Speed is a chemical substance and a stimulant. The active substance in speed (also known as whizz, billy, gooey or paste) is amphetamine. Amphetamine is usually found in powder form, but also exists as a pill.
There are various types of amphetamines. This information is about the type of amphetamine that is called “speed” as well. That’s the type we mainly come across in the Dutch party scene.
There are various types of amphetamines or substances similar to amphetamine:
Amphetamine can be dextrorotatory and laevorotatory. Dextroamphetamine matches the brain receptors better than levoamphetamine. It is therefore stronger. You can compare dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine with a right and left hand glove you want to put on your right hand. The left and right glove are the same but they are different as well (mirrored).
The amphetamine you can buy on the streets in the Netherlands is always a combination of dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine (racemic).
Methamphetamine is another form of amphetamine and it is almost non-existent in the Netherlands. An important difference with amphetamine is that methamphetamine is more readily soluble in fat than regular amphetamine and it is broken down more slowly. Methamphetamine therefore enters the brain more easily and it works longer. It is two times stronger than dextroamphetamine. Moreover, is possible to smoke methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine can also be dextrorotatory and laevorotatory. Usually you buy a mixture of dextrorotatory and laevorotatory methamphetamine.
Many people who use speed think wet speed is better than dried speed. This speed is said to come directly from the source and the quality would be higher.
However, information from the drugs testing services and the Drugs Information and Monitoring System (DIMS) shows us that wet speed is wet because it contains volatile solvents (including the toxic substance methanol) from the production process. It is also possible that these solvents have been added after the speed was cut with other substances, to give you the idea that it was just made. Wet speed can therefore be cut with adulterants just as much as dry speed. The solvents are harmful to your health, and therefore cause additional risks. To reduce these risks it is better to dry your speed first. Drying causes the solvents to evaporate so they are no longer in your speed. When your speed is dry it is also easier to use.
What is 4-methylamphetamine (4-MA)?
Since 2009, 4-methylamphetamine (4-MA) is regularly found in speed. Since 2011, DIMS has been warning users who visit the drug testing service about the risks of 4-MA. 4-methylamphetamine is sold as speed so it is not a new substance users are looking for, and if you have not tested your speed you do not know if it is in there. In 2013 and 2014 DIMS found less 4-MA than in previous years.
When you use 4-MA, more serotonin is released than when you use amphetamine, which can lead to overheating. You don’t feel the effects you would normally expect after speed use, so chances are you take more and then the danger is of course even greater. Sensitivity to 4-MA may well differ for each person. It is not clear at what doses you might encounter problems. However, it seems that 4-MA is more dangerous than ordinary speed. So it is easier to overdose on 4-MA and the symptoms of an overdose are very similar to those of amphetamine. Both cause an increase in your body temperature. The tricky part is that you cannot see whether there is 4-MA is in your speed with the naked eye; it does not look different and does not smell different. So please, always have your speed tested! Do you suffer from any symptoms after speed use, please go to the emergency room or hospital and tell them what you have used.
Five people in the Netherlands have passed away after using this substance. There were four deaths in 2011 and one in 2015; three men and two women. Although it has not been officially confirmed, everything seems to indicate that the victims were ordinary recreational users who wanted to use speed.
Amphetamine was first made in 1885 as a chemical alternative for the stimulant ephedrine. Only since 1927, amphetamine has been used as a medicine. First, it was used as an agent to increase blood pressure, and in the thirties as a remedy for asthma under the name of Benzedrine, because it widens the airways. During World War II (and also during the war in Iraq), amphetamine was used by soldiers to combat fatigue. Amphetamine was also used as a medicine against depression, obesity, narcolepsy, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease and a type of epilepsy. After the war, illegal laboratories arose and amphetamine became available on the world market. In the late fifties, the negative effects of amphetamine became visible.
Amphetamine has been on Schedule I of the Opium Act since 1976. Amphetamine is considered a hard drug; a drug with unacceptable health risks. Production, possession and trafficking are punishable. Amphetamine is still available on prescription as a remedy for narcolepsy and for the treatment of ADHD and ADD.
