Adderall - Chemically Similar to Meth but Doctors Argue it Has a Variety of Uses
Since it has been linked to substance abuse, methamphetamine has constantly fallen victim to bad press. Popularly known as meth, this substance belongs to a class of substituted amphetamines, and is regarded as a central nervous system stimulant.
Much of its media portrayal has been under negative light. Television shows, movies, and anti-drug campaigns often depict meth heads as those engaging in illicit transactions or committing serious felonies. Often times, teenagers are portrayed to have tried it for the first time and were immediately hooked. They end up craving for more so they go on a stealing spree. These campaigns also depict extreme cases of tooth decay as its side effect, in the hopes of getting people to stop their methamphetamine intake.
But did this negative portrayal really cause a prevention – or at least a decrease – in the use of meth? Unfortunately, it has not and evidence suggests meth use is growing rapidly but not in the way you may think.
Perhaps the worst part about all these campaigns is that it does not disclose real facts regarding the substance. Although claiming to be educational, it is not really as informative as it claims. As a result, the general public then becomes ignorant of its positive effects. In fact, it produces the same effect as a well-known medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD which is legalized and able to be prescribed by doctors.
Comparing Adderall and Methamphetamine
As we all know, Adderall is a dextroamphetamine which is produced by combining amphetamine and d-amphetamine mixed salts. It is often used as a cognitive enhancer, since studies reveal that it is able to improve one’s brain development and nerve growth. And like methamphetamine, this combination drug is also a central nervous system stimulant.
Additionally, it is important to note that both methamphetamine and dextroamphetamine are drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat certain diseases. Aside from ADHD, it's used to treat obesity, while Adderall may also be prescribed for narcolepsy.
So while neuroscience and chemistry studies have shown that meth and Adderall are very similar, that doesn't explain why one has such negative connotation and one doesn't.
Nonetheless, this is not written to discourage Adderall from being prescribed to patients. Instead, this aims to dispel the negative bias against methamphetamine, Meth is very dangerous and disruptive to the body. When abused, it's extremely toxic. However, the legality of adderall shows that meth or chemicals like it, have uses.
Past research from the late 1990s made people believe that the addition of the methyl group is the reason why methamphetamine enters the brain at a faster pace compared to d-amphetamine. Research experts then concluded that this is the cause of its addictive effects.
However, if one is to look at the chemical structures of methamphetamine and contrast it with d-amphetamine, there is barely any difference. In fact, they are so identical that explaining their apparently different effects seem impossible to do. Thus, a more recent study about these two substances has been conducted.
In this new study, a group of 13 men who are regular methamphetamine users were invited. Each of them was made to take methamphetamine, d-amphetamine, or placebo on separate days without knowing which one they were taking. This process was repeated over several days, with each subject taking each substance in varying dosages.
The results were surprising. In contrast to what the media has been constantly portraying, methamphetamine and d-amphetamine have similar results. Both substances increased the subjects’ ability to focus and concentrate. When taken at the right dosages, subjects claim feeling less exhausted, coupled with an overall energized feeling. Additionally, both methamphetamine and d-amphetamine results in increased blood pressure and faster heart rates.
Research subjects were also made to choose between the substances or varying amounts of money. During this exercise, they chose to take d-amphetamine or methamphetamine on similar number of occasions. In fact, they could hardly distinguish the difference between these two subjects. This is a significant discovery, knowing that all of the respondents were regular methamphetamine users.
From this research, experts hypothesize that although the methyl group makes methamphetamine more lipid-soluble than others, human consumers do not seem to notice the difference. This only backs up the theory that methamphetamine and d-amphetamine are two very similar drugs.
Another important aspect to discuss is how these drugs are administered into the body. Smoking methamphetamine is the drug’s most common intake method, while d-amphetamine pills are often swallowed. The former produces stronger effects compared to the latter, which is how people get the idea that meth is stronger and more addictive than Adderall.
However, further research reveals that if people would also smoke d-amphetamine, it would produce results similar to smoking meth. The same study also disclosed a different effect if both drugs were inhaled intranasally.
Thus, the drug itself has little to do with how strong its effects are. Experts are convinced that it has more to do with how the drug is being taken into the body.
The negative bias created against methamphetamine has also affected how neuroscientists see the drug. For years, even these experts believed that meth had addictive effects compared to other substances in the substituted amphetamine class. They limited its use to treating severe cases only, not realizing its full potential.
Luckily, modern science has paved the way for these discoveries. Neuroscientists are no longer in the dark regarding this drug. It is also helpful that the research focused on comparing methamphetamine with Adderall – a highly acclaimed and accepted drug which is used to treat cognitive disorders. The comparison has made it a lot easier to accept and embrace the truth.
Nonetheless, people are still in the dark about this new concept. They are still imprisoned by the messages they constantly receive, so it may be harder to convince them to change their minds about methamphetamine and its potentially positive uses.
As a treatment center, we've seen Adderall play a positive role in the lives of our patients and it's not something we can rule out and say since it's chemically similar to meth, it's a drug that must be avoided.
There is a constant need to stay abreast with new discoveries. If we allow ourselves to stand by outdated information, we may not be utilizing science at its full potential and in a manner most beneficial to us. We must not cease to be passionate about learning – and always remember to keep an open mind all throughout. Neuroscientists may have taken decades to discover the similarity between Adderall and methamphetamine, but this doesn’t mean that you should take the same time in accepting this truth, too.