Drug and Alcohol

Meth vs Adderall: Is There a Difference Between These Two Stimulants?

Meth vs Adderall: Although they're both stimulants, they're also very different from each other. Our blog explores meth and Adderall.

Meth vs. Adderall: Similarities and Differences

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

August 16, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

Two names stand out in the realm of stimulants: Methamphetamine and Adderall.

One is synonymous with illicit drug culture and harrowing tales, while the other has widespread medical usage. But these substances are not as different as they seem. In fact, they share more similarities than meet the eye.

In this article, we dive deep into the differences between methamphetamine and Adderall, unearthing the surprising parallels and stark contrasts that intertwine these two powerful compounds.

What's the Difference Between Meth and Adderall?

When it comes to prescription medications, there is often confusion between meth and Adderall. Both of these drugs are used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in individuals of all ages, but they do have some major differences.

Methamphetamines, or “meth” for short, is a stimulant drug that is often prescribed to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity. It works in the central nervous system to improve focus and reduce impulsivity. This medication can be taken as an extended-release tablet or injected directly into the body.

Pharmaceutical use of methamphetamine is very rare, however, due to its potency and potential for addiction.

Adderall, on the other hand, is an amphetamine-based medication that is used to treat ADHD. It works in the central nervous system to improve focus and reduce hyperactivity. Adderall is most commonly prescribed as an immediate-release tablet, but it can also be taken as a controlled-release version or an extended-release capsule.

Adderall is often abused as a study drug for the edge it allegedly gives on tests and during crime sessions. However, this is false: no study has ever shown Adderall or other ADHD drugs help test results.

When it comes to side effects, methamphetamine has been known to cause dependence and addiction in some users, as well as cognitive impairment. On the other hand, Adderall has been known to cause headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, and anxiety.

One Important Difference Between Meth and Adderall

The meth people abuse is very different from pharmaceutical methamphetamine. Street meth is made in clandestine labs from a highly toxic and dangerous stew of chemicals. Meth is the furthest thing from a laboratory-produced drug there is. Plus, meth causes a wide variety of harmful side effects.

However, that's not to say Adderall is safer when abused. Adderall is capable of causing serious damage to people and is highly addictive. Plus, there's the ever-present risk of counterfeit pills. Buying pills from street dealers is dangerous for one specific reason: you have no idea if you're really buying the drug you think you are. That tab of Adderall might be a sugar pill, it might be meth, or it might be fentanyl.

Meth vs Adderall: What Is Meth?

Commonly known as meth, Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant. It belongs to the amphetamine class of drugs and is chemically similar to amphetamine. Methamphetamine can exist in various forms, including a white crystalline powder or clear crystals, and it can be ingested orally, inhaled, smoked, or injected.

It primarily affects the release and reuptake of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, leading to increased alertness and euphoria.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

Would you like more information about meth and Adderall? Reach out today.

Meth vs Adderall: What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription medication composed of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is a central nervous system stimulant that affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to impulse control and hyperactivity. Adderall is commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. It comes in tablet form and is typically taken orally.

Adderall increases the availability of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, helping to improve focus, attention, and impulse control.

Methamphetamine was first synthesized in the early 20th century, and its stimulant properties were later recognized. It gained popularity during World War II when both Allied and Axis forces used it to improve alertness and combat fatigue.

In the following decades, methamphetamine became associated with abuse and addiction due to its euphoric effects. Most meth abused today is made in clandestine labs from a toxic stew of chemicals. It’s then smuggled into the country.

Today, meth is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States due to its high potential for abuse and limited medical usage. Possession, manufacturing, or distribution of methamphetamine is illegal in most countries.

Adderall, on the other hand, has a more recent history and was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996 for the treatment of ADHD. Its formulation combines different amphetamine salts to provide a controlled release and prolonged effect. Adderall's medical usage expanded as it proved effective in managing ADHD symptoms.

However, it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance due to its stimulant properties and potential for abuse. As a prescription medication, its possession and use without a valid prescription are illegal in most jurisdictions.

