National Amphetamine-Type Stimulant Strategy 2008-2011
1.1 What are amphetamine-type stimulants?
The term amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) refers to a group of psychostimulant drugs that are related to the parent compound amphetamine (phenylisopropylamine, or 1-phenylpropan-2amine) (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, 1993). This includes amphetaminesulphate, amphetamine hydrochloride, methamphetamine (methyl-β-phenylisopropylamine,or N-methyl-1-phenyl-propan-2-amine) and phenethylamines. Phenethylamines include 3,4-methylenedioxymethylamphetamine, or MDMA, commonly referred to as ‘ecstasy’, and 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine, or MDA (Kalant, 2001). Although produced by a different chemical process, these latter drugs are structurally similar to amphetamine. ATS stimulate the central nervous system by increasing synaptic concentrations of three major neurotransmitters in the brain: dopamine, serotonin (5-HT) and noradrenaline (Rothman & Baumann, 2003). This has the effect of increasing alertness, accelerating physiological functions and can produce euphoric effects.
ATS are available in diverse forms and vary in purity. Methamphetamine or amphetamine can be powder (‘speed’), paste (‘base’) or crystalline (‘ice’, ‘crystal’) form. Ecstasy is usually in tablet form and contains MDMA in varying amounts combined with other drugs such as meth/amphetamine1 and ketamine (a general dissociative anaesthetic). In Australia, the main ATS used are methamphetamine and ecstasy.
1 Meth/amphetamine is used to refer to amphetamine and methamphetamine in instances where both forms are relevant