Many stimulants are available to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall and meth (methamphetamine) are two of the many FDA-approved medications to treat this condition. Knowing the difference between these medications is important if you or a loved one have been prescribed one to treat your medical condition. 

Is Adderall Meth?

Although they are both stimulants, Adderall and methamphetamine are two different drugs. Both drugs can be used for legitimate medical reasons to treat ADHD and are Schedule II controlled substances. However, they are chemical cousins and do not contain the same active ingredients. While meth is methylphenidate, Adderall contains dextroamphetamine and amphetamine salts.

What Is Adderall?

Adderall is a stimulant and Schedule II controlled substance prescribed to treat ADHD. The medication contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts, specifically:

  • dextroamphetamine saccharate
  • amphetamine aspartate
  • dextroamphetamine sulfate
  • amphetamine sulfate

When taken as prescribed, Adderall is a safe and effective drug for ADHD. Nonetheless, it can have side effects, including:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Mood changes like irritability
  • Wide pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Appetite loss
  • Psychosis, in rare cases

What Is Meth?

Like Adderall, methamphetamine is a Schedule II controlled substance that can be prescribed to treat ADHD. Meth is also commonly made in illegal labs and used illicitly to get high because it is comparatively easier to make than other stimulants. When taken as prescribed, meth has similar side effects to Adderall. However, when abused, side effects can include:

  • Being extremely awake
  • A “rush” sensation after taking the drug
  • Rapid breathing
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Fever

Amphetamines vs. Methamphetamines

Amphetamines and methamphetamines are similar and related drugs prescribed for conditions like ADHD. They are chemical cousins that differ mainly from adding a “methyl” group in methamphetamines that gives this particular drug class its name. A methyl group consists of a single carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms. 

Comparing Meth and Adderall

Although they are different drugs, meth and Adderall are similar in many ways. Despite slight chemical structure differences, meth and Adderall have similar uses, side effects and withdrawal symptoms. 

Chemical Structure

Meth and Adderall are chemically similar drugs with similar effects. While meth is made of a single drug, methylphenidate, consisting of10 carbon atoms, 15 hydrogen atoms and a nitrogen atom, it’s important to remember that Adderall consists of multiple different drugs.

The amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts that make up Adderall are similar in many ways and vary slightly from meth. These components of Adderall have nine carbons, 13 hydrogens and a nitrogen atom.

Drug Class

Meth and Adderall belong to the same drug class, stimulants. They are chemically closely related and work similarly to increase dopamine in the brain.

Uses

When used for legitimate medical reasons, both Adderall and meth are mainly used to treat ADHD. However, they can also both be abused for recreational use. In addition, meth is easier to chemically produce on an illicit basis, so it’s often more available for illegal purposes.

Short-Term Side Effects

When used as directed, Adderall and meth have similar short-term side effects. These can include:

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Wide pupils
  • Dry mouth
  • Appetite loss
  • Psychosis, in rare cases

However, when abused, short-term effects can be more pronounced and may include:

  • Extreme wakefulness
  • Euphoria or rush
  • Fast breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High body temperature

Long-Term Side Effects

When used as directed for medical conditions like ADHD, there are minimal long-term side effects of meth or Adderall. However, when abused or taken illicitly, long-term effects of the drugs can include:

  • Problems feeling pleasure from anything other than stimulant abuse
  • Psychotic symptoms and mood disturbances
  • Cognitive and verbal problems
  • Severe dental problems

Withdrawal

Adderall and meth have similar withdrawal symptoms and timelines. Symptoms can start within 24 hours after the final dose and may last up to five days. Adderall and meth withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Agitation
  • Irritability 
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Disordered thinking
  • Hallucinations
  • Increased sleep
  • Increased appetite
  • Muscle aches

Some people can have an additional, longer-term withdrawal phase following the first withdrawal phase. This protracted withdrawal may last up to two months, and symptoms may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Mood changes 
  • Anxiety
  • Erratic sleep habits
  • Adderall or meth cravings

Potential for Abuse and Addiction

Both Adderall and meth are Schedule II controlled substances, meaning  they have a legitimate medical use, generally as ADHD treatments, but carry a similarly high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence.

Signs of Misuse or Addiction

A person struggling with Adderall or meth can show similar signs of addiction to either substance. These can include:

  1. Taking more meth or Adderall than intended or for longer than intended
  2. Unsuccessful efforts to cut back or quit meth or Adderall
  3. Spending a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from meth or Adderall
  4. Cravings for meth or Adderall
  5. Problems fulfilling obligations at work, school or home due to meth or Adderall 
  6. Social or interpersonal problems caused by using meth or Adderall
  7. Reducing or stopping other activities because of meth or Adderall
  8. Using meth or Adderall even when it is physically dangerous to do so
  9. Continuing meth or Adderall despite knowing that doing so is causing you problems
  10. Needing higher doses of meth or Adderall to achieve the same effects as before
  11. Having withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking meth or Adderall

Treatment for Addiction

Overcoming an addiction to Adderall or meth can be difficult. Both drugs work similarly on the brain and have similar addictive potential and withdrawal symptoms. Treating a meth addiction is similar to treating an Adderall addiction, but may differ in severity. The first step in addiction recovery is getting help. Our intake experts at The Recovery Village Columbus can help put you on the path to recovery from stimulant abuse. Don’t wait: contact us today.

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Editor – Theresa Valenzky
Theresa Valenzky graduated from the University of Akron with a Bachelor of Arts in News/Mass Media Communication and a certificate in psychology. She is passionate about providing genuine information to encourage and guide healing in all aspects of life. Read more
Jessica-Pyhtila
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.