Meth vs Adderall: Understanding Methamphetamine and Adderall

Because they’re both stimulants (and popular drugs of abuse), it can be easy to confuse meth and Adderall.

However, they’re very different substances.

Meth vs Adderall: What’s in Meth?

Methamphetamine is a potent central nervous system stimulant in the amphetamine class of drugs. It is chemically known as N-methylamphetamine and is commonly referred to as meth or crystal meth. Methamphetamine exists as a white crystalline powder or clear crystals. Its chemical structure is similar to amphetamine but has an additional methyl group attached to the nitrogen atom, which enhances its potency.

The composition of methamphetamine includes a variety of chemicals used in its synthesis, which can vary depending on the production method. The primary ingredients typically involve precursor chemicals such as pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, or phenyl-2-propanone (P2P). These precursors undergo a series of chemical reactions, including reduction and purification processes, to produce methamphetamine.

Meth vs Adderall: What’s in Adderall?

Adderall is a pharmaceutical medication composed of a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts. It is classified as a central nervous system stimulant. It is primarily prescribed for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

The composition of Adderall includes various amphetamine salts, with the two main components being dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate. These salts are carefully formulated to provide immediate and extended-release effects, allowing for controlled delivery of the active compounds in the body.

It's worth noting that the precise formulations and ratios of the amphetamine salts may differ between various Adderall products, such as Adderall XR (extended-release) and immediate-release tablets. These formulations cater to different dosing schedules and treatment needs for individuals with ADHD or narcolepsy.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

Do you have more questions about meth and Adderall? Reach out.

Meth vs Adderall: Medical Uses

Meth and Adderall both have legitimate medical uses, although meth’s potency tends to make it a drug of last resort.

Meth vs Adderall: Medical Uses of Meth

The stimulant properties of methamphetamine were initially explored for various medical purposes when it was first synthesized in the early 20th century. In the mid-20th century, it was found limited therapeutic use in treating conditions such as obesity, narcolepsy, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Methamphetamine's stimulating effects on the central nervous system were believed to aid in appetite suppression, increase wakefulness, and improve focus and attention.

However, due to the potential for abuse and addiction and the emergence of safer alternatives, the medical use of methamphetamine has significantly diminished over time. Its historical medical applications have mainly been replaced by other medications with similar therapeutic effects but reduced risk profiles.

At present, the legitimate medical use of methamphetamine is minimal. Desoxyn is the only pharmaceutical form of meth. In some rare cases, under strict medical supervision and in controlled circumstances, it may be prescribed for specific conditions such as treatment-resistant ADHD or narcolepsy when alternative medications have proven ineffective.

However, these instances are uncommon and only considered when all other options have been thoroughly explored.

Meth vs Adderall: Medical Uses of Adderall

Adderall was first approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996 as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Its introduction brought a new approach to managing the symptoms of ADHD, which include difficulties with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. By enhancing the availability of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, Adderall helps to improve focus, attention, and impulse control in individuals with ADHD.

Adderall remains a widely prescribed medication for the treatment of ADHD. It continues to play a significant role in managing the symptoms of this neurodevelopmental disorder in both children and adults. Depending on the severity and specific needs of the individual, healthcare professionals may prescribe Adderall to support attention and impulse control, allowing for improved academic or occupational performance.

Meth vs Adderall: Chemical Structure, Pharmacological Effects, and More

Chemical Structure and Similarities

Methamphetamine and Adderall belong to the amphetamine class of drugs and share similar chemical structures. They both consist of amphetamine as a base compound. Methamphetamine, also known as N-methylamphetamine, has an additional methyl group attached to the amphetamine molecule, which enhances its potency compared to regular amphetamine.

Adderall, on the other hand, is a combination of different amphetamine salts, including dextroamphetamine and amphetamine.

Meth vs Adderall: Pharmacological Effects on the Body

Methamphetamine acts as a potent central nervous system stimulant by increasing the release and inhibiting the reuptake of neurotransmitters, primarily dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. This results in heightened alertness, increased energy, euphoria, and well-being.

