Neuroscientist: Meth Is Virtually Identical to Adderall—This Is How I Found Out

Carl Hart
Feb 04 2016

Neuroscientist: Meth Is Virtually Identical to Adderall—This Is How I Found Out

The long subway ride from DC’s airport to Silver Spring was unusually pleasant. It had been about an hour since I had taken a low dose of methamphetamine. It was my 40th birthday—October 30, 2006—and I was headed to a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-sponsored meeting.

A friend, who had a prescription for the drug, had given me a couple of pills as a gift, knowing that I was an expert on amphetamines but had never actually taken any myself. I sat on the train feeling alert, mentally stimulated, and euphorically serene.

And when the effects had worn off after a few hours, I thought, “that was nice,” worked out, and enjoyed a productive two-day meeting. Well, maybe not enjoyed—it was a NIDA meeting after all. But I didn’t crave the drug or feel the need to take any more. I certainly didn’t engage in any unusual behaviors—hardly the stereotypical picture of a “meth head.”

So why is it, then, that the general public has such a radically different view of this drug?

Perhaps it has something to do with public “educational” campaigns aimed at discouraging methamphetamine use. These campaigns usually show, in graphically horrifying detail, some poor young person who uses the drug for the first time and then ends up engaging in uncharacteristic acts such as prostitution, stealing from parents, or assaulting strangers for money to buy the drug. At the end of advertisement, emblazoned on the screen, is: “Meth—not even once.” We’ve also seen those infamous “meth mouth” images (extreme tooth decay), wrongly presented as a direct consequence of methamphetamine use.

These types of media campaigns neither prevent nor decrease the use of the drug; nor do they provide any real facts about the effects of meth. They succeed only in perpetuating false assumptions.

Swayed by this messaging, the public remains almost entirely ignorant of the fact that methamphetamine produces nearly identical effects to those produced by the popular ADHD medication d-amphetamine (dextroamphetamine). You probably know it as Adderall®: a combination of amphetamine and d-amphetamine mixed salts.

Yeah, I know. This statement requires some defense.

This is not to suggest that people who are currently prescribed Adderall should discontinue its use for fear of inevitable ruinous addiction, but instead that we should view methamphetamine rather more like we view d-amphetamine. Remember that methamphetamine and d-amphetamine are both FDA-approved medications to treat ADHD. In addition, methamphetamine is approved to treat obesity and d-amphetamine to treat narcolepsy.

In the interest of full disclosure, I too once believed that methamphetamine was far more dangerous than d-amphetamine, despite the fact that the chemical structure of the two drugs is nearly identical (see figure). In the late 1990s, when I was a PhD student, I was told—and I fully believed—that the addition of the methyl group to methamphetamine made it more lipid-soluble (translation: able to enter the brain more rapidly) and therefore more addictive than d-amphetamine.

It wasn’t until several years after graduate school that this belief was shattered by evidence not only from my own research, but also by results from research conducted by other scientists.

In our study, we brought 13 men who regularly used methamphetamine into the lab. We  gave each of them a hit of methamphetamine, of d-amphetamine, or of placebo on separate days under double-blind conditions. We repeated this many times with each person over several days and multiple doses of each drug.

Like d-amphetamine, methamphetamine increased our subjects’ energy and enhanced their ability to focus and concentrate; it also reduced subjective feelings of tiredness and the cognitive disruptions typically brought about by fatigue and/or sleep deprivation. Both drugs increased blood pressure and the rate at which the heart beat. No doubt these are the effects that justify the continued use of d-amphetamine by several nations’ militaries, including our own.

And when offered an opportunity to choose either the drugs or varying amounts of money, our subjects chose to take d-amphetamine on a similar number of occasions as they chose to take methamphetamine. These regular methamphetamine users could not distinguish between the two. (It is possible that the methyl group enhances methamphetamine’s lipid-solubility, but this effect appears to be imperceptible to human consumers.)

It is also true that the effects of smoking methamphetamine are more intense than those of swallowing a pill containing d-amphetamine. But that increased intensity is due to the route of administration, not the drug itself. Smoking d-amphetamine produces nearly identical intense effects as smoking methamphetamine. The same would be true if the drugs were snorted intranasally.

