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Meth vs Adderall – Are They the Same?

photo of Methamphetamine also known as crystal methAmphetamines are one of the most frequently prescribed drug classes, but for many of us, they are addictive. Most of us have also heard the adage that “Adderall is basically just meth”. While it’s true that Adderall and methamphetamine are both amphetamines, there are also strong differences between the two – although there’s little practical difference in terms of effect at high doses.

In fact, while methamphetamine is illegal in most of the world and Adderall or Mydayis is commonly prescribed to treat ADHD, the drugs have very similar effects. Taking a large dose of Adderall will normally have similar effects and side-effects to taking a dose of methamphetamine. However, there are differences, and there are different dangers in taking meth. Understanding the difference between these two amphetamines can also help you to better understand if Adderall abuse and misuse is a danger. For example, 4.4% of 12th graders in the United States abused Adderall as a study drug in 2020. How safe is that? We’ll start out by looking at the overarching drug class, amphetamines.

So, what are amphetamines?

Amphetamines are a drug class containing active ingredients known as amphetamine salts. These are normally levoamphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Both have slightly different effects and different interactions. However, the full drug class acts as an “upper” or “stimulant” by stimulating the central nervous system, norepinephrine, and dopamine neurotransmitters.

As a result, users experience physical and mental highs, feel strong, feel powerful, and feel euphoric. They also can’t sleep and usually don’t want to. People taking recreational doses can increase their heart rate so much that they develop heart problems of go into cardiac arrest. And, when the drug wears off, they crash as they’ve overextended their body.

That overextension goes to the brain as well, where overextended dopamine production can result in reduced dopamine production. The brain adapts to high levels of the hormone/neurotransmitter in the brain and reacts less to it. The result can be a phenomenon known as emotional blunting, where people coming down from an amphetamine high struggle to feel. So, after abusing amphetamines, people are tired, exhausted, listless, and unlikely to respond as well to things they normally like. While that really only occurs in the case of high doses (taken to get high), it can negatively affect students trying to use it as a study drug as well.

What About Adderall and Methamphetamine?

Adderall and methamphetamine are both amphetamines. And, most amphetamines are remarkably similar. In fact, they’re all made up of just two amphetamine salts. But, what does that mean for taking them?

What is Adderall?

Adderall, also sold as Mydayis, is an amphetamine drug comprised of 75% dextroamphetamine and 25% levoamphetamine salts. It’s made in a lab and normally synthesized in a clean environment before being packaged in doses of 5-30mg. In most cases, pills also contain inactive ingredients such as salts, cellulose, etc., to fill out the pill.

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What is Methamphetamine?

photo of a man thinking about the treatment for MethamphetamineMethamphetamine is a mix of 50% dextroamphetamine and 50% levoamphetamine salts, although exact quantities can vary depending on production and packaging. The drug, which is often distilled from products such as nasal congestants (Vicks, Robitussin, etc.), and often in a home environment. Meth is packaged at home or in a home lab, not divided into doses, and distributed as-is, without the sterility of a lab. As it’s illegal it’s also much more likely to be abused for recreational purposes – meaning that the user will take significantly higher doses, greatly increasing both the chance of neurotoxicity and of overdose.

So, the largest differences are:

  • Dosage
  • Sanitation
  • Dextroamphetamine content (Adderall has more)
  • Pollutants (e.g., methamphetamine might be made with chemicals intended for cleaning or chemical production)

So, while methamphetamine and Adderall are very similar, they are different in terms of risk. For example, methamphetamine is more likely to result in toxicity because it’s less likely to be pure. It’s also more likely to result in overdose, because it doesn’t come in pre-measured doses, and it is not delivered in federally regulated purity. Adderall doses are precise with high chemical purity. Every single Adderall pill on the market contains 25% Dextroamphetamine Saccharate, 25% Amphetamine Aspartate Monohydrate, 25% Dextroamphetamine Sulfate, and 25% Amphetamine Sulfate with harmless fillers to make the pill larger.

Methamphetamine does not have that certainty and never will.

Finally, methamphetamine tends to contain more of the euphoria-inducing amphetamine salts, meaning that it’s easier to get high off the street version of the drug. That doesn’t matter too much for someone who’s using Adderall as a study drug. But it does mean that someone with a methamphetamine addiction is much more likely to take a dangerously high dose of Adderall to get high.

Is Adderall Safe to Take?

photo of a man getting Methamphetamine prescription from the doctorIf you have a prescription for Adderall, it is safe to take the drug according to the prescription. If you start to have problems, you can always discuss them with your doctor to get the support you need to ensure it stays safe.

If you don’t have a prescription, Adderall is never safe to take. Amphetamines are highly addictive. Without the guidance of a medical professional to assess how you’re using the drug; you could easily become addicted. In fact, amphetamines are one of the most abused drugs in the world, because they are easy to start and hard to put down. Heavy users often take more of the drug, not to have fun, but just to continue functioning. That’s because amphetamines cause a crash when you quit, and most of us quite simply cannot afford the downtime.

In addition, while Adderall doesn’t cause the sort of chemical toxicity from pollutants, it is an amphetamine and any amphetamine can cause chemical toxicity if used in large quantities. So, someone abusing large quantities of Adderall might experience side-effects like muscle degeneration, constant cold and flu, tremors, sweating, and mood swings. If they’re addicted, you’ll also see signs like weight loss, shifts between being “high energy” and “down”, and lack of interest in hobbies, friends, and people.

Eventually, all amphetamines are very similar in that they can be abused, they can be dangerous, and they easily cause addiction. If you or a loved one is using either outside of a prescription, it is a cause for concern. It’s also a very real reason to seek out help, because any point where you are using drugs outside of a prescription, you are deliberately putting yourself and your health in danger for whatever you’re trying to get out of them. That’s always a sign for concern, and likely a reason to seek therapy – even if you don’t have a problem with drug seeking or dependence.

If you have any questions about helping your loved one get into drug rehabalcohol rehab, or mental health treatment, please contact us today. We are here to help and our experienced addiction advisors are standing by to answer any questions.