Methamphetamine is a powerful drug commonly used as a recreational substance. It’s gained a reputation as a particularly addictive and damaging drug, with good reason. It can be extremely addictive, and meth addiction can severely affect your health, relationships, financial stability, and other parts of your life. However, methamphetamines and Adderall are chemically similar, and they both come from the same class of drugs. 

Adderall is a common prescription medication used to treat ADHD. It’s used in both adults and children over long periods. If Adderall is so similar to meth, how can it be a safe prescription? How similar are these two substances? Learn more about meth and Adderall and how they compare.

What Are Amphetamines?

Methamphetamines and Adderall are in a category of drugs called amphetamines. Amphetamines are in a wider category of drugs called central nervous system stimulants. Stimulants are a category of psychoactive substances that work by increasing activity in the brain and nervous system. Amphetamines share this category with other common stimulants, such as caffeine and cocaine. This can have various effects that are used to treat common problems. But they may also be used for purposes beyond what’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

Amphetamines were initially discovered in 1887 in Germany, but it was independently synthesized again by an American chemist when looking for a treatment for asthma in the 1920s. It was later used as a drug to keep people awake and to boost alertness, especially among troops in World War II. Amphetamines also came to be used as appetite suppressants and antidepressants. 

Adderall, first introduced in the 1970s, is a mix of four amphetamine salts, including racemic amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Adderall is available in immediate-release and extended-release forms. Methamphetamine is older than Adderall, and it was first synthesized in 1893 in Japan and again as methamphetamine hydrochloride in 1919. Meth was also used in tablet form in WWII by the Third Riech. 

How Do Meth And Adderall Work?

Both Adderall and meth work by manipulating natural chemicals in the brain like dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s tied to reward, excitement, and mood. Adderall works to increase dopamine release in the brain and nervous system, causing a low-level rewarding effect. 

In people with a normal level of dopamine in the brain, minor distractions can be ignored because they’re getting a typical reward response from their normal task. People who have ADHD and a low level of dopamine in the brain may find distractions irresistible because their brain is constantly seeking stimulation.

Methamphetamine also increases the release of dopamine in the brain, but it also does something else. It also blocks a process called dopamine reuptake. Reuptake is a term that’s used to describe a process in which a nerve cell reabsorbs a neurotransmitter that is released. This prevents overstimulation and doesn’t allow too much of the chemical to bind to dopamine receptors. 

What’s The Difference?

Meth and Adderall are chemically similar, and they even have some similar effects and side effects. However, the biggest difference between the two is power. Methamphetamines are much more potent than Adderall. Meth can cause much more intense stimulating effects than Adderall. While meth can cause an intense euphoric rush, Adderall may only boost your mood and keep you alert. When you smoke meth, large amounts can reach the brain quickly, leading to a powerful high within minutes. Adderall can take 20 to 30 minutes to take effect. That makes it easier to binge meth. 

Meth is also more likely to be abused and for abuse to lead to dependence and addiction. While Adderall can cause chemical dependence after a period of regular use, it’s unlikely to cause the severe physical and psychological addiction that’s seen in meth. Plus, meth is typically used by people who are seeking a recreational high. It’s widely considered “hard” drug use. If Adderall is misused, it’s usually because they believe it can enhance academic or athletic performance.

How Are They Used?

Though Adderall and meth are both amphetamines, they’re used for different purposes. Today, Adderall is used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is among the most common diagnoses among children. Adderall may also be used to treat narcolepsy since the drug can help keep you awake and alert throughout the day. Adderall is commonly prescribed in the United States, along with other stimulant medications like Ritalin. The drug can improve focus, attention, and alertness in children and adults that have ADHD. Children who are treated with medications like Adderall show improvements in managing ADHD symptoms, but they also experience more side effects like sleep problems and chemical dependence. 

People with ADHD are thought to have lower levels of dopamine in their system, which causes them to subconsciously seek stimulation. This can make it difficult to focus on certain tasks, and it can cause one to avoid tasks that take sustained focus. When left untreated, ADHD can lead to struggling grades and work performance, social issues, and other complications. Increasing the levels of dopamine in the brain is thought to improve focus by providing the rewarding chemical at normal levels. 

Methamphetamine is much less common as a medication. In the U.S., a form of meth called dextromethamphetamine hydrochloride is sold as a prescription medication under the name Desoxyn. It’s primarily used to treat obesity in both children and adults. Like other stimulants, meth can act as an appetite suppressant, which can help control cravings that can contribute to obesity. 

However, meth was once used more frequently as a diet pill and a way to improve focus until its chemical and psychological addictive side effects become more apparent. It was categorized as a Schedule II drug in the Controlled Substances Act. As a Schedule II drug, it’s considered to have some medical uses, but it also has a high potential for misuse. 

How Are They Misused?

Meth is more commonly used as an illicit recreational substance than a prescription drug. It’s often used to produce a euphoric high characterized by an extreme mood lift, a sense of empowerment, and increased energy. While meth can last for hours in your system, the euphoric effects are short-lived, lasting only a few minutes. 

As the drug wears off, you may experience uncomfortable comedown symptoms that are characterized by mood shifts, paranoia, anxiety, paranoia, and exhaustion. Meth may also be used to enhance sexual performance and appetite. As a stimulant, it can have some effects as an aphrodisiac. 

Meth is often binged by taking several doses in a row to prolong the euphoric effects and to stave off the uncomfortable comedown. In some cases, this can lead to days of sleeplessness followed by extreme exhaustion.

Adderall is sometimes used to achieve a euphoric effect that’s similar to stimulants like cocaine or meth, though it takes a very high dose. But it’s more commonly used as a performance-enhancing drug on college campuses and in sports. After marijuana, stimulants like Adderall are the most commonly misused substances on a college campus. Students use Adderall as a study drug that’s intended to increase cognitive performance. 

They also used it to increase alertness and focus during all-night study sessions. However, Adderall may have limited and temporary effects in people without ADHD when it comes to cognitive enhancement. Adderall may also be used as a performance enhancer in sports. Athletes may take the drug with the idea that it can boost energy, alertness, and reaction time. 

Both Adderall and meth may be used as an illicit weight-loss drug because they both can suppress the appetite. However, illicit use can lead to dependence and the use of these drugs for recreation. Misusing meth or Adderall can increase your risk of serious side effects like dependence, addiction, and overdose. 

What Are The Side Effects Of Meth And Adderall?

Adderall can come with several side effects, although many people who use the drug as directed find it very tolerable with mild adverse effects. It can cause:

  • Appetite
  • Suppression
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

It can also cause chemical dependence, which is when your body comes to rely on the drug. If you develop dependence, you might experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like depression and fatigue. These withdrawal symptoms are usually temporary.

Meth use is associated with more severe side effects, including a rapid and irregular heartbeat, fever, paranoia, anxiety, sleeplessness, increased blood pressure, and seizures. High doses of meth are more likely to cause a heart attack or stroke than Adderall.

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