What are amphetamine type stimulants?
Amphetamine-type stimulants [ATS] is the term used for amphetamine and a group of drugs that are chemically similar to amphetamine and have amphetamine-like stimulant effects. This includes:
- amphetamine sulphate (aka speed)
- dexamphetamine (Dexedrine)
- methamphetamine (aka crystal meth)
- other amphetamine-like drugs, such as 4-methylamphetamine (aka Ket Phet or Phet Ket)
- PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine) and PMMA (paramethoxymethamphetamine)
- MPA (methiopropamine)
- some medicines, such as methylphenidate (aka Ritalin) used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the related drug ethylphenidate
- MDMA (methylenedioxyphenethylamine)
ATS are all stimulants, which people take to keep themselves awake, energised and alert. ATS can make you overactive, agitated or even psychotic.
ATS have been used in wars to help keep soldiers alert and they are the main ingredient in diet pills, because they stop people feeling hungry.
What do ATS look like?
Since there are lots of different types of ATS, there are differences in how they look.
Some look like damp paste or putty; many are white or off-white crystalline powders; ecstasy and other ATS are often made into rough, coloured tablets with a logo stamped on them; ATS used as medicines usually come as capsules or tablets.
For the better-known ATS, there’s information on what these drugs look like on their own pages on FRANK. Click on the links to find out more.
Khat could also be classed as an ATS, but it’s used differently to the above drugs. For more information about khat, see its page on FRANK here.
How do people take ATS?
Since there are lots of different types of ATS, there are lots of ways that they can be taken. They can be dabbed onto the gums, snorted in lines (like cocaine powder), swallowed, rolled up in a cigarette paper and swallowed (called ‘bombing’), smoked, injected or mixed into drinks. There are even reports of people putting ATS up their bottom.
The effects of ATS can kick in within half an hour of swallowing. If you snort or inject or dab an ATS it will usually kick in quicker. Many ATS are quite short acting so the effects only last 4-8 hours. Other ATS, such as methamphetamine, have effects that can be longer lasting: up to about 12 hours. But these durations can vary hugely depending on the particular drug, how much is taken, whether another dose has been taken, the person’s metabolism and activity, etc. Some people compulsively keep taking ATS until they (or their supplies) are exhausted.
Anyone injecting an ATS, and sharing injecting equipment, runs the risk of catching or spreading a virus such as HIV or hepatitis C. There’s also a risk that veins may be damaged and that an abscess or a blood clot will develop. Some ATS like mephedrone are especially damaging to veins and skin.