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Exploring Drugs: What is Speed?

2C-B comes as a white powder
Written by Joseph Mcqueen

What actually is speed?

Within the amphetamine drug family, there’s a whole load of members. One of the more prevalent is speed.

Speed, a drug often shrouded in both intrigue and concern, is a stimulant that has garnered significant attention due to its potent effects and widespread use. Commonly known as a form of methamphetamine, speed is less potent and addictive than its counterpart – crystal meth – but still carries a range of powerful effects. We’re going to be delving into the world of this substance: what it is, how it’s used, its impact on users, and the associated side effects. Let’s do this. 

What is Speed?

Speed has a host of names. Some call it Amphetamine Sulphate, Base, Billy, Paste, Speed, Sulph, and Whizz. In fact, you’ve probably heard of speed because a lot of common drugs are usually cut with it. It’s cheaper than the likes of MDMA or cocaine so it’s likely that a worse batch of drugs will have speed in there somewhere – to boost the substance. Laguna Treatment writes:

Many drug cartels will cut cocaine with additives and fillers in order to increase their profit margins. The most common cocaine additives are typically cheaper (and sometimes more harmful) than the original substance and appear similar in color and texture, so they are easily mixed into the product without the user knowing. Estimates of the purity of cocaine that is bought on the street may range from 20% to 65% pure.

Speed is a type of amphetamine, a central nervous system stimulant that significantly affects how the brain and body function. It falls under the broader category of methamphetamines, which are known for their potent stimulating properties. Speed may be less potent than crystal meth, yet it still has substantial effects on its users. For many, especially in Europe, speed is seen as a cheaper form of cocaine. 

What it Looks Like

Speed typically appears as a powder that can range in colour from white to brown, and it may contain traces of grey or pink. It has a strong smell and a bitter taste. The primary chemical in speed is amphetamine sulphate. Unlike some amphetamines prescribed for medical conditions like narcolepsy or ADHD, speed is usually produced and sold illegally. The main forms of illicit methamphetamine include speed, base, and crystal meth. 

Legal Status

Speed is absolutely illegal – to no one’s surprise. It is a banned substance in many countries. Its production, distribution, and use are often subject to strict legal penalties. In the UK, speed is considered a class B drug – next to the likes of cannabis, ketamine and mephedrone. In the US, it is a Schedule II substance. 

How Its Taken

Speed can be consumed in several ways, each affecting how quickly and intensely its effects are felt. The method of use often depends on the user’s preference, the form of the drug, and the desired intensity of its effects.

Methods of Consumption

  • Swallowing: Speed in powder form can be swallowed, often wrapped in a small piece of paper (a method known as ‘bombing’). Pills containing speed are also swallowed. This method results in a slower onset of effects compared to other methods.
  • Injecting: Some users dissolve speed in water and inject it directly into the bloodstream. This method produces almost immediate and intense effects but significantly increases the risk of harm, including the transmission of blood-borne diseases.
  • Smoking: Speed can be smoked, often using a pipe. Smoking the drug leads to quick absorption into the bloodstream, resulting in rapid onset of effects.
  • Snorting: Snorting involves inhaling the powder through the nose, where it is absorbed into the bloodstream through nasal tissues. This method also leads to relatively quick effects. Snorting is probably the most common method of consumption. 

Effects of Speed

So what does speed feel like? Well, we know that it’s a stimulant and part of the amphetamine family – with slightly less potency than crystal meth – so that might help to decipher its effects. The substance impacts both the mind and body. Users often seek it out for the sense of increased energy and alertness it provides. However, these desired effects come with a range of potential negatives too. 


  • Euphoria: Initially, speed can make users feel extremely energized, mentally alert, and sociable. It often leads to increased talkativeness and a feeling of heightened confidence or well-being. This is why speed can easily become a replacement for cocaine, which has very similar after effects. 
  • Physical Responses: The drug can also cause a rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and a reduction in appetite. Users might also experience increased sex drive, jaw clenching, teeth grinding, dilated pupils, nausea, and a dry mouth. In other words – you might start gurning a little, and have massive eyes. 
  • Mental Effects: With all this newfound energy and increased heart rate, speed can also lead to feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and paranoia in some people.

Duration of Effects

The effects of speed can last anywhere from 3 to 6 hours on average, though this can vary based on the dosage, method of consumption, and individual factors like metabolism and tolerance. If you snort speed, it can take effect instantaneously, but if you swallow it, it might take 30 minutes. 

Negative Side Effects

  • Physical Discomfort: Users may experience headaches, dizziness, and physical exhaustion, especially as the drug’s effects wear off.
  • Mental Health Risks: Long-term use can lead to more severe mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis.
  • ‘Comedown’ Effects: After the initial high, users often experience a ‘comedown’, characterised by feelings of fatigue, depression, and irritability. This can last several days after using the drug and, all in all, it sucks. 

Addiction and Dependency

Speed, like many stimulants, has a high potential for addiction and dependency. Regular use can lead to both physical and psychological reliance on the drug, with significant implications for the user’s health and well-being. The serotonin increase it causes can become addictive. 

Development of Tolerance

Over time, users may develop a tolerance to speed, requiring larger doses to achieve the same effects. This escalation can accelerate the cycle of dependency. In addition, regular use of speed alters brain chemistry, leading to a decreased response to the drug and a need for increasing amounts to feel ‘normal’.


When a dependent user stops taking speed, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, increased appetite, irritability, depression, and sleep disturbances. Withdrawal symptoms can vary in intensity and duration, often lasting for several days to weeks, depending on the level of dependency and usage patterns.


Amphetamine – or speed – is becoming increasingly popular, especially in Europe. EMCDDA writes:

“Amphetamine is the most common synthetic stimulant available in Europe, constituting a large and stable market worth a minimum of EUR 1.1 billion annually.”

The substance is usually made in Belgium and the Netherlands, then spreading itself through the continent. It’s quite surprising to see that speed has moved above the likes of cocaine and MDMA. In fact, on a global scale, amphetamine is the second most used drug – beaten only by cannabis. With the increased price of the likes of cocaine, speed is becoming the cheaper, easier option. The Addiction Center writes:

“A Cocaine addiction can be one of the most expensive drug habits to support due to the high price of the drug compared to similar Amphetamines”

Therefore, it is not only the addictiveness of amphetamines, but the price that is appealing to people. However, it’s important to remember that crystal meth and speed are very different. The former is far more addictive. 



Well there you have it. Speed, a form of methamphetamine, presents a complex picture with its stimulating effects, potential for abuse, and significant health risks. However, whether people like it or not, the amphetamine family of drugs is at a peak level of popularity. All around the world, people are using drugs like speed due to their cheap price and desired effects. What’s your opinion on speed?

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.