Meth vs. Adderall: What’s the Difference?

crystal meth and adderall pills

Chemically speaking, methamphetamine and Adderall have many similarities, but they are not the same drug. While meth and Adderall do share many similar side effects and health risks, there are
[slider] several important differences between the two. In this blog, we’ll review the similarities and the differences, as well as the side effects, withdrawal symptoms, signs of addiction, and detox methods for each.

What Is Meth?

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, is an illegal stimulant drug that is highly addictive.1 It’s usually made into the form of a powder, pill, or crystal (also called crystal meth). On the streets, meth is commonly referred to by other names. Street names that are slang for meth include:

  • Speed
  • Ice
  • Crystal
  • Chalk
  • Glass
  • Tina

People may use meth in several different ways like snorting or eating the powder, smoking the crystals with a glass pipe, or diluting the powder with water and injecting it with a needle. Regardless of the method used, meth delivers an intensely strong and euphoric high in a short amount of time.

The effects of meth are caused by a strong surge of dopamine in the pleasure center of the brain.2 This extreme increase in dopamine, which makes the user feel good, reinforces the meth use and often leads to chronic abuse and addiction.

Although a meth high is powerful and quick, it also fades quickly and leaves users feeling edgy, jittery, angry, or afraid. As a result, many meth users take repeated doses of the drug, one after another, until they’ve gone days without sufficient food or sleep. This behavior is referred to as “binging and crashing.”

Meth overdose deaths doubled from 2010 to 20143 and meth seizures on the Mexican border tripled between the years of 2012 and 2018.4 According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 375,000 people ages 18 to 25 and 1.2 million people ages 26 or older used meth sometime in the past year.5

How Long Does Meth Stay in Your System?

According to the Mayo Clinic, meth may be detectable in your body for up to three days after the most recent use.6 This is just an estimate though, as there are many factors that can influence the rate at which it is cleared from your body, such as:

  • Your age and metabolism
  • Your overall health
  • How frequently you use meth
  • How much meth you use each time

The following chart contains approximate drug detection times for methamphetamine.

Drug Testing for Meth

Urine testDetectable for 1-4 days
Blood testDetectable up to 1-3 days
Saliva testDetectable for 1-4 days
Hair follicle testDetectable for up to 90 days

Source: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-long-does-methamphetamine-stay-in-your-system-80283

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Addiction

When a person is abusing meth, the signs are fairly noticeable. Here are some of the most common signs of meth addiction and abuse:

  • Drastic weight loss
  • Being overly talkative
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Severe tooth decay
  • Hyperactivity
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
  • Obsessing over meth use

Other behavioral signs that indicate a person may be addicted to meth include:

  • Losing interest in normal activities and hobbies
  • Developing a tolerance
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial problems
  • Isolating from friends and loved ones
  • Continuing to use meth despite the negative consequences

Meth Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are addicted to meth and decide to quit, you will experience uncomfortable physical symptoms known as withdrawal. This occurs when your body becomes accustomed to the drug’s presence. The severity of these symptoms varies depending on how long you used meth, your tolerance, whether you quit cold turkey or taper, and several other biological factors.

Common meth withdrawal symptoms include:

  • An inability to feel or experience pleasure
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Increased appetite
  • Concentration problems
  • Meth cravings
  • Delusions
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Sweating
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Suicidal thoughts7

Meth withdrawal can be extremely difficult, uncomfortable, and may even be life-threatening, so it’s important that you seek medical treatment if you’re trying to quit. Although going to a hospital is always an option, a medical detox program will provide more personalized treatment in a home-like environment where you can feel comfortable and cared for.

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    What Is Adderall?

    Adderall is a prescription medication and a stimulant that is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It is a combination drug that contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine and is available in immediate-release and extended-release tablets.8 Since it contains amphetamine salts, it does have a high risk of abuse, dependence, and addiction and is classified as a Schedule II drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).9

    Although using Adderall does come with risks, it can be a highly effective treatment for ADHD when it is used under the supervision of a doctor. It works by restoring the chemical balance in the brain, which increases the user’s ability to listen, focus, and pay attention. It also helps to control behavioral problems.

