Drug and Alcohol - Trends and Statistics

Black Beauty Pill: What is the “Russian Doll Drug” and is it Addictive?

What is a Black Beauty pill? Recently seen in HBO's Russian Doll series, this is an old-school amphetamine that's addictive. Learn more in our blog.

Black Beauty Pill: What is the “Russian Doll Drug” and is it Addictive?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 6, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Viewers of the HBO show Russian Doll had some questions about its second season:

What is a black beauty pill?

Formerly a popular way of taking speed in the 1960s and 1970s, a black beauty pill is any black (or dark) colored pill containing some form of stimulant. Specifically, black beauties were Biphetamine capsules, which like modern amphetamines were often consumed recreationally.

Known as “black widows,” “black bombers,” and “black birds,” these pills seem to be having another cultural moment. Unfortunately, amphetamines – even prescription amphetamines – are highly addictive. Worse, many counterfeit pills contain dangerous and lethal ingredients like fentanyl.

The availability of illicit amphetamine-based drugs, such as methamphetamine, plays a major role in their abuse. The fluctuations in the production and distribution of illegal drugs can directly affect the availability of drugs and their abuse rate.

Addressing the rise in amphetamine abuse requires a comprehensive approach involving public education, prevention efforts, access to appropriate healthcare, and effective treatment programs. These techniques can help in overcoming addiction and reduce the negative consequences associated with them.

Stats About Amphetamine Abuse:

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, medications based on amphetamine increased 2.5 times between 2006 and 2016. 7.9 tons of the medications were used in 2006, while 19.4 tons were used at their highest point in 2012. It had decreased to 18.6 tons by 2016.

What is a Black Beauty Pill?

A black beauty pill was a nickname for a capsule of Biphetamine. Biphetamine is an amphetamine-based drug that gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s. They were known for their distinctive black color. They were primarily used as appetite suppressants and stimulants. In addition, these pills were often marketed as weight loss aids and energy boosters.

The black beauty pills contained amphetamines as their active ingredient. Amphetamines stimulate the release and inhibit the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine, leading to increased alertness, decreased appetite, and euphoria. They can have various effects and help suppress hunger and increase energy levels, making them attractive to individuals seeking weight loss or a boost in productivity.

The use of black beauty pills has significantly declined over the years due to increased awareness of their potential dangers and stricter regulations surrounding their availability.

What’s in the Black Beauty Pill?

Black beauties are a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. These are prescription drugs used to treat ADHD, obesity, and narcolepsy. While “black bomber” is a slang term for these pills, black bombers are also different drugs. They’re black-and-white pills with a combination of amphetamine and Durophet, a brand name for a combination of amphetamine and dexamphetamine.

Can I Get Addicted to a Black Beauty Pill?

Yes, especially if you abuse them over time. Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine are both controlled substances, which means they can be dangerous and addictive when abused.

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Is the Black Beauty Pill Real?

Yes. It wasn’t a drug made up for the Russian Doll show. These are well-known pills that were popularly abused.

However, there’s no guarantee a pill sold as a black beauty pill is genuine. There are, many counterfeit pills out there, and there’s no way to tell if a pill purchased from a street dealer is what it’s sold as. This is why drug abuse is so dangerous – there’s no guarantee of safety or quality.

Black Beauty Pill: What are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are a class of central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drugs that affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals play a role in regulating mood, appetite, and energy levels.

Although, amphetamines have a high potential for abuse and dependence. Prolonged or excessive use of black beauty pills or other amphetamine-based drugs can lead to various physical and psychological health risks. These include cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, paranoia, and addiction.

How Does the Back Beauty Pill Work on the Brain?

Adderall and Dexedrine are two examples of amphetamine-based stimulants commonly prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. These chemicals facilitate brain functioning by releasing certain chemicals known as stimulants. Chemically, they’re similar to Biphetamine.

There are varied effects of amphetamine-based drugs, some of which have been listed in detail below:

Neurotransmitter Release

Amphetamine-based drugs work primarily by increasing the release of certain neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine, norepinephrine, and to a lesser extent, serotonin, in the brain. They achieve this by entering nerve terminals and causing the release of these neurotransmitters into the synaptic cleft, which is the small gap between neurons.

