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Amphetamine-Related Psychiatric Disorders Medication

  • Author: Amy Barnhorst, MD; Chief Editor: Eduardo Dunayevich, MD  more...
Updated: Dec 03, 2015

Medication Summary

Several psychiatric conditions can be associated with amphetamine intoxication and withdrawal, all of which may require different management strategies. However, amphetamine-related psychiatric disorders are typically self-limited and usually remit on their own.

Amphetamine-related psychiatric disorders occur most often during intoxication; therefore, treatment should focus on controlling medical and psychiatric symptoms while eliminating the offending substance. Medical therapy involves stabilizing agitation and minimizing psychosis. Gastric lavage directly removes the amphetamines before they have an opportunity to be absorbed. Medication and charcoal eliminate amphetamines from the gastrointestinal and circulatory systems.

If the induced disorders persist and interfere with the patient's social and occupational functioning, treatment should be related to the remaining psychiatric symptoms. Antidepressants, such as sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa), can be used to treat depression. Antimanic agents, such as valproic acid (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and lithium carbonate, can be used to treat mania. Anxiety can be treated with nonbenzodiazepine drugs, such as beta-blockers and antimanic agents.

Data from recent studies suggest typical antipsychotics (haloperidol thioridazine, Thorazine, etc) may increase amphetamine and cocaine cravings in patients with dual diagnoses of amphetamine and cocaine abuse. Typical antipsychotics should be used for acute stabilization with the intention of switching to an atypical antipsychotic drug (eg, risperidone, quetiapine, olanzapine, aripiprazole, and ziprasidone) for long-term use.

Some evidence suggests that naltrexone might be helpful in treating those addicted to amphetamines.[11]

For the purposes of this discussion, specific treatment of amphetamine toxicity is reviewed. For further information, please refer to the articles on Depression, Substance-Induced Mood Disorder, Depressed Type, Bipolar Affective Disorder, Schizophrenia, Anxiety Disorders, and Sleeping Disorders.



Class Summary

Clinicians should select a high-potency antipsychotic that is available in tablet, liquid, and IM forms for administration in emergency situations. Antipsychotics help control psychotic symptoms and provide rapid tranquilization of the agitated and psychotic patient.

Haloperidol (Haldol)


Provides rapid sedation of agitated anxious patient; available PO and IM, allowing for flexible, emergency administration.

Thiothixene (Navane)


Blocks postsynaptic blockade of CNS dopamine receptors, inhibiting dopamine-mediated effects. PO and IM forms allow for rapid tranquilization.



Class Summary

These drugs are primarily used to sedate agitated patients. Availability in PO, IV, and IM forms allowing the drug to be used in emergency situations. Caution must be used in the violent, aggressive patient because benzodiazepines may cause disinhibition.

Lorazepam (Ativan)


Provides rapid onset and efficacy in sedating aggressive patient; flexible administration in emergency situation.

Chlordiazepoxide (Librium, Libritabs, Mitran)


Depresses all levels of CNS, including limbic and reticular formation, possibly by increasing activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity, major inhibitory neurotransmitter.


Opiate antagonists

Class Summary

These drugs inhibit the action of opiates.

Naloxone (Narcan)


Used to treat concurrent opiate toxicity. Consider in patients with altered mental status due to opiate overdose. Poorly absorbed PO route and should be administered IM or IV. Available in IV, IM, and SC forms. Use caution to avoid precipitating acute opioid withdrawal in patient using opioids long term.



Class Summary

Propranolol (Inderal) is useful in patients who are agitated, anxious, and hyperarousable because of amphetamines. They are temporarily used until the amphetamine is eliminated from the patient's system. For some patients, anxiety can be prolonged, and nonaddictive beta-blockers may be helpful.

Propranolol (Inderal)


Antihypertensive agent useful in psychiatry to treat anxiety and impulse control. Often well tolerated with minimal effect on hemodynamics of blood pressure and pulse.



Class Summary

Expectorants are used to acidify the urine and increase amphetamine excretion when intoxication from amphetamines has resulted in psychiatric and medical complications. These agents are available in PO form, and the patient must be able to swallow or receive a nasogastric tube.

Ammonium chloride (Quelidrine)


Commonly used as OTC expectorant; acidifies urine at high doses. Safe and easy to use.



Class Summary

These agents, given through a nasogastric tube into the stomach, absorb intentionally and accidentally ingested substances to prevent their further absorption into the systemic circulation.

Activated charcoal suspension (Actidose-aqua, Inst-Aqua, Liquid-Char)


Bottles and tubes. Use long after amphetamine ingestion can reduce systemic levels by adsorbing amphetamines recirculating through gastric mucosa.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Amy Barnhorst, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, Davis, Medical Center; Medical Director of Crisis Services, County of Sacramento

Amy Barnhorst, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Association for Academic Psychiatry, California Medical Association, Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Glen L Xiong, MD Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Department of Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis, School of Medicine; Medical Director, Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center

Glen L Xiong, MD is a member of the following medical societies: AMDA - The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, American College of Physicians, American Psychiatric Association, Central California Psychiatric Society

Disclosure: Received royalty from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins for book editor; Received grant/research funds from National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression for independent contractor; Received consulting fee from Blue Cross Blue Shield Association for consulting. for: Received book royalty from American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Chief Editor

Eduardo Dunayevich, MD Executive Director, Clinical Development, Amgen

Eduardo Dunayevich, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Schizophrenia International Research Society

Disclosure: Received salary from Amgen for employment; Received stock from Amgen for employment.

Additional Contributors

Michael F Larson, DO Clinical Instructor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Psychiatrist, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and Private Practice

Michael F Larson, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Society of Addiction Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Michael F Larson, DO Clinical Instructor, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Psychiatrist, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and Private Practice

Michael F Larson, DO is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and American Society of Addiction Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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