At first glance, it’s not difficult to see why people confuse amphetamine and methamphetamine. They both produce a stimulant chemical high that can rapidly lead to dependence. Both are also highly addictive. They even have a similar chemical makeup, which helps to create even more confusion.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, both drugs have the same short-term effects, namely a quick onset of intense euphoria, a burst of energy, and appetite suppression. These three effects largely contribute to their popularity as recreational drugs. But what are the differences between the two drugs, and would taking one be more harmful than the other?
Difference Between Amphetamine and Methamphetamine
Since both drugs are used recreationally, you would often hear their “street names” used when referring to them. Amphetamines are known as “speed”, while meth goes by a range of names, with “ice” or “crystal meth” being the most widely known. The latter’s wide recognition may be attributed to the popular series Breaking Bad.
Let’s take a closer look at each substance.
Amphetamines are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system. After taking amphetamines, the user will experience a greater ability to focus on tasks, as well as an increased sense of productiveness.
Doctors prescribe amphetamines to people with ADHD to help with focus and concentration, and you may be familiar with one of the most well-known brands of the drug: Adderall.
When prescribed, amphetamines come in either pill or tablet form. For street use, however, “speed” looks like a loose powder that is snorted, smoked, or injected.
Since methamphetamine (meth) is very similar to amphetamines (speed) in terms of their chemical make-up, they also have similar effects. There is one key difference, however, and this difference goes a long way toward explaining why meth tends to be much more addictive than ‘regular’ speed.
In short, methamphetamine crosses the blood-brain barrier more rapidly and in greater amounts than amphetamines. The result of this is an almost immediate and incredibly intense euphoric high.
Why Meth is Highly Addictive
While both substances are classified as Schedule II controlled substances by the DEA, doctors are warier to prescribe meth because of the extreme reaction triggered by the drug. Since meth is more fast-acting, people are more prone to getting addicted to the effects and going on binges to “chase” the high, which can lead to addiction much faster.
Another reason why people are more prone to getting addicted to meth is the method of consumption. Smoking or injecting meth results in the drug getting into the bloodstream much quicker compared to ingesting a pill or snorting powder.
Are There Harmful Long-Term Effects?
Yes, there are harmful long-term effects for both speed and meth if they are taken for recreational use, rather than under a strict and controlled prescription. These effects include:
- Blurry vision
- Weakened immune system
- Heart damage
- Permanent brain damage
Is Speed as Addictive as Meth?
In a nutshell: no, speed is not as addictive as meth because of the speed at which meth crosses the blood-brain barrier and becomes active in the body’s metabolism. However, this does not mean that speed is safe to take without a doctor’s prescription. As with any prescribed drug, the only way to safely take amphetamines is to follow the prescribed amount and schedule. Though experimentation with speed is very common, recreational use of it nearly always leads to negatives outcomes.