What are amphetamines?Amphetamines are all based on the naturally occurring chemical, ephedrine, found in the herb Ephreda vulgaris. Chinese people have used this plant for over 5000 years to treat asthma. In 1887, chemists made amphetamine, a synthetic substitute for ephedrine. They found that amphetamine affects the brain, increasing alertness and decreasing appetite. It increases the levels of two of the brain's chemicals, noradrenaline and dopamine.
What are amphetamines used for?
During the Second World War many soldiers took amphetamine to stay awake while on duty. But it is an addictive drug, with many harmful side-effects. Doctors still use amphetamine-like drugs for certain medical problems. Ritalin, for example, is used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. It increases attention span, enabling the child to concentrate better.