On 13 June 2012, Minister Edith Schippers of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) immediately placed the substance 4-methylamphetamine on Schedule I of the Opium Act. She was advised to do so by the Coordination Centre for Assessment and Monitoring of new drugs (CAM). Source: Trimbos Institute
Amphetamine can be snorted (nasal), injected (intravenous), inserted rectally (anal) and taken orally (by mouth). When you snort, the amphetamine reaches your blood via the nasal mucosa and you feel the effects within minutes.
When amphetamine is taken orally, the powder is often put into a capsule or a balled up cigarette paper and swallowed. This is also called a speed bomb. It is possible to dissolve the powder in a drink as well. Finally, amphetamine can be taken orally in pill form.
It takes about fifteen minutes to half an hour for the effects to come up. When you swallow or drink it, it takes longer because the amphetamine needs to be absorbed by the intestines. It also works longer when you swallow it, while snorting will give you a little shorter but more intense effect. If you inject it into a vein, the effects come up almost immediately.
Methamphetamine can be smoked as well. This makes the effects much more intense. Methamphetamine is usually put in a glass pipe and heated with a lighter. The effect can be felt after inhaling only a couple of times. Methamphetamine is also easier to inject than amphetamine. This happens especially in foreign countries, more specifically in the US.
When you snort or swallow a tiny bit of amphetamine (the tip of a key) you will already feel the effects. Amphetamine is available on the illicit market in very different strengths. Therefore, it is hard to determine what would be a “right” dose, but a usual dose would be 5-40 milligrams amphetamine, depending on the strength, the way in which you use it and your experience.
When you snort a substance the effects come up faster than when you swallow it, and you need a lower dose to achieve the same effect. A major disadvantage of snorting is that it can be very unpleasant and painful. Moreover, the effects do not last as long as they do when you swallow. In any case, wait at least half an hour before taking more when you snort and at least an hour when you swallow. A too high dose of amphetamine can make you feel pretty shitty, see also “Risks”.
Amphetamine in powder form is often cut with caffeine. You can get your amphetamine tested at the drug testing service.
Effects always depend on your mental and physical condition (set) and the situation/environment (setting) in which you use. Personal factors can play a big role as well. For instance, one person can become very violent from using while someone else becomes mild. Every body, every person and every situation is different. It is quite possible that women react more strongly to speed than men.
When you swallow amphetamine, it takes about 15-20 minutes before it starts working. When you snort it, it works after several minutes. When you inject it, it works almost immediately. The effects continue for about 5 to 8 hours, but it can also be longer. Many users still experience after-effects up to 12 hours after ingestion. Keep this in mind; during those hours, it is very hard to eat and sleep!
Amphetamine is a stimulant. This means that your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature increase. Your pupils dilate and you get a dry mouth because your body produces less saliva. You have to urinate more frequently, you sweat more and have stiff jaws because of your increased muscle tension. You bronchi (airways) dilate, making breathing easier. You feel happy and full of energy, and hunger and tiredness disappear instantly. You talk a lot, you are alert and you can dance all night. You have more stamina and muscle strength. Some people get more confident. Others can feel restless, anxious, paranoid, irritable or aggressive. It is also typical for people on speed to make repetitive motions or to move random objects and then put them back into place.
When the amphetamine wears off, the fatigue sets in and people feel hungover. A side effect is that it’s difficult to fall asleep after using amphetamine. Amphetamine depletes the energy reserves in your body. The days after amphetamine use can you be tired. Some people feel depressed for several days. The amphetamine hangover is worse if you do not eat enough before, during and after use.
It is possible to overdose on amphetamine. This can make you feel nauseous, possibly causing you to vomit, you can get a high fever and get overheated. You can also develop liver problems, your kidneys may malfunction and you can get an epileptic seizure. An overdose may result in a coma and in very rare cases even in death.