Reuptake Inhibition

Amphetamine-based drugs also inhibit the reuptake of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. This leads to increased levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain, prolonging their effects.

Sympathomimetic Effects

By increasing the levels of norepinephrine in the brain, amphetamine-based drugs activate the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body's "fight or flight" response. This activation leads to various physiological effects, including increased heart, blood, and respiratory rates.

Dopamine Enhancement

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with motivation, reward, and pleasure. The increased release and reduced dopamine reuptake caused by amphetamine-based drugs contribute to their stimulating effects and can lead to increased alertness, focus, and euphoria.

Cognitive Enhancement

The increased levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region involved in executive functions, can improve attention, concentration, and working memory. This is why amphetamine-based drugs are commonly prescribed for ADHD, as they can help individuals with ADHD to focus better and control impulsive behavior.

However, for people without ADHD, they don't have the same effect. Black beauties, like other amphetamines, are often abused as study drugs for the perceived benefits they have. They don't.

Tolerance and Dependence

Prolonged use of amphetamine-based drugs can lead to tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effects. Additionally, regular use can also lead to psychological and physical dependence, as the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug and may struggle to function normally without it.

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Black Beauty Pill: What Are the Symptoms of Addiction to Black Beauty Pills?

Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that affect the central nervous system, increasing alertness, attention, and energy levels. They can also suppress appetite, which is why they were used as diet pills. Over time, amphetamine abuse can lead to addiction, characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and difficulty controlling drug use. Here are some general symptoms and signs associated with amphetamine addiction:

Increased Tolerance

Individuals may develop a tolerance to amphetamines, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects. This can escalate drug use as they chase the initial euphoric high.

Social Withdrawal

People addicted to amphetamines may isolate themselves from friends and family, preferring to spend time alone or with fellow drug users. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and withdraw from social engagements.

Financial Issues

Amphetamine addiction can lead to financial difficulties as individuals prioritize obtaining the drug over other essential expenses. They may borrow money, steal, or engage in illegal activities to support their habit.

Legal and Behavioral Problems

Amphetamine addiction can increase the risk of engaging in risky behaviors such as driving under the influence, stealing, or getting involved in violent incidents. These actions can result in legal consequences, leading to arrests or legal troubles.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When an addicted individual tries to quit or cut back on their amphetamine use, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, intense drug cravings, increased appetite, and disturbed sleep patterns.

Physical and Psychological Changes

Prolonged amphetamine abuse can result in various physical and psychological symptoms, including:

  • Increased energy and hyperactivity

  • Restlessness or agitation

  • Rapid speech and racing thoughts

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

  • Dilated pupils

  • Sweating

  • Tremors or shaky hands

  • Weight loss and decreased appetite

  • Insomnia or irregular sleep patterns

  • Paranoia or suspiciousness

  • Mood swings and irritability

  • Hallucinations or delusions in severe cases

Neglecting Responsibilities

Addicted individuals may neglect their work, school, or home responsibilities. They may struggle to meet deadlines, perform poorly in academics or work, or face conflicts in personal relationships due to their preoccupation with obtaining and using amphetamines.

What Are the Causes of Addiction to Black Beauty Pills?

Here are some potential factors that can contribute to amphetamine addiction:

Biological Factors

Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to addiction. Certain genes can influence how the brain responds to drugs, making some people more susceptible to developing substance use disorders. Additionally, imbalances in brain chemicals, such as dopamine, which plays a role in reward and pleasure, can contribute to addiction.

Environmental Factors

The environment in which a person grows up and lives can significantly impact their risk of addiction. Family dynamics, exposure to drug use or abuse, socioeconomic status, and peer influence can all contribute to developing addictive behaviors.

For example, individuals who grow up in environments where drug use is normalized, or witness drug abuse may be more likely to engage in substance abuse themselves.

Psychological Factors

Certain psychological factors can contribute to the development of addiction. Individuals with underlying mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may be more susceptible to using amphetamines as a means of self-medication or to alleviate symptoms.

Also, individuals with low self-esteem, poor coping skills, or a history of trauma may be more prone to developing addictive behaviors.

Social Factors

Peer pressure and social influence can play a significant role in initiating and maintaining drug use. People may use amphetamines to fit in with a particular social group or due to perceived social benefits, such as increased energy or weight loss. Social factors like living in a community with high drug usage can also increase the risk of addiction.

