How It Feels to Get High on Amphetamines

girl dancing at rave

PeopleImages / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Amphetamines (sometimes called "speed") are a group of synthetic psychoactive drugs that stimulate the central nervous system. Physicians prescribe them for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and other health conditions.

It's also possible to buy illegal ("street") amphetamines. Either type can be misused to produce a high. Amphetamines are extremely addictive when abused.

You might be wondering what effects you might experience after taking them. The high they produce and the side effects they cause depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Exposure to other substances, both prior to and during the period of intoxication on speed
  • How much you take
  • How you take them
  • Mental health and well-being
  • Past experiences using amphetamines or other drugs
  • Surrounding environment

While the feeling associated with taking amphetamines is different for everyone, and even for the same person at different times, there are certain common characteristics of an amphetamine buzz.

Taking prescription drugs in ways other than intended is illegal and dangerous—even potentially fatal. Always follow the dosage information provided by your pharmacist and doctor.

Side Effects of Amphetamines

Amphetamines can sometimes cause side effects or reactions beyond their prescribed uses. Such side effects are why people sometimes misuse these medications.

For example, athletes and others like speed because it increases their energy and stamina. Soon after consuming amphetamines, users experience an increase in alertness and physical strength that makes them feel:

  • Enthusiastic
  • Powerful
  • Confident
  • Social
  • Ready for anything

Reduced Drowsiness

Along with the increased energy, amphetamines prevent the normal phases of drowsiness and sleep. This is one of the reasons speed is popular among people who need to stay awake when they would normally be asleep, such as night-shift workers and long-haul truck drivers.

It's also appealing to partygoers who want to stay awake or alert at night for recreational reasons, such as dancing at clubs or raves into the early morning hours.

Frequent misuse of amphetamines or amphetamine-like drugs can result in severe sleep deprivation. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, sleep deprivation can have effects on the body's dopamine receptors that can increase impulsivity and drug use.

Decreased Mental Performance

Unfortunately, the interference with sleep can become problematic when you use amphetamines for an extended period of time and during the hours when you would normally sleep.

Students sometimes use speed to cram for exams. Despite its ability to increase energy and focus, amphetamines have a complex effect on cognitive processing and can actually cause a deterioration in mental performance.

Sleep plays a critical role in the consolidation of memories, so sleep deprivation can have a detrimental impact on the ability to learn and form new memories.

Rapid Speech

Pressured speech, or a tendency to speak in a rapid-fire speech pattern, can sometimes be a symptom of a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. However, it is also often associated with the use of certain drugs, including amphetamines.

While amphetamine users often believe speed improves their social and mental functioning, research shows amphetamines speed up speech at the expense of accuracy. At times, people who are high on amphetamines can be socially annoying. They may chatter incessantly and have trouble engaging in normal conversation because they can't listen to others.

Mood Swings and Anxiety

Perhaps the most compelling reason people give for taking amphetamines is the temporarily elevated mood they often experience. The flip side of this good mood is that coming down often causes a "crash" and an increase of depressive feelings, so amphetamines are not a good solution if you're already feeling down.

There is also a chance that taking amphetamines when you are in a bad mood will only make you irritable and/or anxious. Amphetamines can sometimes lead to chronic fatigue and paranoid or delusional thinking.

Misuse of these drugs can also lead to amphetamine-induced psychosis, especially when they are misused for long periods or at high doses.

Method of Delivery

Prescription amphetamines usually come as a pill. Illegal amphetamines may also come as powders, crystals, or liquid. Abuse of amphetamines can include ingesting them in a variety of ways, including:

  • Crushing and snorting
  • Dissolving in water and injecting with a needle
  • Smoking in a glass pipe
  • Swallowing

Getting Help

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately one million people misuse prescription stimulants each year. Of these, nearly 370,000 were between the ages of 12 and 17.

When amphetamines are taken for longer or in higher doses than intended, it increases the risk of addiction. Over time, your body may become tolerant to the drug, which means that you'll need higher doses to achieve the same effect. It also increases the risk of dependence, which means you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug. 

Amphetamines are addictive, but behavioral treatments are available that can help you stop. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Berman SM, Kuczenski R, McCracken JT, London ED. Potential adverse effects of amphetamine treatment on brain and behavior: A review. Mol Psychiatry. 2009;14(2):123–142. doi:10.1038/mp.2008.90

  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Connections between sleep and substance use disorders.

  3. Reske M, Delis DC, Paulus MP. Evidence for subtle verbal fluency deficits in occasional stimulant users: Quick to play loose with verbal rules. J Psychiatr Res. 2011;45(3):361-8. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2010.07.005

  4. Rasch B, Born J. About sleep's role in memoryPhysiol Rev. 2013;93(2):681-766. doi:10.1152/physrev.00032.2012

  5. Steinkellner T, Freissmuth M, Sitte HH, Montgomery T. The ugly side of amphetamines: Short- and long-term toxicity of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, 'ecstasy'), methamphetamine and D-amphetamineBiol Chem. 2011;392(1-2):103–115. doi:10.1515/BC.2011.016

  6. Shoptaw SJ, Kao U, Ling W. Treatment for amphetamine psychosisCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;2009(1):CD003026. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003026.pub3

  7. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.