Your body temperature will rise when you use amphetamine. When you use it in a warm, crowded area (such as a club or a party or in the sun at a festival) your body temperature will rise even more (just like when you use ecstasy). If you also dance for a long time and you do not drink enough, you may get overheated.
Symptoms of an incipient overheating;
All these symptoms can also be “normal” amphetamine side effects. If the body temperature does not drop, the following symptoms may occur:
If the body temperature rises up to 40-41 degrees Celsius, the situation becomes life-threatening:
Depending on the circumstances, overheating can occur with “normal” doses of amphetamine.
Overheating is extremely dangerous and difficult to treat. To prevent overheating it is important to cool down, take rest and drink plenty of water (up to two drinks per hour). Sweating is also an important way to cool off: the sweat on your skin evaporates which cools down your body. If the humidity is very high (when there are drops falling from the ceiling), your sweat cannot evaporate properly and your body cannot cool down.
Acute confusional state
This is also called a delirium; it is a state of being that is usually caused by excessive alcohol or drug use. The acute confusional state is a life-threatening situation that should be handled by professionals immediately. When someone is having a delirium, he behaves very restless and aggressive. He lashes out and will not calm down. The aggression is not focused, but at random. Often it is impossible to make contact with the victim. He keeps fighting, even after being overpowered by police and security. Because he behaves that way, it is not strange that professionals sometimes want to overpower him by pressing him on the ground or holding him. This is also referred to as medical restraint. This is, however, very dangerous and it can lead to death. As soon as you hold the victim tightly, he will fight even harder and the heart rate and blood pressure will increase even more.
Psychiatric symptoms and disorders
Psychiatric symptoms that may occur are anxiety, agitation, confusion, fainting and loss of consciousness. You may also get a depression or psychosis. When you take a high dose, you may get paranoid thoughts and feelings. You can get panic attacks or feel depressed, but amphetamine may also cause an acute drug induced psychosis. This is often seen in people who regularly use amphetamine in very high doses.
Animal studies have shown that amphetamine can cause brain damage. In humans, this has not been proved. Several studies show that people who use amphetamine have problems with their memory, concentration and attention and decision-making skills. The problem is that these people often have also used other substances, which makes it difficult to say whether their problems were caused by their use of amphetamine. It is still unclear whether these functions are restored when you have stopped using for a long time.
According to several researchers, the brain damage attributed to ecstasy is partly caused by the combination of ecstasy and amphetamine use. Anyway, it seems that the use of amphetamine by itself also increases the risk of brain damage. More and more research appears that makes this plausible.
If you frequently use a large amount of amphetamine, this may increase your susceptibility to the development of a psychosis. When you have an amphetamine psychosis you experience delusions, hallucinations and you can become very anxious. Typical for this type of psychosis are tingling and itching in your body, but also seeing bugs under the skin. Before this, you often have the feeling that you are being watched and you can develop persecutory delusions. The seeing of flashes from the corner of your eye is also associated with this.
It is still unclear whether this can only be triggered in people who are sensitive to psychosis, or that regular use of amphetamines and an unhealthy lifestyle by itself can induce psychosis. When you stop using, the amphetamine psychosis will disappear as well.
Heavy and prolonged amphetamine use also often causes depression or anxiety.
Damage to the teeth
If you frequently use amphetamine, this can have consequences for your teeth. This is because during amphetamine use you often firmly clamp your teeth together or grind your teeth, which can cause extra pressure and therefore tooth wear. It is also possible that you bite your tongue or the inside of your cheek, after which you may get irritating sores that don’t heal quickly because of your lowered resistance. Amphetamine also reduces saliva production; this means bacteria have more chance to multiply, causing your gums to become infected more easily. If you also drink sweet drinks and possibly vomit (acid breaks down your tooth enamel), this is very bad for your teeth. It is therefore advisable to always use sugar free gum (or special gum for healthy teeth) and to take good care of your teeth in order to reduce the risks. Decreased resistance due to exhaustion, combined with a lack of nutrients, may cause nails to crumble and teeth to become loose or to fall out.