    Adderall provides the above benefits for people with ADHD, but it also has stimulating effects that can motivate a person to abuse it. Most often, Adderall is abused by high school and college students, but many other types of people misuse it for various reasons, including:

    • To lose weight
    • To enhance performance at work
    • To improve stamina and energy for workouts or competitive sports
    • To have more fun and energy at parties

    People may abuse Adderall in various ways, such as taking larger or more frequent doses than prescribed, getting pills from friends or family members, chewing the pills, or crushing the pills and eating or snorting the powder.

    Adderall abuse is not uncommon, especially among college students, but many people don’t realize they are addicted until they try to quit and can’t. The side effects of withdrawal are often just too uncomfortable and unpleasant.

    Despite the many incidences of misuse and addiction, millions of Americans are on prescription stimulant drugs like Adderall and the prescriptions aren’t slowing down. According to the New York Times, about 5 million Adderall prescriptions were written in 2012. By 2015, that number reached a whopping 16 million.10

    How Long Does Adderall Stay in Your System?

    According to the Mayo Clinic, Adderall may stay in your system for about three days.6 However, this is a rough estimate. The amount of time any drug takes to clear from your body will depend on your age, metabolism, organ health, and hydration as well as biological factors like body fat, weight, and body mass.

    How often you used Adderall, how long you abused it, and how much you used each time will also have an impact on the rate at which it clears from your system.

    The following chart contains approximate drug detection times for Adderall.

    Drug Testing for Adderall

    Urine testDetectable for 2-5 days
    Blood testDetectable up to 12 hours
    Saliva testDetectable for 1-5 days
    Hair follicle testDetectable for up to 90 days

    Source:  https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(16)30825-4/pdf; https://amphetamines.com/facts/how-long-do-amphetamines-stay-in-your-system/

    Signs and Symptoms of Adderall Addiction

    If you think you or a loved one might be addicted to Adderall, there are typically some clear warning signs. Here are a few common signs and symptoms of Adderall addiction and abuse:

    • A sudden decline in personal hygiene
    • Paranoia
    • Sudden weight loss
    • Exhaustion
    • Speaking quickly
    • Communication problems/incomplete thoughts
    • Aggressive or strange behavior
    • Problems with relationships
    • Money issues

    A few common behavioral signs that may indicate Adderall addiction include:

    • Taking a lot of sick days at work or school
    • Hiding pills in various places such as a bedroom, dorm room, car, or a container that is disguised
    • Frequently taking pills
    • Seeing multiple doctors to get Adderall
    • Making excuses or faking symptoms to get a refill

    Adderall Withdrawal Symptoms

    If you or a loved one is addicted to Adderall, it may be difficult to quit without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The duration and severity of Adderall withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, but common Adderall withdrawal symptoms include:

    • Adderall cravings
    • Depression
    • Problems sleeping
    • Extreme fatigue11

    Withdrawal from any drug can be difficult and Adderall is no exception. However, your fate isn’t sealed, and you aren’t doomed to taking Adderall for the rest of your life if you want to quit. A medical detox program can provide medication-assisted treatment to slowly taper you off the drug and ease you down into a state of sobriety. This gradual transition from active addiction into abstinence is a much safer and effective method than quitting cold turkey.

    At an Austin detox center, you’ll also receive clinical care to address any of the psychological side effects of withdrawal, such as depression and cravings. This can be extremely helpful to reduce the risk of relapse and prepare you for entry into a rehab program if that’s what you choose to do.

    Meth Uses vs. Adderall Uses

    The illegal street form of meth does not have any medical purpose or approved use. However, methamphetamine can be used medicinally in some instances. Meth, sold under the brand name Desoxyn, stimulates the central nervous system which helps with weight loss. It also increases dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which works to relieve symptoms of ADHD.12 Although effective, Desoxyn is rarely prescribed.