Read more from The Influence:

Here’s What Real Sex Workers Say About That “Hooker-Using-Drugs-to-Numb-the-Pain” Trope

Is Drug Decriminalization the Way to Go? Well, Portugal Did It 15 Years Ago and Just Look

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As I left DC and travelled home to New York, I reflected on how I had previously participated in misleading the public by hyping the dangers of methamphetamine. For example, in one of my earlier studies, aimed at documenting the powerfully addictive nature of the drug, I found that when given a choice between taking a small hit of meth (10 mg) or one dollar in cash, methamphetamine users chose the drug about half the time.

For me, in 2001, this suggested that the drug was addictive. But what it really showed was my own ignorance and bias. Because, as I found out in a later study, if I had increased the cash amount to as little as five dollars, the users would have taken the money almost all of the time—even though they knew they would have to wait several weeks until the end of the study before getting the cash.

All of this should serve as a lesson on how media distortions can influence even scientific knowledge about the consequences of drug use.

It took me nearly 20 years and dozens of scientific publications in the area of drug use to recognize my own biases around methamphetamine. I can only hope that you don’t require as much time and scientific activity in order to understand that the Adderall that you or your loved one takes each day is essentially the same drug as meth.

And I hope that this knowledge engenders less judgment of people who use meth, and greater empathy.


Carl L. Hart is a professor (in psychiatry) at Columbia University. He is also the author of the book High Price: A neuroscientist’s journey of self-discovery that challenges everything you know about drugs and society. You can follow him on Twitter: @drcarlhart

  • NIDA is still pushing propaganda that use of drug can quickly turn kids into criminals. I thought your book debunked that trope very effectively. Anyway, I heard that real meth has a more euphoric edge. But hey what do I know, I’m not a real scientist.

  • the wiles

    Good piece. I’d also read that dextroamphetamine+mixed amphetamine salts (adderall or generic equivalent) cause more, or more intense, side effects than dextromethamphetamine. This led some to perceive it as less addictive, hence the preference for Adderall over Desoxyn for AD(H)D. Kind of silly that we avoid the more efficacious drug… For the life of me I can’t figure out why they put those levorotary isomers in there…

  • HiJanx

    If this is a comparison between Desoxyn & Adderall then , eh duh! But you can in no way compare a prescription drug that is made in a lab to a street drug that is made in a motel room. The ingredients are entirely difficult. Meth mouth & the rapid deterioration of the bodies of chronic users of street meth is due to the fact that they are repetitively ingesting toxic, industrial solvents. People who abuse Adderall won’t look that healthy either, but the likelihood of an Adderall addict getting full blown meth mouth is slim to none. However, long term use of amphetamines & other psychotropic medications can cause terrible chronic dry mouth which , in turn, can cause tooth decay that ordinarily wouldn’t happen.

    The high is different between street meth & prescription meth. I know people who have tried to snort/smoke Desoxyn, Dexedrine, Adderall & Ritalin etc & apparently, it was a waste of time in comparison to street meth. The same was true for IV introduction.

    Perhaps I’m misinterpreting this article, but if you give a user of street meth the choice between a hit of street meth or a pill Adderall, they’ll take the street meth each time. Prescription methamphetamines only work for so long in the system whereas street meth can keep you high for a week after 1 or 2 hits.

    • Meth Mouth is not the result of “ingesting toxic solvents” or dry mouth. It is the direct result of poor oral hygiene. This is often due to the life that the user of street drugs lives. Many people experience “cotton mouth” due to medication, but few develop significant dental problems.

      As for “street meth can keep you high for a week after 1 or 2 hits” that is an impossibility due to the half life – and I have done plenty of street meth. Meth that could keep you “high” for a week or two would have a fantastically long half life and would be a scientific breakthrough.

      • HiJanx

        Meth mouth is far different than poor oral hygiene. Just to be clear, it’s caused by a combination of side effects that include chronic clenching/grinding of the teeth, infrequent oral hygiene, consumption of sugary drinks, & due to the caustic nature of the chemicals used to make street meth, it is exceptionally acidic, therefore making it very capable of causing extensive tooth decay & fracture.

        As for taking a hit or 2 & staying awake for a week, I was making a stupid general statement. My mistake! I have met IV meth users who have taken 1-2 hits & have stayed awake for 5 days straight. It depends on your environment as you stated in your other comment above. Snorting & smoking meth can cause a high that can last for up to 6-12 hours while IV use can keep a user high for up to 24hrs. It depends on the quality & the quantity consumed & the physiological make-up of the user.

