December 4th, 2023
The history of amphetamine rehab is a compelling narrative of medical and therapeutic evolution. While today, the dangers of amphetamines are well-known, it is important to understand the drug landscape of previous decades. Originally developed for legitimate medical purposes, amphetamines gradually unveiled their addictive nature, posing serious challenges in public education and drug addiction treatment services.
This exploration will trace how initial medical applications led to widespread misuse and how medical professionals, policymakers and addiction specialists responded to the evolving crisis. It is a journey that not only sheds light on the past but also informs the present approach to amphetamine rehab, the progress made and the challenges that still remain.
Early amphetamine use
The journey of amphetamines, from medical marvels to substances of abuse, is a complex one. Amphetamine was initially synthesised in 1927 by chemist G. A. Alles whilst looking for a cost-effective alternative for the asthma medicine, ephedrine. However, testing by Alles and others found that the drug had marked stimulant effects. During the following two decades, amphetamines were prescribed on a small scale for a wide array of health issues, including asthma, narcolepsy and weight loss.
The turning point in the history of amphetamines came during World War II. They were extensively used by soldiers on all sides to combat fatigue and enhance alertness during prolonged combat. This wartime application significantly raised the profile of amphetamines, leading to a surge in their popularity.
As the 1950s dawned, amphetamine use in the United States, in particular, burgeoned, propelled by a combination of cultural shifts and the drug’s ready availability. Though still intended for medical conditions, brands like Benzedrine became household names, and people began using amphetamines to boost energy and productivity.
The trend was particularly pronounced among college students and young professionals, who used amphetamines as study aids or to maintain stamina in demanding jobs. Truck drivers, facing long and gruelling hauls, also turned to amphetamines to stay awake, while many women began to take them as diet pills.
It wasn’t long, however, before the widespread availability and use of amphetamines in the decades following the war led to the first indications of their darker side. With more people gaining access, instances of misuse began to surface, and medical practitioners started observing patterns characteristic of addiction. Despite claims by pharmaceutical companies that amphetamines were not addictive, an ever-growing number of patients were exhibiting increased tolerance (the need for higher doses for the same effect), and withdrawal symptoms like fatigue, depression and disturbed sleep were becoming common.
By the 1950s, the reality of rampant amphetamine addiction could not be ignored. In one of the first regulatory steps, the FDA made Benzedrine inhalers prescription only in 1959. However, this did little to change the culture of amphetamine use. By 1970, 5% of the American public – almost ten million people – were using prescription amphetamines, with over three million addicted.
In the face of the growing amphetamine epidemic, the government finally took action. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act made amphetamines a Schedule III drug and just one year later, they were upgraded to a Schedule II. To put that into perspective, amphetamines share that category today with morphine, opium and fentanyl.
Early treatment methods
As the issue of amphetamine addiction became increasingly evident, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw the medical community begin to develop the first strategies for amphetamine rehab and detox. These early approaches were often experimental, reflecting the limited understanding at the time of both the drug’s impact on the brain and the nature of addiction itself.
One of the primary methods of treatment in these early days was detoxification, which typically involved gradually reducing the dose of amphetamines to ease withdrawal symptoms. This process was often conducted in hospitals, where medical staff could monitor patients for complications. However, due to the lack of specialised addiction treatment knowledge, these detox programmes varied in effectiveness and sometimes lacked comprehensive support for the psychological aspects of amphetamine addiction.
Simultaneously, therapeutic interventions began to emerge. Early methods included individual and group counselling, where patients could discuss their experiences and receive support and psychotherapy, which aimed to address the underlying psychological issues that contribute to drug addiction. While these therapies were steps in the right direction, they were often not specifically tailored to amphetamine addiction or did not fully grasp the full nature of issues like depression and anxiety, both of which limited their efficacy.
During this period, there was also a growing recognition of the need for aftercare and relapse prevention strategies with the burgeoning understanding that addiction was a chronic, relapsing condition; however, comprehensive aftercare programmes were still in their infancy, and many patients struggled with relapse after detox and rehab in lieu of long-term strategies.
Modern amphetamine rehab
While these initial responses were limited in their effectiveness, they did lay the groundwork for the more sophisticated amphetamine rehab programmes that developed in subsequent decades. Modern treatment philosophies recognise addiction as a complex, multifaceted condition, requiring a comprehensive strategy that addresses not only the physical aspects but also the psychological, emotional and social factors. Key pillars in modern amphetamine rehab include:
Behavioural therapy forms the cornerstone of modern amphetamine rehab. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) are widely employed with CBT helping individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours. DBT focuses on improving emotional regulation and developing coping skills. These therapies are effective in treating the psychological aspects of addiction, helping individuals understand the root causes of their drug use and providing them with tools to avoid relapse.
Today’s best amphetamine rehab programmes also incorporate holistic practices into their treatment plans. This approach treats the individual as a whole, integrating physical health, mental well-being and emotional balance. Holistic methods can include activities such as yoga, meditation and art therapy, designed to reduce stress, improve mental clarity and enhance overall wellness. This brings a sense of peace to the chaotic world of those with addiction and makes them more receptive to other forms of treatment.
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
Medication-assisted treatment is another key component of contemporary amphetamine rehab. While there are no specific medications to treat amphetamine addiction directly, various medications are used to manage withdrawal symptoms and co-occurring mental health disorders. For example, antidepressants may be prescribed to address the depression that often accompanies amphetamine withdrawal. MAT is typically used in combination with other therapies, ensuring a comprehensive approach to treatment.
Aftercare and relapse prevention
Another crucial aspect of modern amphetamine rehab programmes is a strong focus on aftercare and relapse prevention. Relapse prevention strategies are integrated throughout rehab, teaching individuals how to identify and manage triggers and high-risk situations. Once an individual leaves rehab, aftercare programmes offer ongoing support and resources post-treatment, helping them integrate back into their daily lives while maintaining sobriety. These programmes may include continued therapy sessions, support group meetings and check-ins with addiction specialists. This comprehensive approach ensures that the journey towards recovery is sustained and supported long after the initial treatment phase.
The progression of amphetamine rehab over the years is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the medical and addiction recovery communities. From the rudimentary and often ineffective methods of the early 20th century to the holistic, evidence-based approaches of today, amphetamine rehab has evolved dramatically.
This journey reflects a broader shift in how society views and treats addiction, moving from stigma and misunderstanding to empathy and scientific understanding. The path has not been straightforward, but it has been marked by significant strides forward. As we look to the future, we can expect even greater advancements that will further improve the lives of those struggling with amphetamine addiction.
If you or someone you know is struggling with amphetamine addiction, it’s crucial to seek out the latest, proven treatment available. UKAT offers comprehensive care that addresses all aspects of addiction. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Contact us today to start your journey toward recovery and a healthier, drug-free life.
(Click here to see works cited)