3 Key Differences Between Amphetamine and Methamphetamine

Amphetamine and methamphetamine are both Schedule II controlled substances in the US, falling under the category of central nervous system stimulants. However, this often leads to grouping them together without comparing their important differences. Amphetamine is a popular and legal drug used in various prescription medications, while methamphetamine is a dangerous and illicit street drug with no medical usage (only one FDA-approved medication contains methamphetamine). Both substances can be highly addictive and require comprehensive addiction treatment.

In this blog, we take a closer look at the difference between amphetamine and methamphetamine, the forms they come in, and how they’re medically treated.

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What Are Amphetamines?

Amphetamines are synthetic substances that stimulate neurotransmitters within the central nervous system (CNS). Typically, they are found in prescription drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, such as Adderall, Dexedrine, and Ritalin. In recent years, young adults have been using amphetamines without prescriptions, which increases the likeliness of developing an addiction.

One of the most common non-medical uses is to keep individuals awake for longer, with 13% of students turning to them during exam periods. Other young adults may use amphetamines for weight loss due to their appetite-suppressing effects, which increases the chance of developing an addiction alongside an eating disorder.

While amphetamines are legal with prescriptions, they can be very addictive, and regular drug misuse can cause a range of issues that can require a medical detox, full or part-time addiction treatment, and aftercare support.


What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine (often known as meth, ice, or crank) is an illicit substance that is incredibly damaging to the body. The drug is created by mixing amphetamine with other toxic chemicals and is consumed by swallowing, smoking, injecting, or snorting.

Meth has an almost instant impact on the central nervous system and creates a powerful rush followed by feelings of increased confidence and energy. As the substance begins to wear off, users typically experience insomnia, anxiety, confusion, paranoia. The long-term effects of methamphetamine can be very serious, with users facing dental issues, liver failure, cognitive problems, periods of psychosis, and fatal cardiac issues.

Read more: What Is In Crank? 5 Dangerous Additives & More

3 Differences Between Amphetamine and Methamphetamine

When it comes to looking at the difference between amphetamine and methamphetamine, there are several factors to consider:

#1 Chemical makeup

The primary difference between amphetamine and methamphetamine lies in their chemical structure. While they share a similar basic structure, amphetamine consists of a phenethylamine backbone, while methamphetamine features an additional methyl group. It’s this addition that makes the substance more lipophilic, meaning it has a more significant impact on the central nervous system. This increases the chance of amphetamine users switching to meth once they’ve developed a tolerance to its lesser effects.

#2 Addictive properties

Another difference between amphetamine and methamphetamine is their addictive properties. Both have a high potential for abuse, but the intense euphoria and longer-lasting effects created by meth make it far more addictive. Meth also increases dopamine levels in the brain, which creates a stronger desire for repeat use compared to amphetamines. If you or a family member is abusing prescription medications or illicit substance, talk to a professional as soon as possible.

#3 Forms

Amphetamines are commonly prescribed as an oral tablet or capsule, with the dosage set out by a medical professional. However, it can come in various other forms, such as powders or crystalline structures. Due to its illicit nature, meth is typically found in crystalline form, which is then broken down to be smoked, snorted, or injected. Not only does this create a rapid onset of effects, but it also has a significantly greater negative impact on the body. Additionally, amphetamines require prescriptions from licensed healthcare providers who are trained to spot signs of prescription drug abuse, whereas meth can be bought on the street from a stranger.

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How Do You Treat Stimulant Addiction?

No matter whether you’re treating addiction to amphetamine or methamphetamine, the process always starts the same. The individual needs to withdraw from the substance and undergo a medical detox period to clear their body of the drug. Depending on the severity of the addiction, this can be an incredibly difficult process, and patients might experience feelings of extreme fatigue, intense cravings, anxiety, depression, vivid dreams, and slower cognitive function.

Once clean, individuals can then move on to the next step in their treatment recovery, which is targeting the addiction itself. Amphetamine and methamphetamine addiction treatment usually involves evidence-based therapy methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and support groups to provide the support and skills everyone struggling with addiction deserves.

Read more: Everything You Should Know About Speed Addicts (Stimulant Addiction)

Get The Help You Need With East Coast Recovery Center

Here at East Coast Recovery Center, we provide holistic addiction and mental health care to individuals across Boston, MA, who are facing substance addiction. Our highly experienced team understands how challenging those first steps can be, which is why our admissions specialists are available 24/7, helping you enter the right program when you need it.

Every client’s needs are different, which is why we adopt an individualized plan tailored to your unique requirements. From partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment to family support, trauma-informed care, and aftercare, you’ll be able to find the support and care that you need to live a sober and healthy lifestyle.

Want to find out more about how we can help you or your loved one? Contact our friendly team and take that first step today.

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