Amphetamines: Therapeutic use

Last modified: Thursday, 25. December 2008 - 5:03 am

Amphetamines, in prescription form, have been found to be helpful in treating narcolepsy, a condition in which a person suffers from excessive or sudden, recurrent daytime sleepiness. However, narcolepsy is a fairly rare disease.

They have also sometimes been found useful for the treatment of ADHD, a condition that interferes with the learning ability of affected individuals. Millions of children have been diagnosed as having ADHD. Many of those children and increasing numbers of adults are treated with amphetamine-like drugs such as Ritalin and Cylert. The generic name for those amphetamine-like drugs is methylphenidate. Some children with ADHD do not respond to the various forms of methylphenidate and are placed on amphetamines instead.

Amphetamines have also been used and often misused for the treatment of obesity. Medical studies show that dieters who use prescription amphetamines usually do quite well at losing weight initially. However, when those dieters are taken off of amphetamines almost all regain their lost weight and become even heavier over a five-year period. Although the use of amphetamines for weight loss was popular in the 1950s and again in the 1980s and part of the 1990s, most medical doctors do not prescribe amphetamines for weight loss. Non-amphetamine weight-loss drugs are used instead. It remains uncertain as to whether those drugs will be any more effective over the long term in helping people keep off excess weight.

A 2001 study demonstrated a potential new therapeutic role for dextroamphetamine. The study indicated that it may help some stroke survivors recover faster from the stroke-caused speech disorder known as aphasia. Officially, however, amphetamine has been approved only for the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obesity.

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