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Speed Drug Abuse Fact Sheet

What Is Speed Or Uppers?

So what is speed? “Speed” is a street name for various stimulant drugs that teens, young adults and others use to feel more alert and focused, and in some cases, to feel high.

Some people also use various forms of speed to reduce their appetite. Types of speed include:

  • Amphetamines (used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and depression)
  • Methamphetamine (a powerful stimulant street drug)

Methamphetamine is much more potent and faster-acting than amphetamine, but both types of drugs involve serious risks.

Unfortunately, many teens and young adults take speed in the form of amphetamine pills without a prescription in order to improve their performance in academics, sports, and other areas.

Both types of speed are also taken recreationally, often mixed with other drugs. Despite the sought-after, short-term effects of some forms of speed, all forms of speed are dangerous and addictive.

How Do Young People Use Speed?

  • Adderall
  • Dexedrine
  • DextroStat
  • Dexosyn
Speed goes by street names such as:
  • Beans
  • Beanies
  • Black Beauties
  • Christmas Trees
  • Dexies
  • Eye-openers
  • Pep pills
  • Wake-ups
Street names for methamphetamine include:
  • Crank
  • Chalk
  • Glass
  • Go
  • Ice
  • Redneck cocaine
  • Tina
  • Tick-tock
  • Scootie
  • Spoosh
  • Yellow Powder

What Are the Risks Of Using Speed?

Speed makes the central nervous system more active than normal, increasing alertness, sensory perception and mood. When the effects wear off, users feel exhausted or depressed. As a result, they often feel a strong craving for more. This cycle can lead to physical tolerance, physical or psychological dependence and addiction.


The short-term effects of speed that users seek include:

  • Heightened energy
  • Heightened awareness
  • Excitement
  • Euphoria (pleasure)
  • Increased focus
  • Better concentration
However, the side effects of these drugs far outweigh the benefits. These include:
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of focus
  • Fever
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Anorexia
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Stroke
  • Psychosis
  • Heart attack and other heart problems
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Brain damage

Methamphetamine is especially addictive and dangerous. Meth can cause permanent brain damage, especially to the areas of the brain that manage emotions and memory. Other long-term effects of meth use are:

  • Emotional instability
  • Cognitive problems
  • Anxiety, depression
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations/ psychosis
  • Skin sores
  • Malnutrition, weight loss
  • Dental problems (known as meth mouth)
  • Damage to vital organs
  • Stroke

Why Do Young People Start Using Uppers?

Young people who want to improve their academic or sports performance tend to take Adderall and other prescription stimulants by simply swallowing them in their pill form. People who use speed recreationally tend to crush the pills and snort the powder, causing a more intense but shorter-lasting high. Meth can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed.

What Are The Symptoms Of Speed Abuse?

If you’re worried that your child might be using speed, here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • Seemingly boundless energy.People under the influence of speed often have a sense of heightened awareness and energy, and they feel like they can do anything.
  • Unexplained weight loss and/or loss of appetite.Speed can increase users’ metabolism and reduce their appetite.
  • Emotional instability.People who use speed can fluctuate between feeling great under the influence of the drug and feeling down once its effects wear off.
  • Loss of interest in activities.People who use speed recreationally may lose interest in friends and activities they once enjoyed. (However, people who use stimulants for their effects on school or sports performance tend to continue their interest in those activities.
  • Hyperactivity.People under the influence of speed can be irritable, restless and fidgety.
  • Skin sores.Some users of the methamphetamine form of speed have the sensation of itchy skin, so they often scratch until they have developed sores.
  • Dental problems.Methamphetamine users can develop dry mouth, resulting in tooth decay.

Why Are Methamphetamines Referred To As Speed?

Yeah, the term speed is a general street term street language that is used often for methamphetamine but sometimes thrown in used for other uppers.

So if we back up a little bit from that even because substances fall into three classes, either uppers, downers, or kind of psychedelics which are still uppers and downers in a in kind of a mixed way.

But they fall into those classes because our brain which is affected by all the substances we use, I have neurotransmitters which is the way our brain or the neurons communicate, and neurotransmitters are uppers or downers they they're either excitatory or inhibitory.

So speed, as the name suggests, is really primarily affecting the neurotransmitters that have a strong activating effect in our brain. So and we can talk more about that, but that thus the name, that it's it's speed, it's increasing, or it's an excitatory effect in our brain.

Why Do People Start Taking Speed?