The way in which you use amphetamine plays a major role when it comes to addiction. Injecting or smoking causes faster and heavier effects and can therefore lead to addiction a lot faster. Snorting can more easily lead to addiction than swallowing.
It is possible to become psychologically dependent on amphetamine. This dependence can mean that you do not enjoy going to a party any more without using or that you need a lot of speed to feel a little energized.
You need more and more speed to feel the effects. Someone who uses for a long time, eventually needs 20 times more than when he once started. Your body gets used to the psychological and anorectic effects but not to the hypertensive effects, which means your blood pressure will keep increasing when you use more speed. In the past, speed has also been used as a slimming agent. This is dangerous, because you need to take more and more speed while your blood pressure goes up.
When you stop using speed you will get a huge appetite. Every weight you’ve lost you will regain quickly.
You may experience mental withdrawal symptoms after using:
After taking speed, users often feel fatigued, lethargic, depressed and restless for a few days. After a day or two you are well rested again and your appetite increases dramatically. When long-term users stop, these symptoms are much stronger. They feel exhausted and depressed. Much too often this is a reason to use again. Physical withdrawal symptoms are relatively mild.
If you’re wondering whether your amphetamine use is becoming a problem, you could ask yourself the following questions:
The more times you answer these questions with “yes”, the more dangerous your amphetamine use has become.
Combining different types of drugs is extra risky and unpredictable. When you combine drugs you have a higher risk of health problems. In the following paragraphs you can read about the effects and the risks of a number of combinations that occur frequently and also a about few that are extra hazardous.
This combination causes an increased pressure on heart and blood vessels and it can truly exhaust the body. The hangover is often much worse than the hangover you would have with only speed or only MDMA. Speed reduces the MDMA’s love effect. This combination increases the chance of brain damage (it is possible that amphetamine worsens the brain damage caused by MDMA). This combination also increases the risk of overheating and the serotonin syndrome.
Amphetamine makes you feel fitter and more awake so you can drink more without feeling very drunk. However, your next day’s hangover will be awful, because you drink more than you normally could. If you often combine alcohol and amphetamine it can be harder for you to quit using amphetamine.
This combination may also lead to (extremely) aggressive behavior. The chance that you will behave rashly or recklessly increases.
GHB is a downer like alcohol, so this is a combination of an upper and a downer. This gives your body conflicting signals. The amphetamine keeps you awake at doses GHB that would normally cause you to pass out, so you can feel very vague. GHB can reduce the stimulant effects of amphetamine. If the amphetamine’s effects start to wear off and there is still plenty of GHB in the body, you can still pass out. Amphetamine is also absolutely not a solution for anyone who passes out on GHB. If someone passes out on GHB and amphetamine, the problem will only be bigger and more complicated. The physical complications increase. So please, never give speed to someone who passes out on GHB, but call 112 or go to the emergency room!
When you are depressed, it is definitely not a good idea to use amphetamine. The combination with antidepressants can cause a dangerous rise in blood pressure. If you are on an old type of antidepressants, the so-called MAO inhibitors, it is very dangerous to use amphetamine. Your blood pressure can rise to dangerous levels and you have a higher risk of serotonin syndrome.
After using amphetamine, some people smoke cannabis to calm down or to be able to fall asleep. However, it is possible that cannabis just makes you feel anxious and restless.
Different factors influence the detection time of a substance in your blood or urine. How often and how much you use, for instance, just as your personal metabolism (how fast a substance is broken down in your body, especially by the liver). Drugs are always longer traceable in urine than they are in blood. Amphetamine is no longer detectable in blood or urine within two to three days. With excessive use (so heavy and prolonged use), it may take four to five days.
You can never be 100% safe when using amphetamine. The risks can be limited, however, so please read our Unity tips:
Do you want more information about amphetamine, do you have any questions or do you want to talk to someone about your amphetamine use? Click here for our contact details in your area or e-mail us via firstname.lastname@example.org