        • Now, there you go. I much appreciate that you clarified what you suspect are the primary causes of “meth mouth.” I immediately caught your reference to “solvents” in street meth. But your reference to “caustic…chemicals” along with other factors was spot on. The point of using chemicals likely causing some of that damage is as a means to alter the PH, required to pass the meth from a water solution to a solvent (aqueous) solution and back again. My solution would be to decriminalize meth so that a cleaner source could be found.

        • Uno Tyson

          I know people who don’t use meth who have meth mouth.. Also, when I use stimulants it mellows me out and I can actually get a good nights sleep
          . hmmm imagine that. People with different body chemistry.

  • It is really interesting. I use stimulant drugs daily. Pharmaceutical stimulants. And for about a decade I used street methamphetamine. Who I am today and who I was back then are very different people in terms of functionality and productivity*. Why? Well, it has nothing to do with pharmacology or addiction, as many would have us believe. Dr Hart has just shown this. The difference can be boiled down (primarily) to two things: Dose and social construct.

    Firstly, when using street drugs, and when using drugs on the street there are major inconsistencies in dose. I had no idea what dose I was taking on the street, and often my use was based not on effect, but on availability of supply. There are also major differences in setting – there is very good reason to be paranoid when using street meth on the street, bought from street-corner dealers and under the scrutiny of law enforcement. There are very valid reasons why people take more than is needed in the street setting, in the same way that in economies where there is little stability and hope for a future, there is little saving – why keep something for tomorrow?

    Secondly, using street drugs on the street also comes with a set of social constructs that creates a set of expectations around behaviour and reliability and level of participation in a “legitimate” society. These are often reinforced by a set of behaviours that are a result of fluctuating dose. There is also the way the individual creates a “meaning” around the drug – the “meaning’ and experience of scoring a drug from a dealer is very different from getting a script (this is a whole separate book!).

    Pharmaceutical drugs are, on the other hand, the domain of privilege. Stable dose, stable supply and few of the negative social constructs.

    So while pharmacology is identical, the effect is very different. And if you think I am talking rubbish, consider the very strong evidence for the use of diacetylmorphine for people who find heroin use problematic. Known dose, different setting, different construct, and a position of privilege make diacetylmorphine a very different drug to heroin, although they are identical.

    *My own example is a sample of one, and highly biased. I use this for illustrative purposes only.

    • Christopher Stronski

      Dr Jones did not actually show very much at all. Personal experience stories based on only a couple of instances of use does not constitute anything close to actual experiments that one can gain useable data from. Its anecdotal at best. But really quite useless for one person to say I tried this and this is proof of anything. Even the studies he refers to are not very rigorous studies that provide extremely useful information. Giving a dose of methamphetamine that would produce the same psychological affects as amphetamine over the course of 2 or 4 weeks is only proof that you can make a much more potent drug have the same effects as a less potent drug in the short term but using a smaller dosage.

      However what is left out is methamphetamine at any dose range is known to have neurotoxic effects. So its irrelevant that taking a smaller dose may or may not be different then Adderall. Whereas Adderall needs to be abused at doses well above any dose that would be prescribed for legitimate uses to cause any semblance of neurotoxic effects, methamphetamine does it at any dosage. So there is one reason and probably the best reason that it is much less used. It also does have actual higher abuse potential (or the dosage wouldn’t be so low compared to Adderall). It hits the brain quicker and stronger. Anecdotal evidence based on an incredibly small number of people and only 2 to 4 weeks shouldn’t even be called an experiment. It produces very little useful information. Especially since it was conducted on 13 men who were currently using drugs to begin with. A good study would take much, much more participants who were not current drug users so they could clearly tell in much better detail how it feels when they receive a placebo, methamphetamine, or amphetamine.
      This study uses a couple of currently active meth users, over the smallest course of time periods, and doesn’t demonstrate what significance there was to its results if you consider the results in any way valid. If I am taking dilaudid already then you could give me Tylenol or chocolate and it wouldn’t matter. I’m already using the drug. The “study” also does not address why the status quo should be changed. If at best methamphetamine at lower dosages are exactly the same as Adderall then there doesn’t seem to be a benefit to increasing prescriptions for a drug that causes brain damage at any dose. Whereas Adderall only causes brain damage if used in far excess of therapeutic doses that one would be prescribed by a doctor.
      I wouldn’t say you are talking rubbish I would say what you are writing has no relevancy to the article and you only state the obvious that pharmaceutical drugs are regulated so you know what is in it and the dose is known within acceptable standards. Where as street drugs may not even contain the advertised drug. Example fentanyl being so cheap is used as a cheap counterfeit for many opioid drugs. The stigma of using street drugs tends to be more on the fact that there’s no medical reason for using it. It may or may not be the case in some instances but for some drugs (like crystal meth or crack cocaine) its clear there’s no medical benefit or reason to use. Heroin is legal in some countries in a hospital setting. Because it has been shown to be much more addictive than most other opioids. The part before morphine means when it crosses the blood brain barrier much quicker and quickly breaks down into two morphine molecules per heroin molecule. I also think you have what is known as selfconciousness where you notice mistakes you make where other people see none so you think you’re being judged. Or you actually do inappropriate behavior but do not notice it yourself since you are on the drug and feel like you are no different. But again I don’t think you are talking rubbish I think you are writing about a lot of things that do not really have relevance to the article and are only based on your own experience. Some of what you write seems to have no purpose at all. You have to remember we are not mind readers so if you don’t fill in the gaps with explicit reasons for stating something then it comes across as being of no use or relevance.

