Amphetamine use can increase risk-taking

Taking amphetamines could cause individuals to indulge in more risk-taking behaviour, new research has suggested. Published in The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, the study found using these drugs in adolescence can cause neurobiological imbalances that last well into adulthood.

Investigators at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), which has roots stretching back to 1822, found taking speed - used by people both as a recreational drug and as a performance enhancing option - caused abnormalities in brain activity that are associated with emotional disturbances.

They noted the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report 2011 revealed more than ten per cent of adolescents in the US have used amphetamines at one time or another.

Dr Gabriella Gobbi, a researcher in Mental Illness and Addiction from the Research Institute of the MUHC, said: "The effects of amphetamine use can persist into adulthood, even if the subject is no longer taking drugs and that these effects include a tendency toward risk-taking behaviour."

Professor Ian Hindmarch, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, commented: "Psychostimulants are well known to create a state of hyperarousal and over reactivity. When intoxicated by stimulant drugs, users' chances of making errors of judgement increases, as is evidenced by the road traffic accident rate in lorry drivers and the number of friendly fire incidents in pilots.

"Such errors of commission, so called to differentiate them from the errors of omission caused by sedative drugs, combined with drug-induced - usually illusory - feelings of heightened physical and mental competence can completely undermine reality adjusted decision-making. 

"The disturbing developmental implications of this research are that on withdrawal from stimulants, drug users do not completely recover their full pre-drug decision-making competences and there are long lasting impairments of affective components of behaviour. Such findings warrant further urgent research given the ubiquitous use of psychostimulants in ADHD and related developmental disorders."