AKA: amphetamine, uppers, sulphate or whizz

Speed is the street name for amphetamine sulphate, a stimulant drug.

How it’s used

Although it might come as a pill, speed usually comes as a white-ish powder, often cut with other things such as caffeine or talc.

It makes the brain release its ‘feel good’ chemicals, dopamine and serotonin, and the stress hormone norepinephrine.

There are several ways of taking speed. It can be:

  • snorted through a straw or rolled up banknote
  • put on the tongue
  • rubbed on the gums
  • mixed in a drink
  • wrapped in cigarette paper then swallowed (bombing)
  • smoked from a pipe or foil or mixed with water then injected.

Effects of speed can last from three to six hours.

Highs and lows of speed

Speed can lower inhibitions and raise the users mood making them feel energetic, confident, alert, talkative and sociable. It can allow them to go without sleep or food.

Common side effects of speed are:

  • an increased heartbeat
  • sweating
  • teeth grinding
  • jaw clenching
  • being unable to sleep.

After using speed users can feel depressed, anxious and tired.

Sex on speed

Speed often causes problems getting erections. It can make the dick feel less sensitive and make it harder to cum.

This can lead to longer, rougher fucking sessions and sore or bleeding dicks and arses, with a greater risk of HIV, hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) being passed on.

Long-term relationship?

People can become dependent on the drug, with larger doses needed to get the same effect and withdrawal symptoms if they stop.

Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • exhaustion
  • insomnia
  • depression
  • feeling irritable.

Long-term use of speed can cause:

  • damage to the heart, liver, kidneys and lungs
  • premature ageing of skin and heart
  • aggression
  • ‘speed psychosis’, which can include violent behaviour, paranoia and hallucinations.

Speed with other drugs

HIV drugs

Protease inhibitors, particularly ritonavir, can cause a big increase in the amount of speed in the body, leading to overdose.

Cocaine, crystal meth, Ecstasy, MDMA, poppers

Mixing these drugs with speed risks a dangerous strain on the heart.


Taking speed when on these drugs can cause a life-threatening rise in blood pressure.


Speed masks the effects of booze, leading people to drink more without realising how drunk or over the limit they are.

Viagra-type drugs

Speed causes loss of erections, but taking Viagra to combat this puts even more stress on the heart.

Useful information to know and share

Swallowing the drug wrapped in a cigarette paper (a speed bomb) or mixing it with water is less harmful than snorting which can damage the nose. Though it’s always a good idea to know what, and how much is being swallowed.

When snorting there’s less damage to the nose if:

  • the powder’s fine, so make sure to chop it well
  • the user alternates nostrils
  • the user rinses their nostrils out after snorting.

The advice is for users to always use their own snorting equipment as hep C can be passed on from tiny particles of infected blood. If they’re with a group of friends who are all snorting, tag their own stuff with a Post-it note with their name on it.

Injecting is best avoided as this is more likely to lead to addiction. Also, speed deaths are linked to taking the drug this way, and it can cause skin abscesses, damaged veins, blood poisoning and heart infections.

Sharing injecting equipment can pass on HIV and hepatitis B and C. 

Speed should be avoided by people with high blood pressure or heart conditions.

Next module: Chemsex: How to help

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