However, Methamphetamine's intense effects on these neurotransmitters can lead to pronounced side effects and potential long-term damage to the brain and body.

Like Methamphetamine, Adderall exerts its pharmacological effects by increasing the availability of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. By enhancing neurotransmitter activity, Adderall helps improve attention, focus, and impulse control. It can promote wakefulness, reduce fatigue, and increase alertness.

The effects of Adderall are typically milder compared to Methamphetamine due to the specific formulation and dosing.

Meth vs Adderall: Different Forms and Administration Methods

Methamphetamine can be found in various forms, including a white crystalline powder or clear crystals. It can be consumed orally, inhaled (smoked or vaporized), injected, or occasionally used rectally. The route of administration affects the speed and intensity of its effects. Smoking or injecting methamphetamine results in rapid onset and a more intense "rush" than oral ingestion.

Adderall is typically available in tablet form and is taken orally. It comes in immediate-release (IR) and extended-release (XR) formulations. The immediate-release version provides an immediate effect that lasts for several hours, while the extended-release formulation releases the medication gradually over an extended period, providing longer-lasting symptom control. The prescribing healthcare professional determines the specific dosage and administration schedule based on the patient's needs.

Meth vs Adderall: Meth’s Effects on the Brain and Body

Methamphetamine profoundly affects neurotransmitters and brain chemistry. Understanding its impact on the body is crucial to recognizing its short-term and long-term effects. 

Methamphetamine primarily acts on neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. It increases their release from presynaptic neurons and inhibits their reuptake, resulting in a surge of these neurotransmitters in the brain. This leads to heightened stimulation, euphoria, and increased alertness.

However, long-term methamphetamine use can disrupt the delicate balance of neurotransmitters, causing significant alterations in brain chemistry.

Meth’s Short-Term Effects on the Body

  • Euphoria and increased energy: Methamphetamine induces intense pleasure and a surge of energy, and heightened motivation.

  • Increased wakefulness and decreased appetite: It can suppress the need for sleep and reduce hunger, leading to weight loss.

  • Dilated pupils and increased body temperature: Methamphetamine stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, causing pupils to dilate and body temperature to rise.

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure: Methamphetamine raises heart rate and blood pressure, posing risks, especially for individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions.

  • Hyperactivity and decreased impulse control: Users may exhibit restlessness, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors.

Meth’s Long-Term Effects on the Body

  • Addiction and dependence: Methamphetamine has a high potential for addiction, leading to compulsive drug-seeking behavior and dependence.

  • Neurological damage: Prolonged methamphetamine use can cause structural and functional changes in the brain, resulting in cognitive impairments, memory loss, and altered decision-making abilities.

  • Psychiatric disorders: Methamphetamine abuse is associated with an increased risk of developing mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, and paranoia.

  • Cardiovascular complications: Chronic methamphetamine use can lead to cardiovascular problems, including heart rhythm disturbances, heart attacks, and stroke.

  • Dental and skin issues: Methamphetamine use often causes severe dental problems, commonly known as "meth mouth," due to dry mouth, poor oral hygiene, and teeth grinding. Meth can also cause meth sores, a condition caused in part by skin picking.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

Do you need advice about meth and Adderall? Reach out today.

Meth vs Adderall: Adderall’s Effects on the Mind and Body

Adderall has significant effects on neurotransmitters and brain function. It primarily acts on dopamine and norepinephrine systems, resulting in various short-term and long-term effects on the body. 

Meth vs Adderall: Adderall’s Effects on Neurotransmitters and Brain Function

Adderall works by increasing the availability of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These neurotransmitters are crucial in regulating attention, focus, and impulse control. By enhancing their levels, Adderall promotes increased alertness, improved concentration, and a sense of heightened energy.

Specifically, Adderall blocks the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine, preventing their rapid removal from the synaptic cleft. This leads to their prolonged presence, effectively amplifying their signaling within the brain. The precise mechanisms of how Adderall affects neurotransmission are complex and not fully understood.

