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Meth vs Adderall: What’s the Difference?

by | Last updated Mar 12, 2021 at 12:07PM | Published on Mar 12, 2021 | Drug Addiction

meth vs adderall

At first, most people won’t compare meth vs Adderall. One is known for its street use, while the other is a popular ADHD medication, so how can they even compare? Well, in reality, Adderall and meth are both similar and different from each other. But, when it comes to substance misuse and abuse, understanding their differences is critical.

What’s Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription stimulant medication under the category of stimulants. It operates similarly to other addictive drugs like meth. Adderall increases dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the central nervous system.

Doctors prescribe Adderall to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. However, some people fake symptoms to get prescription drugs. What’s even crazier is that Adderall is a drug prescribed to children and adults, despite the risk of addiction.

However, Adderall has a high potential for misuse. Adderall addiction is on the rise among young adults. Over 116,000 people in rehab in 2012 were struggling with an addiction to amphetamines like Adderall. Another review of studies found that approximately 17 percent of college students reported misusing stimulants, including Adderall.

The effects of Adderall are so strong and effective that people without ADHD use it to increase productivity on a stressful day at work or to power through studying sessions during college. However, people take these pills even when they’re not experiencing symptoms. Some people even use it instead of other daily stimulants, like coffee. 

What’s Meth?

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant drug that works with the central nervous system. Sometimes known as meth, blue, crystal, and ice, meth looks like a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that dissolves in water and alcohol. 

Unlike other addictive drugs, meth has been around since the early 1920s. Initially, meth was used to treat depression, alcoholism, ADHD, and narcolepsy. With meth becoming increasingly available, more and more people started misusing the drug and developing substance use disorder.

Beyond prescription methamphetamines, there are many illicit forms of meth available on the streets. While they might be slightly different in chemical structure, overall, they have the same qualities. The different types of meth are easily distinguishable by their appearance. Common street names of meth and descriptions of the meth drug include:

  • Powder – a white powder, also known as “speed,” which is one of the least potent forms of meth because it’s mixed with other substances. Sometimes powder is pressed into pills.
  • Base – an oily substance that can be snorted, swallowed, or injected with higher potency and purity than powder. Also known as “wax,” “pure,” or “paste.”
  • Crystal – also known as “ice,” or “crystal meth,” it’s a crystalline substance of white appearance. Additionally, crystal meth is the most potent form of methamphetamine drug, and generally, users inject or smoke the substance.

Meth vs Adderall — Can You Even Compare Them?

Despite their differences, more researchers are looking at the battle between meth vs Adderall. The more we know about these substances, the more similarities we’re finding. When considering the similarities, it’s easier to see how Adderall can be extremely dangerous, yet it flies under the radar when we talk about drug abuse.

Chemical Makeup

Interestingly, at a chemical level, meth and Adderall are very similar. However, methamphetamines do have something called methyl, which allows the drug to cross the blood-brain barrier more quickly. It is this particular chemical that leads to meth’s powerful effects. Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and the other active ingredients found in both substances pose a high potential for abuse.

Side Effects

Most people find it surprising that the side effects of Adderall and meth are very similar. Both substances can cause irritability, both lead to cardiovascular problems, memory loss, and weight loss. With Adderall abuse, people may also experience depression, paranoia, and hostility. 

However, when an average person takes Adderall without medical instructions, the effects can be physically and mentally detrimental. Some common side effects of Adderall include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Sleeping problems
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Hives
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nervousness and numbness
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Lack of impulse control 


Meth abuse, including crystal meth and prescription meth, can be devastating. Approximately 1.9 million people aged 12 and older reported using meth in the past year, according to 2018 statistics. Perhaps one of the most devastating side effects of long-term meth addiction is the changes it causes to the brain. Those with prolonged meth abuse have a higher risk of experiencing neuronal death, leading to permanent damage because neurons’ ability to regenerate becomes limited.

Adderall abuse is relatively common, particularly among college students and young adults. About 4% of teens and young adults misuse their prescription medication every year.

Combining Adderall with other drugs and substances is so common that at many college areas, you’ll easily find “Adderall cocktails” at most parties. People combine Adderall to enhance their effects. Some even try to take relaxing drugs or substances when Adderall is preventing them from sleeping. The most common drugs people combine with Adderall are cocaine, alcohol, and marijuana. 

Getting Help

After looking at the similarities between meth vs Adderall, it’s clear that one addiction isn’t necessarily “safer” than the other. Speaking with an addiction treatment specialist as soon as possible is the best way to start seeking help for addiction. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our drug addiction recovery programs include:

  • Medical Detox: In this clinically supervised detox process at treatment centers, we ensure the patient’s safety and make the withdrawal phase as comfortable as possible by minimizing withdrawal symptoms and using medication-assisted treatment services to guarantee a complete detoxification process. 
  • Dual Diagnosis Treatment: Since many long-term addicts often struggle with mental health disorders, a dual diagnosis program can get them the help needed to treat both conditions simultaneously. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Most of the time, these sorts of addictions develop due to compulsive behaviors that must be treated at the source, with CBT being one of the most popular evidence-based treatments to treat addiction. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs: When patients are looking to seek addiction treatment while maintaining daily obligations like work, school, or caregiving, IOPs are a more flexible option that still gives people access to the help they need. 
  • Long-term Recovery Programs: With long-term recovery assistance, patients can have the ongoing support they need to maintain long-lasting sobriety. Recovery programs are crucial to relapse prevention. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, seek help immediately. Contact Lighthouse Recovery Institute today and speak with our addiction specialists to learn more about our comprehensive and personalized addiction treatment programs.

NIDA. 2020, October 14. How is methamphetamine different from other stimulants, such as cocaine?. Retrieved from on 2021, March 12

NIDA. 2020, September 8. What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse?. Retrieved from on 2021, March 12

Sussman, S., Pentz, M. A., Spruijt-Metz, D., & Miller, T. (2006). Misuse of “study drugs:” prevalence, consequences, and implications for policy. Substance abuse treatment, prevention, and policy, 1, 15.

NIDA. 2018, June 6. Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts. Retrieved from on 2021, March 12

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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