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Speed Use Signs and Symptoms – How To Tell if Someone is Using

using speed

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“Speed” refers to a class of illegal drugs called amphetamines that act as central nervous system stimulants.
When someone misuses speed, the body’s systems induce an effect similar to a constant state of panic with increased heart rate, body temperature, attention, alertness, and restlessness followed by a crash of exhaustion.

Table of Contents

Speed Overview

The term “speed” refers to a class of illegal drugs called amphetamines that act as central nervous system stimulants. The name comes from the effect they have on the body. They speed everything up. Amphetamines are medicines typically prescribed for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy. When taken as prescribed they can be very effective. Signs are noticeable when someone takes too much or is abusing speed.

Speed Use Signs

The central nervous system controls the fight or flight response. When someone uses too much speed, the central nervous system activates body systems to a level higher than when someone is in danger. Imagine being in a constant state of panic. The effects of speed normally last 2-4 hours and include:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Greater attention and alertness
  • Restless and jittery
  • Increased movement
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Suppressed appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Increased body temperature
  • Irritability and impatience

Everyone reacts differently to the stimulating effects of speed. Overdose can happen with first use. Overdose can include convulsions, heart attack, severe agitation, hallucinations and even death.

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After speed wears off, there is usually a “crash” of exhaustion. Someone who is abusing speed may show behavior cycles of frantic hyperactivity followed by fatigue and depression.

Long-Term Speed Use Signs

Abusing speed is dangerous. When someone abuses amphetamines for a long time, the symptoms of using are exaggerated and permanent. They include:

  • Jitteriness
  • Paranoid hostility
  • Repetitive aimless activities
  • Heart problems and chest pain
  • Skin flushing
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss

Speed Routes Of Abuse

depressed girl
Speed can be in pill or powdered form. Typical oral prescriptions include Ritalin, Adderall, and Dexedrine. During later stages of abuse, someone may use the powder or crushed pills by injecting it directly into the bloodstream, smoking or snorting it.
If someone is abusing pills, they will take more than prescribed resulting in difficulties getting more. Due to increased regulations surrounding prescription stimulants, prescriptions and refills are closely monitored. Someone may resort to street drugs which can include switching to methamphetamine, a hazardous and highly addictive form of amphetamine.

  1. Erika Pike, William W. Stoops, Lon R. Hays, Paul E. A. Glaser, Craig R. Rush. METHAMPHETAMINE SELF-ADMINISTRATION IN HUMANS DURING D-AMPHETAMINE MAINTENANCE. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2014 Dec; 34(6): 675–681.
  2. Matthew G. Kirkpatrick, Erik W. Gunderson, Chris-Ellyn Johanson, Frances R. Levin, Richard W. Foltin, Carl L. Hart. Comparison of intranasal methamphetamine and d-amphetamine self-administration by humans. Addiction. 2012 Apr; 107(4): 783–791.
Isaak Stotts

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


Leave a comment

  • Scott Kelly
    I’m really scared that my wife has went back on speed. She was doing it allot back in the 80’s and had quit taken the drug in 1990. I have never had anything to do with any drugs and I do not know what to look for with this drug. She has been over happy, down and out fast, teeth start to hurt, body gets real sore, then starts getting sick and this seems to go on from 10 days to to weeks. I walked up behind her two weeks ago and heard tell her son that I am so stupid that I did not know that they were on drugs. I have went to counseling and started to read up on the use of drugs and i’m still looking for more information on how to help my wife. I love her and want her back.
  • David
    Please send my more info regarding this
  • Kim
    I have a boyfriend who recently stopped drinking. He’s always been pretty high energy, but now he is non-stop talking, and he talks for ever! He gets riled very easy, is aggressive and always edgy. He’s lost about 20 pounds in the past few months, and sweats like crazy during sex. Could he be on something?
  • Martha
    I’m really concerned about my brother, he leaves the house fine like a normal person and comes back crazy, for example. He was laughing about the rain when we were talking about it as a family. He concentrates mostly on my father with widened eyes and lots of aggression. As well as grinds his teeth, slams walls and hides in his room most of the time. He barley eats and sleeps a lot. Very depressed with anxiety. His symptoms are almost bipolar. He’ll be a complete crazy person then be calm as a cucumber.