Amphetamines (speed): tolerance and dependence

by | Addictions, Mental Health, Recreational Drugs

There is evidence that after prolonged use, amphetamines can become highly addictive. People who use amphetamines regularly can develop dependence and tolerance to them, which means they need to take larger amounts of amphetamines to get the same effect.

Dependence on amphetamines can be psychological, physical, or both. People who are dependent on amphetamines find that using the drug becomes far more important than other activities in their life. They crave the drug and find it very difficult to stop using it.

People who are psychologically dependent on amphetamines may find they feel an urge to use them when they are in specific surroundings or socialising with friends. Physical dependence occurs when a person’s body adapts to amphetamines and gets used to functioning with the amphetamines present.


If a dependent person stops taking amphetamines, they may experience withdrawal symptoms because their body has to get used to functioning without amphetamines.

Some of the withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced include:

  • cravings for amphetamines
  • confusion and poor concentration
  • decreased energy, apathy and the limited ability to experience pleasure
  • irritability
  • depression, anxiety and panic
  • paranoia
  • extreme fatigue and exhaustion
  • general aches and pains
  • hunger and increased appetite
  • disturbed and restless sleep, often interrupted by nightmares.

Getting help


In Australia, there are many different types of treatments for drug problems. Some aim to help a person to stop using a drug, while others aim to reduce the risks and harm related to their drug use. Find out more about treatment.

What to do if you are concerned about someone’s amphetamine use

If you are concerned about someone’s drug use, there is help available. Contact the alcohol and drug information service in your state or territory.

What to do in a crisis

Always call triple zero (000) if a drug overdose is known or suspected—and remember that paramedics are not obliged to involve the police.

If someone overdoses or has an adverse reaction while using amphetamines, it is very important that they receive professional help as soon as possible. A quick response can save their life.

For more information, please click on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (formerly Australian Drug Foundation’s) link below:

Australian Drug Foundation logo