Meth vs Adderall: Adderall’s Short-Term Effects on the Body:

  • Improved Focus and Attention: Adderall can enhance concentration and attention, helping individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stay focused on tasks and reduce impulsivity.

  • Increased Energy and Wakefulness: Adderall can induce a sense of heightened energy, wakefulness, and reduced fatigue.

  • Enhanced Cognitive Performance: It may improve cognitive abilities, including working memory, processing speed, and executive functions.

Meth vs Adderall: Long-Term Effects on the Body:

  • Tolerance: Prolonged use of Adderall can lead to tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the same therapeutic effects.

  • Dependency and Withdrawal: Adderall can potentially cause dependency, and abrupt discontinuation may result in withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and mood changes.

  • Side Effects: Common side effects may include increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, loss of appetite, insomnia, and dry mouth.

  • Growth and Development: In children and adolescents, long-term use of Adderall may affect growth and development. Regular monitoring is essential to ensure appropriate growth patterns.

Meth vs Adderall: Abuse and Addiction Potential

Methamphetamine and Adderall have a high potential for addiction due to their stimulating effects on the brain's reward system. However, Methamphetamine has a higher risk of addiction compared to Adderall. Methamphetamine's powerful euphoric effects can lead to the rapid development of tolerance, dependence, and compulsive drug-seeking behaviors.

Furthermore, the availability of illicit Methamphetamine increases the likelihood of recreational use and abuse, contributing to its addictive nature.

Methamphetamine is often used recreationally for its intense euphoric effects, leading to a high risk of misuse and abuse. The production, distribution, and possession of Methamphetamine are illegal in most countries due to its highly addictive nature and harmful consequences. Methamphetamine abuse can lead to severe health problems, social issues, financial difficulties, and legal consequences.

On the other hand, Adderall, when used as prescribed under medical supervision, carries a lower risk of addiction. It is commonly prescribed to individuals with ADHD to help improve focus and concentration. However, misuse or unauthorized use of Adderall, particularly by individuals without a medical need, can still lead to addiction.

While Adderall is a prescription medication, it is also subject to misuse and abuse, particularly among individuals seeking to enhance focus, cognition, or weight loss. Non-medical use of Adderall without a legitimate prescription is illegal. It can result in serious health risks and legal ramifications.

Meth vs Adderall: Treatment Options and Withdrawal Symptoms

For individuals struggling with methamphetamine addiction, a holistic treatment strategy that encompasses medical intervention, behavioral therapies, and support networks is usually adopted. Medical professionals may prescribe medications to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and diminish cravings.

Contingency-based interventions and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are examples of behavioral therapies that aid individuals in tackling addiction-related behaviors and cultivating effective coping mechanisms. Support groups and counseling can also provide essential support during the recovery process.

Similarly, individuals facing Adderall addiction may benefit from various treatment options. Medical professionals may gradually taper off Adderall use to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Behavioral therapies, such as CBT and motivational interviewing, can assist individuals in identifying triggers, developing relapse prevention strategies, and promoting healthier habits.

Support groups and counseling are crucial for emotional support and guidance throughout recovery.

CTA background

We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

Would you like more information about meth and Adderall? Reach out today.

Meth vs Adderall: Both Are Addictive. The Edge Treatment Center Will Help

It is essential to prioritize one's health and seek professional guidance when dealing with stimulant drugs like meth and Adderall. Addiction to both can seem hopeless, especially as addiction gradually takes over a person’s life.

Fortunately, it’s possible to take your life back from methamphetamine and Adderall. The Edge Treatment Center uses effective, evidence-based methods to help people free themselves from methamphetamine addiction and Adderall addiction. If you’d like to learn more about our successful stimulant addiction programs, reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today.

Newsletter banner

Sign up for Our Newsletter

Stay updated with the latest news, resources, and updates from The Edge Treatment Center, #1 Orange County Rehab.