Co-occurring antisocial personality disorder and amphetamine use complicates symptoms and treatment options. Learn how recovery from both conditions can be achieved.

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a severe mental health condition characterized by ongoing reckless, impulsive and aggressive behavior. The impulse control problems seen in individuals with antisocial personality disorder can lead to risky behavior, including illicit substance use. Substance use disorders are widespread among individuals with antisocial personality disorder, complicating symptoms and treatment options. Even amphetamines taken as prescribed may negatively impact antisocial personality disorder symptoms.

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that are commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and obesity. Commonly prescribed amphetamine medications include Adderall and Dexedrine. Amphetamines work by stimulating brain activity. This increased brain activity makes a person using amphetamines feel focused and alert. Amphetamines are also commonly misused, leading to amphetamine addiction.

Although additional research is needed to determine the prevalence of antisocial personality disorder and amphetamine addiction, the lifetime prevalence of substance use disorder in those with ASPD is 83.6%, according to recent estimates. Another recent national survey found that people with antisocial personality disorder are twice as likely to have a substance use disorder over their lifetime.

Can Amphetamine Use Cause Antisocial Personality Disorder?

Although additional research is needed to determine whether amphetamines can directly cause ASPD, some studies suggest that amphetamine use may contribute to the advancement of antisocial personality disorder. 

Antisocial personality disorder and substance use disorders are both characterized by sensation-seeking behavior. Sensation seeking is a readiness to perform dangerous acts without fear of harmful consequences. Studies suggest that sensation-seeking behavior has both a biological and social basis. Chronic use of substances such as amphetamines may contribute to ASPD by isolating individuals from healthy social interactions.

Genetics may play a role in the development of substance use disorders and mental health conditions such as antisocial personality disorder. Researchers discovered a relationship between the age at which stimulant treatment begins during childhood and the frequency of both substance use disorders and antisocial personality disorder. These studies found that lifetime rates of substance use disorders are higher among ADHD patients who initiated stimulant treatment after age 7 (44%), as compared to patients who began treatment earlier in life (27%).

Both prescription and illicit amphetamine use are common in children and young adults. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder also commonly begin using drugs at an early age, during a time when the brain is still developing. Amphetamine use may cause more severe brain changes in children and increase the likelihood of later antisocial personality disorder. Amphetamine studies demonstrate that its use can cause structural brain abnormalities and lead to changes in how the brain responds to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Methamphetamine studies, which shares similarities with amphetamines, also indicate that dopamine nerve terminal damage can occur with prolonged use. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical released in the brain that sends information between neurons. 

Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by an overreactive dopamine system, suggesting that amphetamine use may contribute to the development of antisocial personality disorder by increasing dopamine levels.

Can Antisocial Personality Disorder Lead to Amphetamine Abuse?

Antisocial personality disorder traits may increase the likelihood of amphetamine abuse and addiction. The impulsive, risky characteristics of antisocial personality disorder may increase the duration and extent of amphetamine use. Individuals with antisocial personality disorder commonly reject societal norms and laws, increasing the likelihood that they will commit illegal acts such as using illicit substances or abusing prescription drugs. A lack of concern for how their actions impact others can also lead people with antisocial personality disorder to use illicit amphetamines without regard for the well-being of those around them.

Do Amphetamines Affect Antisocial Personality Disorder Symptoms?

ASPD symptoms include:

  • Reckless disregard for the well-being of other people
  • Refusal to adhere to social norms
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Lack of empathy
  • Drug abuse or alcohol abuse

Since antisocial personality disorder involves impulse control problems, the use of drugs that also influence decision making can increase symptoms. The use of stimulants such as amphetamines can worsen the impulsive behavior and aggression seen in antisocial personality disorder. 

Amphetamines cause an increase in the release of several neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, which enhances brain activity – this boost in brain activity helps people by increasing focus and alertness. However, since altered levels of dopamine are associated with antisocial personality disorder, amphetamines may affect antisocial personality disorder symptoms by increasing the levels of this neurotransmitter in the brain. 

If a person with antisocial personality disorder is prescribed amphetamines to treat ADHD, they may experience more severe symptoms, including an increase in reckless behavior. By worsening symptoms, amphetamine use can increase the risk of severe antisocial personality disorder complications such as criminal acts, violent behavior or self-harm. Thus, treatment for amphetamine addiction is critical in shielding antisocial personality disorder patients from severe consequences. 

Treatment Options for Antisocial Personality Disorder and Co-Occurring Amphetamine Addiction

Treatment for antisocial personality disorder and co-occurring amphetamine addiction requires a mixed therapeutic strategy. Both conditions must be addressed together to achieve successful treatment. The patterns that characterize antisocial personality disorder can make it challenging to seek help without the assistance of loved ones.

ASPD treatment typically involves a combination of cognitive therapy, medications to reduce both aggressive behavior and psychotic symptoms and group therapy. Although individuals with antisocial personality disorder may lack the incentive to seek treatment, cognitive therapy can help them understand how they are producing their own difficulties. 

Amphetamine addiction treatment involves medical detox followed by one-on-one counseling sessions, therapist-led support groups and psychiatric and medical support. 

Key Points: Antisocial Personality Disorder & Amphetamine

Some important points to remember when it comes to antisocial personality disorder and amphetamine use are:

  • People with antisocial personality disorder experience higher rates of amphetamine addiction
  • Amphetamine use can worsen antisocial personality disorder symptoms
  • Antisocial personality disorder can increase the risk of amphetamine addiction
  • Successful treatment for co-occurring antisocial personality disorder and amphetamine addiction is possible with a combined therapeutic approach

If you or a loved one live with amphetamine addiction and antisocial personality disorder, contact The Recovery Village to speak with a representative who can guide you through the initial steps of addiction treatment. Our facilitiesserve communities from Florida to Washington, specializing in a range of addiction recovery services.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Candace Crowley, PhD
Dr. Candace Crowley received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and her Ph.D. in Immunology from UC Davis, where her thesis focused on immune modulation in childhood asthma. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.