What is speed?
There are different types of amphetamines. Some are prescribed by doctors to treat medical conditions such as narcolepsy (an uncontrollable urge to sleep) or ADHD. Others, including speed, are produced and sold illegally. Other forms of illicit amphetamine are base and crystal meth (ice) — the most potent form.
Speed powder can range in colour from white to brown and may contain traces of grey or pink. It has a strong smell and bitter taste. It can also come as pills. It can be swallowed, injected, smoked or snorted.
It is also known as up, uppers, louee, goey, whiz and rack.
What are the effects of taking speed?
The effects of speed are felt immediately if the drug is injected or smoked, or within half an hour if snorted or swallowed. They last up to 6 hours, depending on the dose.
Speed can make people feel ‘pumped’ and happy. They may have an energy boost, feel more alert and be more talkative.
It can also cause unwanted side effects, such as:
- fast heart rate and breathing
- increased blood pressure
- loss of appetite
- increased sex drive
- jaw clenching and teeth grinding
- large pupils
- nausea and vomiting
- a dry mouth
- nervousness, anxiety and paranoia
Coming down can take days. You might experience poor sleep and exhaustion, headaches, dizziness, confusion, increased appetite, aches and pains, exhaustion, vivid dreams and nightmares, anxiety, hallucinations or paranoia or depression while you’re coming down.
Speed can affect people differently based on:
- how much they take
- how strong it is
- their size, height and weight
- whether they are used to taking it
- whether they take other drugs at the same time
Find out more about how drugs and alcohol can impact your health, including where to find help and support.
What can go wrong with speed?
It is possible to overdose on speed if you have a large amount or a strong dose. The signs of an overdose are:
- racing heartbeat
- passing out or breathing difficulties
- chills or fever
- no urine output
- arching the back
An overdose can lead to stroke, heart attack or death. If you think someone has overdosed on speed, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Ambulance officers don’t have to call the police.
Speed binges are also linked to reckless and aggressive behaviour.
High doses and frequent use of speed can create amphetamine or speed psychosis. It’s very similar to paranoid schizophrenia, with symptoms of hallucinations, and out-of-character violent and aggressive behaviour.
There are lots of mental health issues linked to using speed. Most of them are associated with coming down after taking speed, or long-term use. They include:
- depression and anxiety
- difficulty sleeping
- paranoia, hallucinations and confusion
- irritability, mood swings and panic attacks
- problems with memory and concentration
- violent behaviour
Can speed cause long-term problems?
People who take speed for long periods can lose weight, get heart and kidney problems, develop dental problems, have a stroke and increase their risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis infections. Sometimes heavy users develop psychosis that usually goes away when they stop taking the drug.
As well as physical and mental health issues, users risk social, work and financial problems. Regular use of speed can be expensive, and have a negative impact on work and relationships.
Find out how drug use can impact your life.
What if I use other drugs or alcohol together with speed?
Taking speed with alcohol can increase heart rate and blood pressure. Taking with it opioids or antidepressants can cause an irregular heartbeat or seizures.
Can I become dependent on speed?
Over time it is possible to become tolerant to speed, meaning people need more of the drug to achieve the same effects.
People can also become dependent on speed, meaning they spend a lot of time and energy thinking about it and trying to get it.
Kicking the habit can be difficult, but most withdrawal symptoms settle down after a week then gradually disappear. During this time people might:
- crave the drug
- feel very hungry
- feel confusion and irritable
- feel exhausted
- have trouble sleeping
- feel anxious, depressed and paranoid
- have some aches and pains
Resources and support
- You can reduce the risk of HIV and other blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis B and C, through needle and syringe programs (NSPs). These provide clean needles or syringes to people who inject drugs and is sometimes referred to as ‘needle exchange’. Find an NSP in your state or territory here.
- Find out more about amphetamines on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website or by calling DrugInfo on 1300 85 85 84.
- You can find help on the Drug Help website or by calling the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
- If you, or someone you know, are finding it difficult to manage issues as a result of drug use, use healthdirect’s Symptom Checker for advice on when to seek professional help.
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Last reviewed: January 2021