Everything you need to know about amphetamines

Gail Evans, Alphabiolabs

By Gail Evans, Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 03/10/2023

In this article, we take a closer look at amphetamines, what they are, the different types available, and how long amphetamines stay in your system.

What are amphetamines?

Amphetamines are synthetic drugs that stimulate the brain and can be legally prescribed to treat conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Also known as ‘uppers’, ‘ice’ or ‘speed’, illegal amphetamines are commonly supplied in pill, powder, crystal and liquid form, and are swallowed, smoked, snorted or injected.

When prescribed by a physician, the use of amphetamines is legal. However, amphetamines are also commonly misused by recreational drug users.

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What are the street names for amphetamines?

When sold and used illegally, amphetamines are commonly known by the following street names:

  • Bennies
  • Black Beauties
  • Crank
  • Ice
  • Speed
  • Uppers

What do amphetamines look like?

Amphetamines are often sold illegally in powder and tablet form, as crystals or capsules, and can have an off-white, pink, grey or yellow appearance, sometimes resembling putty.

They are often packaged up in aluminum foil, plastic bags, or small balloons.

What are amphetamines used for?

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs (uppers) that are highly addictive and speed up the rate at which messages are sent between the brain and the body. This makes individuals more alert and focused.

Amphetamines also cause an increase in dopamine levels, the feel-good chemical in the brain.

When a person takes amphetamines, they are broken down by the liver and released into the bloodstream. This is when the drugs begin to increase brain activity levels.

In medical settings, amphetamines may be prescribed to treat a range of health conditions, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – a condition that can affect people’s behavior, making it difficult to concentrate. People with ADHD may also experience restlessness or may act impulsively.

They can also be prescribed as an appetite suppressant in the treatment of obesity.

Recreational drug users who take amphetamines illegally typically use them to boost energy levels and focus, as these drugs can make users feel more alert, happy, creative, and confident.Even after the effects of amphetamines have worn off, the drug and its metabolites can still be detected in the body in different ways including via nails, urine, hair and saliva.

Which drugs are classed as amphetamines?

Amphetamines are central nervous system stimulants, which speed up the way the body reacts including breathing and heart rate.

In the US, they can be legally prescribed to treat conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Some people also use them as a study aid to stay awake, or to suppress appetite and aid weight loss.

Examples of prescribed amphetamines include:

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®) – which can be used to treat hyperactivity in children
  • Dextroamphetamine (Adderall®, Dexedrine®)
  • Lisdexamphetamine (Vyvanse™)
  • Methamphetamine (Desoxyn®)

How do people behave when they take amphetamines?

How someone feels and behaves after taking amphetamines can vary.

For some people, it can make them feel more energized, awake, and excited, which can in turn make them more talkative.

However, others might feel agitated, anxious and/or panicked. Amphetamine use has also been linked to increased aggression.

What are the effects of amphetamine misuse?

While the initial effects of amphetamines might only last a few hours, depending on how much has been taken and whether it is used regularly or not, amphetamines can cause several long-term side effects.

Recreational users typically consume amphetamines because it makes them feel full of energy and excited.

However, it is important to remember that drugs affect different people in different ways, so not everybody will have the same experience while using the same substances. Drugs can even affect the same person differently when taken at a different time.

The short-term effects of amphetamine misuse include:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Rising body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Breathing issues
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hallucinations

Long-term misuse of amphetamines can lead to:

  • Stomach issues including sickness
  • Panic attacks
  • Muscle cramps and muscle breakdown
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Tooth decay
  • Organ failure

It is also not uncommon for amphetamine users to experience ‘amphetamine psychosis’ which can lead to paranoia, erratic behavior, restlessness, and irritability.

As is the case with other drugs, long-term amphetamine misuse can also increase the likelihood of tolerance and dependency.

What happens when you use amphetamines with other drugs?

Below is an overview of the side effects of using amphetamines alongside other drugs.


People who take certain antidepressants alongside amphetamines could be putting themselves at risk of irregular heartbeat and seizures, which could even be fatal.


Using amphetamines while drinking alcohol can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can also increase the risk of alcohol poisoning, as a person taking amphetamines may not be fully aware of how much they are drinking.


People who take amphetamines and opioids simultaneously are at increased risk of irregular heartbeat, seizures, overdose and even death.

Many amphetamines are classified as Schedule II drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.

Although certain amphetamines legally prescribed under the supervision of a physician, it is illegal to use amphetamines for non-medical purposes.

How long do amphetamines stay in your system?

When a person uses amphetamines, a proportion of the drug and its metabolites are released into the bloodstream, with a small amount being excreted by the body in a variety of ways.

How long a drug remains in the system and how quickly a person might feel the effects depends on several factors including how the drug was ingested, frequency of use, and the metabolism and weight of the individual.

For example, if amphetamines are swallowed, the effects are typically felt more slowly and can be less intense. However, a person who snorts, injects or smokes amphetamines may experience effects more quickly and more intensely.

The effects of amphetamines can last from 30 minutes to eight hours. However, it is important to note that it can take a few days for a person to feel normal again after taking amphetamines.

How long does it take for amphetamines to show up in a drug test?

Even after the ‘high’ has worn off, amphetamines can be detected by a drug test< long after the drug was first taken, depending on the type of drug test you take.

For oral (saliva) drug tests, amphetamines remain detectable for up to 48 hours, while urine drug tests provide a detection window of up to four days.

The rate at which head hair grows means that head hair drug tests provide a wide window of detection for amphetamine use, making it possible to detect metabolites in the hair for up to 12 months, depending on the length of the hair. Similarly, nail drug testing can be used to provide an overview of up to 12 months for drug use (six months for fingernails and 12 months for toenails).

How can I find out if a loved one is using amphetamines? 

Whether you have concerns about a loved one misusing amphetamines, or simply want a test for other personal reasons, our peace of mind home drug test kits can help you rule out substance misuse or allow you to seek support for someone who is struggling.

We offer two options for home drug testing:

  • Drug & Alcohol Nail Test – available from just $99, this easy-to-use kit allows you to test for drug and/or alcohol use, with only fingernail clipping or toenail clipping samples required. Simply collect your samples and return them to our accredited testing laboratory for 100% accurate results in 7-10 days.
  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (pack of 3) – available for $34.95 for a pack of 3 kits, our urine drug testing cup is a simple, fully integrated drug screening kit that can be used to test for drugs at home with only a urine sample required. Results can be read on the side of the cup in just 5 minutes.

Please be aware that our home drug testing kits are for peace of mind only. You can use these tests to get the answers you need, but the results cannot be used in legal proceedings or in court.

For more information, email our Customer Services team at info@alphabiolabsusa.com.

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Gail Evans AlphaBiolabs

Gail Evans

Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
A professionally-trained forensic scientist, Gail joined AlphaBiolabs in 2012 and holds the role of Technical Trainer. Her day-to-day responsibilities include delivering in-depth training sessions both internally and externally, covering DNA, drug, and alcohol testing. Before joining the company, Gail was a practising forensic scientist, attending scenes of crime, and analyzing physical and biological material with potential evidential value. Gail also holds qualifications in chemistry and is a Lead Auditor for the ISO 9001 standard, the international standard for quality management.

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