Teens, young adults, or anyone could be initially exposed to speed in a way of maybe a friend who does get Adderall as a prescription, and recognizes that it helps that that friend because that friend has ADHD, and uses it to help them in school.

And that's perfectly appropriate. Using a prescription in an appropriate prescribed way, is not a problem.

But when someone starts taking extra like saying, well, it worked for the day, but I think I'm going to take it tonight, and I'm just going to stay up for hours or when someone starts taking it to suppress their appetite, because that's also another side effect is, is using it like a weight loss thing, because it suppresses the appetite.

So they could start just going, you know, I think I'm going to try it because it'll help in this situation. And my friend takes it, what's the big deal. And so they try it and they realize, wow, I feel like you said artificially satisfied and powerful in this situation.

When we have the option in life is broadly speaking, when we have the option of feeling sort of negative or down or sad, or feeling powerful, and on top of things. And in control, we as humans tend to choose to feel more powerful, because it's a much more satisfying place to be.

So the discomfort of feeling out of control, feeling sad, or feeling like you're not accomplishing the things that you thought you should be accomplishing. And there's a whole lot even into that.

We like to escape those negative feelings. There's a lot of different ways to escape. And today, we're not talking about alcohol, heroin and all the other downers. Today, we're focusing on the uppers, because one way to escape is to go towards that upper strong, powerful feeling.

Also, people who are using meth are, at least initially, they're still able to engage in school and life and work and doing things. And so they get the positive reward from peers, teachers, co workers about man, you are just on top of it you are doing so well, you got the going on, you know, and so there's that, yeah, this isn't all bad.

This is not a problem. I'm still doing stuff. I'm not like checking out of my, my work or my school. So I don't think it's a problem. And of course, there's the issue could be defined, what is the problem. But in that initial moment, they think this is actually working for me, this is a really positive thing, because I feel great.

How Do I Detox From Speed?

What Are The Side Effects Of Speed And Uppers?

Read the answer straight from our podcast episode with Danielle de Boer, LPCC, LAC.

Any substance, if someone uses it the first time, if they don't like it, they're going to stop using it. But if they like it, it's like, wow, that was really satisfying, I got a really either a powerful feeling from that, or man, I accomplished a lot, I didn't get sleepy and I was focused, and I was I was really satisfied.

So having that satisfaction from using a substance means there's a pretty high chance of going back and doing it again, you know, that's what that's how dopamine works. It's a reward, right? It makes us say, Hey, let's go back and do that, again, because that's a good survival thing. So those initial uses extremely satisfying.

At some point, there's a shift in and we can explain that at some point near to about what's happening when it goes from just being a really positive thing to actually being an addiction.

Because just because someone uses something doesn't mean they're addicted to it, it can just be that they tried something out, they were curious, exposed to something and we're like, I'm, I'm interested, I'm curious, I want to try that out. And so they try it out.

But it doesn't mean they're addicted, they could even use it repeated times, and not be addicted. And they could even have some problem effects from it, and not be addicted. But the positive things would be accomplishing so many things, that there's great satisfaction in how much they cleaned their apartment, or how much studying they got done and how focused they were on their school, they could pull an all nighter and accomplish great things, or just not feeling depressed and just moving through the day and just feeling on top of the world are feeling really amped up for a an event that they're going to, you know, a concert or a sporting event or something like that.

So having that really energized positive feeling. And also in that not having to kind of think about maybe some of the other things in their life that are not going so well. They those, those things that are not satisfying sort of fade away, and the brain is just enjoying that amped up positive area. So those are the positive things from it.

The negative side effects from it are things like a dry mouth. And with that dry mouth. With repeated Matthews, they tend to have dental problems, lack of sleep. So if they're amped up for hours and hours, and sometimes days and days, their body is not getting to sleep.

Sleep is so important for our brain and our body to rejuvenate to clean out the kind of trash to consolidate memories to really learn to really progress to go into some relaxed, deep thinking creative areas.

So all of that doesn't happen when someone's on meth, or any kind of stimulant because they're staying in the amped up place. also things like their cardiovascular system, their heart rate is in a constant high functioning mode.

And it tends to wear on it just like if you were to have your car in park, but keep it idling at 10,000 RPMs it's going to wear out the mechanisms in your vehicle a whole lot faster than if your car's able to idle at a much lower rpm. So in our in our body it's similar.

What Are The Behaviors To Look For When Determining if Someone Is Using An Upper?