    Adderall is also approved to treat ADHD, but it carries less risk of addiction for users. The primary difference between meth and Adderall has to do with the differences in their chemical makeup. Meth contains methyl, which allows the drug to cross the blood-brain barrier quicker than Adderall. As a result, the effects of meth are much stronger.

    Meth is also more potent because it contains toxic chemicals that can severely damage the body’s organs with continued use over time. The quality and potency of meth that is sold on the street will vary depending on how it was made and if it was cut with any other drugs or additives.

    While the street form of meth has no medical use, the prescription form of the drug, Desoxyn, can be used to treat ADHD or it may be used for weight loss purposes. However, it is rarely prescribed.Adderall is FDA-approved to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It is one of the most commonly prescribed prescription stimulants in the U.S. and is effective for treating the above disorders.

    Abusing meth and Adderall recreationally comes with severe consequences, but many people abuse them both for similar reasons, including:

    • To lose weight
    • To feel good
    • To have more energy and confidence
    • To increase performance at work or school
    • To stay awake and alert for long periods of time
    • To party

    Meth vs. Adderall: Addiction and Dependence

    Chronic abuse of meth or Adderall can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Although meth is significantly more potent and a person taking Adderall is much less likely to become addicted, both drugs are highly addictive.

    Both meth and Adderall are frequently abused. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.6 million people abused meth sometime in the past year. Additionally, the survey revealed meth use has increased significantly among 18 to 25-year olds, rising from 0.8 percent in 2016 to 1.1 percent in 2017.5

    Prescription stimulant abuse is also on the rise, with 18.1 million people abusing psychotherapeutic drugs like Adderall sometime in the past year, according to the 2017 NSDUH survey.5

    Meth vs. Adderall: Side Effects

    Meth and Adderall produce similar side effects when they are abused. Here are some of the most common side effects of meth abuse and side effects of Adderall abuse, compared side-by-side.

    Side Effects of Meth AbuseSide Effects of Adderall Abuse
    • Increased wakefulness and activity
    • Fast breathing
    • Increased and/or irregular heartbeat
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Increased body temperature
    • Impaired judgment and decision-making
    • Weight loss
    • Dental problems
    • Intense itching and skin sores from scratching
    • Anxiety
    • Confusion
    • Violent behavior
    • Sleeping problems
    • Cognitive problems
    • Paranoia
    • Hallucinations
    • Increased risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C2
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Increased heart rate
    • Increased body temperature
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Hallucinations
    • Tremors
    • Confusion
    • Fever
    • Restlessness
    • Overactive reflexes
    • Delirium
    • Panic attack
    • Cardiac rhythm abnormalities
    • Vertigo
    • Hyperventilation
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Coma11

    Get Meth Addiction Treatment or Adderall Addiction Treatment Today

    Professional treatment for meth addiction and Adderall addiction may require several episodes of treatment, including detox, rehab, IOP, and aftercare services like sober living. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been shown to be effective in treating drug addiction in general.

    If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to meth or Adderall, help is available, and recovery is possible. At Briarwood Detox Center, our staff provides medication-assisted treatment and a comfortable environment in which you can rest, heal, and begin your recovery journey.

    We treat the whole person, not just the symptoms of withdrawal, and our clinical staff is here to help you work through the psychological difficulties associated with methamphetamine detox and prescription drug detox.

    Call Briarwood today to speak with our admissions team or to learn more about our detox programs and continued care services.


    1. https://medlineplus.gov/methamphetamine.html
    2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
    3. https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/drug-policy/methamphetamine-crystal-meth-drugs
    4. https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/cbp-enforcement-statistics
    5. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/nsduh-ppt-09-2018.pdf
    6. https://www.mayocliniclabs.com/test-info/drug-book/pod/DrugBook.pdf
    7. https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/04/25/meth-withdrawal-symptoms-timeline/
    8. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-63163/adderall-oral/details
    9. https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling
    10. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/16/magazine/generation-adderall-addiction.html
    11. https://www.livescience.com/41013-adderall.html
    12. https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-we-need-medical-meth-cocaine

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