sleep, anxiety, hunger, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
  • Intense cravings along with a desire to avoid physical withdrawal symptoms mean that users may go to great lengths (including using violence) to get the drug.

Amphetamines, methylphenidate and the law
  • The laws for amphetamines and methylphenidate are part of Schedule III of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The fine for possession can be up to $1,000 or going to prison for up to six months, or both (summary conviction).
  • The penalties increase for further (repeat) offences and with larger amounts in possession (e.g., trafficking) can result in going to prison for up to 10 years.

Use of amphetamines and methylphenidate in Nova Scotia
  • There is no information available about the use of amphetamines or methylphenidate (Ritalin) in the general population of Nova Scotians.
  • In 2007, about 6.6. percent of students in grades 7–12 in Nova Scotia reported using either amphetamines or methylphenidate without a prescription in the past year.