For most people in society, the word “methamphetamine” conjures images of illegal cooking labs in the desert, psychosis-fueled violence, and fear-based anti-drug ads featuring the “faces of meth.” Adderall use, by contrast, is most often associated with prescription medication for people who suffer from ADD or ADHD (attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.) Most illicit use of Adderall and other prescription amphetamines is commonly associated with student abuse of these medications in high school and college in order to perform at a higher level academically. However different they may seem, these two drugs- one illicit, one prescription- have some surprising similarities.
Effects of Adderall Use vs. Effects of Methamphetamine Use
Adderall is the brand name for a prescription amphetamine. The primary active ingredients in Adderall are dextroamphetamine salts and amphetamine salts, two drugs commonly found in prescription stimulant drugs, including Dexedrine and Ritalin. These medications are prescribed to treat symptoms of ADD and ADHD in children and adults. Because of their stimulant effect, they do have a potential for abuse and are commonly taken illegally by young students or people in the “party” scene due to their effect on concentration and energy and euphoric properties. In addition to effectively treating ADD and ADHD, Adderall use can have the following effects:
Increased levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which boosts concentration, memory, focus, and energy in users (this is why these drugs effectively treat conditions marked by an attention deficit)
- Appetite suppression, which can lead to weight loss
- Irritability and mood swings
- Trouble sleeping, insomnia
- Increased heart rate
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Increased blood pressure
- Stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea
- Chest pain and trouble breathing
- Paranoia and drug-induced psychosis with excessive abuse
While Adderall and other stimulants are approved for use in treating several conditions, these drugs can have potentially harmful effects on users and can cause addiction. Methamphetamines are almost always associated with addiction, but meth is, surprisingly, very chemically similar to Adderall and other prescription stimulants. Methamphetamines are, in fact, a type of amphetamine, and the only difference between the active ingredient in Adderall and the active ingredient in meth is a single methyl structure. In layman’s terms, what this means is that the two drugs are very chemically similar. Although the difference in molecule structure does separate the two chemicals and cause different effects, the truth is that Adderall use can often mimic methamphetamine use.
Slight Differences in Structure, Similarities in Effect
Methamphetamines are chemically different from the amphetamines used in Adderall, but both substances are stimulants in the amphetamine category. This means that the effects of meth use- such as euphoria and alertness- are similar to those of Adderall use. Methamphetamine use can also cause:
- Increased energy and alertness
- Increased activity
- Decreased appetite and unhealthy weight loss as a result
- Euphoria, commonly described as a “rush”
- Irregular or increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure and body temperature
- Hallucinations and delusions, psychosis
- Irritability and agitation; aggression
- Cardiovascular damage
- Heart attack or stroke
- Nausea and gastrointestinal issues
- Respiratory damage
- Depression and anxiety
The effects of Adderall and meth are so similar because these chemicals essentially impact the brain in the same way, by producing a rush of neurotransmitters that stimulate the body and mind. Dr. Carl Hart, a professor at Columbia University and researcher focused on the impacts of drugs on humans, recently made waves by claiming that methamphetamines and Adderall are essentially the same. He claims that the two drugs, although molecularly different, are similar in effect and potential for abuse, and are distinguished from one another primarily due to their level of social acceptability. He based his claim on a study he conducted that showed that the effect of Adderall use (through the administration of dextroamphetamine to clinical subjects) is essentially identical to the effect of methamphetamine use on subjects. With both drugs, extended use can damage individuals physically and mentally, and cause them to develop a substance dependence.
Treating Unhealthy Adderall Use
For users of Adderall, what this means is that the potential for negative consequences from Adderall abuse mirrors the consequences of methamphetamine use. While there is a medical reason for some cases of Adderall use and none recorded for methamphetamine use, both chemicals can cause dependence, increases in tolerance, and full-blown addiction. Stimulant addiction is known to create psychosis, mood disorders, and social, financial, and physical problems for users. At Wellness Retreat Recovery, we specialize in the treatment of stimulant addiction. Clients who suffer from dependence on these substances- ranging from prescription drugs like Adderall to illegal substances like methamphetamine- are treated with a focus on the individual needs of the client. We also employ specific therapeutic methods that are effective in combating stimulant addiction in order to give our clients the best possible chance at lifelong recovery. If you need treatment for stimulant addiction, call us today at 888-821-0238.