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Amphetamines & Stroke

by
author image Matthew Busse
Matthew Busse has pursued professional health and science writing since 2007, writing for national publications including "Science Magazine," "New Scientist" and "The Scientist." Busse holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of California-San Diego.
Amphetamines & Stroke
Amphetamines can be taken as prescription drugs or abused illegally. Photo Credit drugs image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com

The brain requires a regular supply of blood in order to function properly. Inadequate flow of blood, which can be caused by a stroke or other events, is devastating to the brain. Drugs such as amphetamines can affect the flow of blood to the brain, and recent research has revealed important information concerning amphetamines and stroke.

Definitions

Amphetamine is a general term for a class of related drugs, including methamphetamine, dextroamphetamine and benzamphetamine, that act on the central nervous system as powerful stimulants. Prescription names of amphetamines include Adderall and Dexadrine, while street names include speed, meth or crank. A stroke is a disruption of blood flow to the brain. An ischemic stroke is caused by a clogged blood vessel, whereas a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by a ruptured blood vessel.

Function

Amphetamines are sometimes prescribed to treat hyperkenesis, also known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or excessive sleepiness, called narcolepsy. Amphetamines stimulate the brain by mimicking the function of naturally occurring neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine, according to the National Institutes of Health. The normal function of blood vessels in the brain is to deliver the oxygen and vital nutrients that brain cells need to stay alive. If blood flow to the brain is blocked, brain cells begin to die immediately, causing permanent damage.

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Effects

High doses of amphetamine can cause an irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and cardiovascular damage, as well as disrupted communication between neurons in the brain. Long-term abuse of amphetamines was linked to an increased risk of stroke in a study led by Dr. Arthur Westover at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 2007. This study involved people who regularly took large doses of amphetamines without a prescription.

Safe Use

Following a doctor's instructions minimizes the risk of adverse effects, including stroke. Patients are typically started on low doses, allowing the body to adjust. The dose is gradually increased, causing levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters to gradually increase in the brain. Pills should never be crushed and should always be swallowed whole, and the dose should never exceed what is prescribed by a doctor, notes Medline Plus, a publication of the National Institutes of Health.

Considerations

Prescription amphetamines use should never be stopped abruptly, otherwise adverse effects could occur. Always consult with a doctor before altering use of prescription medications. When a doctor determines amphetamines are no longer needed, the dose is gradually decreased over time, according to Medline Plus.

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