While they share similarities, Adderall and meth are different substances.
- Adderall is a prescription medication that is commonly used to treat ADHD.
- Methamphetamine is produced illegally as crystal meth, and is snorted, smoked or injected.
According to a study in Addiction Health Journal, Meth and Adderall have a similar molecular structure, but meth has an additional “methyl group” that makes it easier to enter the brain.
Just because it is in the same category as meth does not mean that Adderall is unsafe. Adderall is safe when taken at the prescribed dose. You can still become dependent, but it is nowhere near as addictive as crystal meth.
Adderall vs Meth: Differences | Legality | Potency | Dangers of Meth
What is the difference between Adderall and meth?
While they are similar chemicals, Adderall and meth are not the same thing.
- Adderall is the brand name for prescription amphetamine salts. It is frequently prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Methamphetamine is illegally manufactured and used as a recreational drug called crystal meth. Prescription forms exist, but they are only used in extremely rare cases.
- Adderall is highly regulated and prescribed at low doses.
- The ingredients and purity of meth vary because it is illegally produced. People who use meth can cause significant and permanent damage to their brain and other organs if they do not know the strength of the product.
Medications like Adderall increase dopamine release and slow reuptake, so people with ADHD can focus better and control their impulses — improving classroom behavior, focus, and task completion.
Why do people say that Adderall is meth?
Despite their similarities, Adderall (amphetamine salts) and methamphetamine are not the same chemicals.
- Part of the misconception comes from the name. Adderall is the brand name for amphetamine salts, which sounds like methamphetamine.
- They have a similar molecular structure, but meth has an additional “methyl group” that makes it easier to cross the blood-brain barrier.
- People who abuse Adderall or take it recreationally feel stimulant effects, like that of methamphetamine.
Both meth and Adderall increase dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter, and it is a critical part of the brain’s rewards system.
In ADHD, either the brain isn’t producing enough dopamine, or it’s absorbing it before the dopamine can do its job. Adderall increases dopamine production so the person can focus better, control their impulses, and stay on task.
What is the difference between Adderall and meth symptoms?
Since both are amphetamines, Adderall and meth have similar symptoms and side effects, especially when used at higher-than-recommended doses by people who don’t have ADHD.
Methamphetamine causes similar side effects to Adderall but even more intense. Meth side effects include all of the above, plus:
- Severe dental problems (meth mouth)
- Intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
- Memory loss & confusion
- Permanent damage to heart tissue
(See also Where do kids hid drugs article).
Why is meth illegal, but not Adderall?
It’s more addictive.
Both drugs can be addictive, but crystal meth is much more dangerous than Adderall. Because it is usually smoked, snorted or injected, meth produces a very intense high and is more likely to cause meth addiction and chronic relapse — along with other harmful side effects. (See faces of meth article).
It contains toxic chemicals.
Adderall is manufactured by pharmaceutical companies under high safety and quality standards. Meth, on the other hand, is cooked in illicit labs with toxic chemicals. The purity of the drug, as well the exact ingredients, is unknown and dangerous.
Meth labs are dangerous.
Meth is usually produced in clandestine labs, often within people’s homes. The process of making meth is extremely dangerous. Cooking meth involves hazardous chemicals that can be toxic if breathed in. Meth labs are also extremely flammable and notorious for causing explosions.
Is there such thing as legal meth?
Prescription methamphetamine, known as Desoxyn, is technically legal with a prescription to treat extreme cases of ADHD. Doctors almost never prescribe it because Adderall and other medications are safer and more effective.
The overwhelming majority of methamphetamine is crystal meth that comes from illegal meth labs.
Which is stronger: meth or Adderall?
Prescription amphetamine and prescription methamphetamine produce similar reactions when taken orally in equal doses.
However, the meth that is available on the street produces stronger reactions because of the way it is consumed, usually snorting, injecting or smoking.
Why is meth considered a more powerful drug?
It’s believed that the added methyl group of methamphetamine increases the drug’s ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier.
People who use meth usually smoke, snort or inject the drug. Because Adderall is a prescription drug, it more likely taken by mouth.
Why is meth neurotoxic but Adderall is not?
Drugs that are neurotoxic interrupt the central nervous system – either by killing brain cells or by disrupting communications between regions of the brain.
- Methamphetamine produces a stronger dopamine reaction and wears off rapidly, which means people have to increase the amount they are using to get the same effect. The euphoria that meth produces is extremely addictive.
- Meth passes through the blood-brain barrier easily, so the levels can quickly build up in the brain. This damages dopamine and other neurotransmitter receptors, causing permanent damage to the brain and other organs.
- Crystal meth is often made using toxic substances like anhydrous ammonia, which is a poisonous chemical fertilizer. Dealers will also add cutting agents to their meth that can be toxic.
At prescribed dosages, Adderall isn’t neurotoxic. However, it can become neurotoxic if it is abused as a recreational drug at high doses.
Adderall is an ADHD drug prescribed in much smaller doses and often on time-release so it extends over a period of time. In fact, it is most effective for treating ADHD in small doses.
Why is meth worse than Adderall?
Meth is worse for you because:
- It’s made of harmful and dangerous household chemicals
- It is usually snorted, smoked or injected.
- It is more addictive
How do you stop using Adderall or meth?
Whether methamphetamine or Adderall, addiction is a serious problem treated by drug rehab centers. (See the drug addiction definition article).
Stimulant addiction escalates quickly. The best thing you can do is to get help before you do permeant damage to your mind or body.
In a safe, comfortable environment like JourneyPure’s Tennessee inpatient drug rehab or drug abuse treatment centers in Kentucky, you discover why drugs took over and how to get your life back.
JourneyPure.com doctors follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, count records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and their own expertise with decades in the fields and their own personal recovery.
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National Drug Intelligence Center. (n.d.). Methamphetamine Laboratory Identification and Hazards Fast Facts. US Department of Justice. Retrieved June 23, 2021, from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs7/7341/7341p.pdf
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