Reinforcement and Conditioning

Amphetamines, like other drugs, can produce intense pleasure and euphoria by affecting the brain's reward system. This reward reinforces drug-seeking behavior and creates an influential association between the drug and positive feelings.

Unfortunately, over time, this conditioning can lead to cravings and compulsive drug use, contributing to addiction.

Availability and Accessibility

The availability and accessibility of black beauty pills or any amphetamine-based drug can contribute to addiction. Easy access to the drug, whether through illicit means or improper prescribing, increases the likelihood of misuse and dependency.

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Black Beauty Pills & Co-Occurring Conditions

Recreational use of a black beauty pill, like other amphetamine-based drugs, can lead to co-occurring diseases.

Some potential health conditions associated with long-term use or abuse of these drugs include:

  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Chronic use of amphetamines can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, arrhythmias, heart attacks, and strokes.

  • Mental Health Disorders: Amphetamines may develop or exacerbate mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, and psychosis.

  • Substance Use Disorders: Regular use of amphetamine-based drugs can lead to substance use disorders characterized by a loss of control over drug use and continued use despite negative consequences.

  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Amphetamines suppress appetite, leading to poor nutrition and essential vitamins and minerals deficiencies.

  • Infectious Diseases: Intravenous drug use or sharing contaminated needles can increase the risk of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.

What is the Treatment for Addiction to Black Beauty Pills?

Black beauty pill addiction, or addiction to any amphetamine-based substance, is often treated using a multifaceted strategy that considers addiction's physical, psychological, and social elements. Here are some common components of addiction treatment for amphetamine addiction:


The initial stage of treatment is detoxification or drug detox. Then, as the body responds to the drug's absence, withdrawal symptoms must be safely managed. This phase may require medical supervision to handle possible problems and offer support.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Sometimes, medication may be prescribed to help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings. Medications like bupropion or certain antidepressants may be used to support recovery and alleviate symptoms of depression or anxiety associated with amphetamine withdrawal.

However, specific medications for amphetamine addiction are limited, and research on their effectiveness is ongoing.

Behavioral Therapies

Behavioral therapies are a cornerstone of addiction treatment. They help individuals modify their thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors related to drug use. Common types of therapy used in treating amphetamine addiction include:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with drug use. It focuses on developing coping strategies, improving problem-solving skills, and preventing relapse.

Contingency Management

This approach provides tangible rewards or incentives for maintaining abstinence from drugs. It can help motivate individuals to stay drug-free and reinforce positive behaviors.

Motivational Interviewing

This technique aims to enhance motivation and commitment to change by exploring and resolving ambivalence about recovery. It involves collaborative conversations that help individuals identify their own reasons for quitting and develop intrinsic motivation to stay sober.

Support Groups and Peer Support

Group therapy and support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or SMART Recovery can benefit individuals in recovery. These groups provide a supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences, receive encouragement, and learn from others facing similar challenges.

Individual and Family Counseling

Individual counseling allows for personalized support and guidance, addressing specific concerns and helping individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms. Family counseling can also be beneficial, as it helps repair relationships, improve communication, and educate family members about addiction.

Holistic Approaches

Complementary therapies, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, exercise, and art therapy, can supplement traditional treatment approaches. These holistic practices promote overall well-being, stress reduction, and emotional healing.

Aftercare and Relapse Prevention

Recovery from amphetamine addiction is a lifelong process. Aftercare programs and relapse prevention strategies are crucial in maintaining long-term sobriety. These may include ongoing therapy, participation in support groups, regular medical check-ups, and lifestyle changes that support a drug-free life.

Black Beauty Pill: Addiction to Amphetamines is Treatable. The Forge Recovery Center Will Help

The Forge Recovery Center provides comprehensive treatment by offering therapies that help people overcome their addiction to black beauty pills. Our highly experienced nurses, therapists, and counselors work together to offer customized treatment for their specific needs. In addition, our addiction center helps our clients by providing aftercare and counseling services.

The Forge is committed to helping patients recover and lead a healthy, sober life. We provide support and help to individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders and aid them in leading a long life free from black beauty pill addiction.

Want to learn more about amphetamine abuse? Reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

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