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Amphetamine-Related Psychiatric Disorders

Background

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) describes the following 11 amphetamine-related psychiatric disorders:

Amphetamine-induced anxiety disorder

Amphetamine-induced bipolar disorder

Amphetamine-induced depressive disorder

Amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder

Amphetamine-induced sexual dysfunction

Amphetamine-induced sleep disorder

Amphetamine intoxication

Amphetamine intoxication delirium

Amphetamine withdrawal

Amphetamine-induced obsessive-compulsive and related disorder

Unspecified stimulant-related disorder

Either prescription or illegally manufactured amphetamines can induce these disorders. Prescription amphetamines are used frequently in children and adolescents to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and they are the most commonly prescribed medications in children. The dose of Adderall(XR) (dextroamphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate monohydrate, amphetamine sulfate) needed to produce toxicity and psychiatric symptoms in a child is as low as 2 mg. A typical dose is 2.5-40 mg/d. In adults, narcolepsy, ADHD of the adult type, and some depression can be treated with amphetamines. Although they are controlled substances, abuse is possible, especially in persons with alcoholism or substance abuse.

The substance 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a popular recreational stimulant commonly referred to as ecstasy, which was manufactured legally in the 1980s.
MDMA has the desired effects of euphoria, high energy, and social disinhibition lasting 3-6 hours. The drug is often consumed in dance clubs, where users dance vigorously for long periods. The drug sometimes causes toxicity and dehydration, as well as severe hyperthermia. Several other amphetamine derivatives are para -methoxyamphetamine (PMA), 2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromo-amphetamine (DOB), methamphetamine (crystal methamphetamine, crystal meth, or “Tina”), and 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA). Crystal meth is the pure form of methamphetamine, and, because of its low melting point, it can be injected.

In a web-based survey of 1,006 individuals who admitted mephedrone use, which is the largest survey to-date, results showed that users consider mephedro’e’s effects to compare best with those of MDMA; the appeal of mephedrone for these individuals is in its availability, low price, and reliable purity.

Khat (Catha edulis Forsk) is the only known organically derived amphetamine. It is produced from the leaves of the Qat tree located throughout East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The leaves of the tree are chewed, extracting the active ingredient, cathinone, and producing the desired effects of euphoria and, unlike other amphetamines, anesthesia.

In the midwestern United States, methcathinone, the synthetic form of cathinone, has been produced illegally since 1989, after a student at the University of Michigan stole research documents and began to illegally manufacture the drug. Methcathinone is relatively easy to produce and contains the same chemicals found in over-the-counter (OTC) asthma and cold medicines, paint solvents and thinners, and drain openers (eg, Drano). Its addiction potential is similar to that of crack cocaine.

Amphetamine-related psychiatric disorders are conditions resulting from intoxication or long-term use of amphetamines or amphetamine derivatives. Such disorders can also be experienced during the withdrawal period from amphetamines. The disorders are often self-limiting after cessation, though, in some patients, psychiatric symptoms may last several weeks after discontinuation. Some individuals experience paranoia during withdrawal as well as during sustained use. Amphetamine use may elicit or be associated with the recurrence of other psychiatric disorders. People addicted to amphetamines sometimes decrease their use after experiencing paranoia and auditory and visual hallucinations. Furthermore, amphetamines can be psychologically but not physically addictive.

The symptoms of amphetamine-induced psychiatric disorders can be differentiated from those of related primary psychiatric disorders by time. If symptoms do not resolve within 2 weeks after the amphetamines are discontinued, a primary psychiatric disorder should be suspected. Depending on the severity of symptoms, symptomatic treatment can be delayed to clarify the etiology.

Amphetamine-induced psychosis (delusions and hallucinations) can be differentiated from psychotic disorders when symptoms resolve after amphetamines are discontinued. Absence of first-rank Schneiderian symptoms, including anhedonia, avolition, amotivation, and flat affect, further suggests amphetamine-induced psychosis. Symptoms of amphetamine use may be indistinguishable from those associated with the cocaine use. Amphetamines, unlike cocaine, do not cause local anesthesia and have a longer psychoactive duration.

Amphetamine-induced delirium follows a reversible course similar to other causes of delirium, and it is identified by its relationship to amphetamine intoxication. After the delirium subsides, little to no impairment is observed. Delirium is not a condition observed during amphetamine withdrawal.

Mood disorders similar to hypomania and mania can be elicited during intoxication with amphetamines. Depression can occur during withdrawal, and repeated use of amphetamines can produce antidepressant-resistant amphetamine-induced depression. Of interest, low-dose amphetamines can be used as an adjunct in the treatment of depression, especially in patients with medical compromise, lethargy, hypersomnia, low energy, or decreased attention.

Sleep disturbances appear in a fashion similar to mood disorders. During intoxication, sleep can be decreased markedly. In withdrawal, sleep often increases. A disrupted circadian rhythm can result from late or high doses of prescription amphetamines or from chronic or intermittent abuse of amphetamines. Individuals who use prescription amphetamines can easily correct their sleep disturbance by lowering the dose or taking their medication earlier in the day than they have been. Insomnia is the most common adverse effect of prescription amphetamines.

Unspecified stimulant-related disorder is a diagnosis assigned to those who have several psychiatric symptoms associated with amphetamine use but who do not meet the criteria for a specific amphetamine-related psychiatric disorder.

Case study

A 36-year-old white male who works as a real estate agent arrives at your office, depressed, disheveled, and slightly agitated. He is very guarded and reluctant to talk about his work history or relationships. After a period of time he describes how his coworkers are manipulating his clock to read 9:11, and the police drive by with their sirens on every day at 4:20. He refuses to open his mail, because he read secondary messages by rearranging letters. He admits to spending most of his time at home alone fixing his computer, sometimes all night long. His sleep cycle is reversed on the weekends, he is depressed most of the time, isolated, lost 25 lbs in the last 3 months, and has pale skin. Only when asked about the burn mark on his hand did he admit to “smoking some T.” On further questioning he disclosed a 5-month period of crystal methamphetamine use.

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