Health And Wellness

Taking Adderall Is Basically The Same As Using Meth, Says Study

Photo: Josep Suria / Shutterstock
woman taking pill

In a 2016 piece on Vice, neuroscientist, and writer Carl L. Hart explained how meth is almost identical to Adderall

This is shocking to say the least, especially since so-called educational campaigns regarding methamphetamine addiction show young people using the drug for the first time, and then doing out-of-character acts such as prostitution, stealing from their parents, or robbing strangers just so they can buy the drug.

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There are also the meth-mouth images that we're all familiar with: toothless mouths or mouths with raging tooth decay, and how this is a direct result of methamphetamine use.

Hart writes, "Swayed by this messaging, the public remains almost entirely ignorant of the fact that methamphetamine produces nearly identical effects to those produced by the popular ADHD medication d-amphetamine (dextroamphetamine). You probably know it as Adderall: a combination of amphetamine and d-amphetamine mixed salts."

Hart isn't suggesting that everybody who has been prescribed Adderall should throw their medication down the toilet so they don't become meth addicts. He's saying that we as a society should perhaps look at methamphetamine more like we do d-amphetamine, and be less judgmental of people who use meth and treat them with more compassion than contempt. 

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Dr. Hart and his colleagues conducted a study that helps to back up his statements regarding methamphetamine and d-amphetamine.

The study stated: "Anecdotally, methamphetamine is considered to have a greater abuse potential compared to d-amphetamine, but there are no studies directly comparing self-administration of these drugs. This study characterized and compared self-administration as well as the mood, performance, and physiological effects of intranasal methamphetamine and d-amphetamine."

For the study, the researchers had 13 men who used methamphetamine on a regular basis and gave each one either a dose of methamphetamine, d-amphetamine or of a placebo on separate days under double-blind conditions. This was repeated multiple times over several days with multiple doses of each drug.

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The scientists found that like d-amphetamine, methamphetamine increased the participant's energy levels and enhanced their ability to focus and concentrate. It also reduced feelings of tiredness and fuzzy thinking brought on by fatigue and sleep deprivation.

Both drugs affected blood pressure and the heartbeat rate. 

When the participants were asked to choose between either the drugs or various amounts of money, the subjects chose to take d-amphetamine equally as often as they chose to take methamphetamine. These habitual methamphetamine users couldn't tell the difference between the two.

Dr. Hart says, "It is true that the effects of smoking methamphetamine are more intense than those of swallowing a pill containing d-amphetamine. But that increased intensity is due to the route of administration, not the drug itself. Smoking d-amphetamine produces nearly identical intense effects as smoking methamphetamine. The same would be true if the drugs were snorted."

Now that we see the similarities between meth and Adderall, perhaps we won't be as quick to condemn meth addicts and try to be more empathetic with them, the way we would with someone taking Adderall.

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Christine Schoenwald is a writer and performer. She's had articles in The Los Angeles Times, Salon, Bustle, Medium, and Woman's Day. Visit her website.