But there are some unique things to methamphetamine. When we're talking a little more broadly, any of the uppers could be substituted in this conversation. So we could talk about cocaine, we could talk about nicotine even, which is highly addictive.

But yes, so any of the uppers are going to have a very similar effect. If you eat a piece of chocolate cake, you get like a 50% dopamine hit, and it's like, Oh, that's so nice. If you have sex, that's like 100% dopamine hit. methamphetamine is like 1,000%. So once you go there, it's really hard to be satisfied with chocolate cake.

So people tend to go back there. But what you were what you were also saying there, but it there's, there's another impact here. It's not just the initial use, but it's also there are a lot of people who are what we call functional attics, they tend to think because I'm functional, it's not a big deal. And we can kind of discuss is that the big deal?

What are the life consequences. But it's important to note that there's also the word addict in there a functional addict, that there's still addiction as part of it. So addiction is then it's used to be functional, or to regulate emotions.

Part of the definition of addiction is that I cannot function without it. Or I need more and more in order to keep functioning. Or if I don't use it, I'm having significant withdraws. And part of that that withdraw thing relating to those neurotransmitters are that your brain, all the neurotransmitters in your brain, I like to picture it like, like a huge mobile like we'd hang above a baby's crib.

If there were dozens of different neurotransmitters hanging off of that mobile. If I pull on a few more of those, those neurotransmitters hanging on that mobile, and I pull on a few of them, I don't just affect those, the whole mobile is rocking and trying to find homeostasis. And pretty soon it finds this different balance point.

But if I've been let go and stop, stop pulling on those neurotransmitters, or in this case, stop using the substance, the whole mobile again, has to readjust.

So when someone's going through withdraw, their brain is trying to readjust, it's trying to figure out where is my new homeostasis, because I kind of stopped making this neurotransmitter on my own because we were getting so much of a like fake dopamine and fake serotonin and fake nor epinephrine from an external source.

So I kind of shut down my own neurotransmitter factory. So that's what's happening with withdraws. And just because someone is is functional, or hasn't gotten arrested or hasn't lost a significant relationship doesn't mean it's all okay. And it may just be okay for the moment. But it's it's not okay, really.

What Is It Like To Detox From Meth Or Speed?

So detoxing off of meth is interesting in a different way. Because actually, when clients come here to detox from meth insurance does not ever approve a true detox level of care.

They do approve a residential or RTC level of care for detoxing from meth.
Because alcohol is actually probably the most dangerous thing to detox from.

If you don't detox appropriately, you have a seizure. And that's clearly life threatening, and so much more of a medical concern they're detoxing from meth, if you think someone's been up for days, part of their detox is crashing, sleeping can't get up.

Even they can say I drink coffee, and I try to get up and I just crash and for so for days, they just want to sleep and their body kind of needs to catch up. But even the term catch up is not really appropriate. You can't really catch up on sleep, we could do a whole other thing in sleep.

The detox experience is partially a lot of sleep, but then partially just monitoring what's going on with a heart rate. And as the body is starting to come down, what's the next thing that's popping up? Is there severe anxiety or depression? Are there some, like you alluded to the police about, oh, my goodness, I need to get back to work, I need to be productive, I need to go do something.

As soon as someone starts feeling a little better. They have this sudden urgency that, oh, I think I'm good, I need to go, I need to go. And there's a lot of struggle with staying and engaging and completing the full detox and residential.

So detox is seen as purely medical and residential is seen as half medical and half therapeutic. And when someone comes into detox, detox from meth, they are immediately put into the residential level of care. So we are constantly encouraging them to engage in the therapy.

But there's the struggle with the the body circadian rhythm being completely completely thrown off. I totally I completely relate to the coffee example, though, because I have that, like if I have one thing that is so hard for me to give up. It's coffee.

And you know, if you stopped drinking coffee, then there's headaches. And there's like you said, excuses, well, I'll do this tomorrow. Well, this, this won't hurt to that no one's going to get a DUI from too much coffee. Okay, that's true. And there are other consequences.

What To Do If Your Teen Or Young Adult Is Using Speed

Because of the dangers of speed and the physical challenges that come along with withdrawal – especially methamphetamine – it’s important that people who are addicted get professional treatment.

The compassionate, youth-focused team at Sandstone Care can help. We’re here to answer your questions and explain your next steps, seven days a week. Give us a call at 888-850-1890.

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