      • Olmy Olm

        Neurotoxic at any dose? It doesn’t actually seem to have much of an effect at all.

        ‘Moreover, chronic users—the ones who would be expected to suffer
        most—remain largely unimpaired. The researchers found that they
        experience brain and cognitive changes “on a minority of measures” in
        brain imaging and psychological tests. “Cognitive functioning
        overwhelmingly falls within the normal range,” the report states, while
        adding that researchers’ pre-existing assumptions about meth’s
        detrimental effects “should be reevaluated to document the actual
        pattern of cognitive effects caused by the drug.”‘ https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/hype-over-the-perils-of-meth/

        • Olmy Olm

          Also, I do not know why you are saying that heroin is so much more addictive than other opioids. As you said, it’s used in hospitals. And one of the countries that uses it is the UK (and some people are even getting it on prescription): There is practically no evidence of this making the addiction problem there worse than it would be if they were using morphine. In fact, the UK has a much lower addiction rate than the US does.

          What’s more: The amount of opioid prescribing in the UK and the US has roughly quadroupled in the same time, and yet, overdose rates and addiction rates have actually fallen in the UK (!).

          It is my impression that you base most of your opinions on mindless de-contextualized “neuroscience”, if even that.

      • George T.

        Methamphetamine is not neurotoxic at all dosages.

  • painkills2

    As an allergy sufferer, I can’t tell you how frustrating the restrictions for these drugs are. In November 2015, Walmart refused to sell me a box of Claritin-D because I had reached an alleged yearly limit. I wrote to the DEA, who said there was no annual limit. But to this day, I am unable to buy the cheaper box of allergy medicine at Walmart. I still don’t know why. Well, I know why, it’s because of the drug war — and all I want to do is stop sneezing.

    I wanted to thank you so much, Dr. Hart, for your work on this medical condition. As a 30-year intractable pain patient, I have tried to convince other pain patients that those who suffer from addiction are not the cause of the DEA’s current war on opioids. Pain patients see the drugs they choose for pain management vilified in the media, all because of those who abuse and become addicted to their medications. Anti-drug advocates have proclaimed that opioids are just like heroin. If you take just one pain pill, you’ll become a homeless drug addict. Sound familiar? Yes, opioids are white people’s heroin, but tens of millions of pain patients use them to their benefit. Legal opioids are now being seen as illegal heroin, just like legal stimulants are treated like illegal meth.

    Pain patients are angry and have every right to be. Many of them are accused of being what this society sees as shameful drug addicts. I have taken the time to learn all I can about addiction, but most pain patients just don’t care about a medical condition that others suffer from. They’re being forced into lowering their current dosage of medications, or into cold-turkey detoxes (been there, done that, wouldn’t recommend it). All this to say that I wish an expert like you would address the opioid war and the plight of tens of millions of pain patients. They are scared and losing hope that anyone cares. I’m not worried about the opioid “epidemic” — I’m more concerned about the suicide epidemic.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Ruben

      So do you know why you have all these allergies my kids had bad allergies doctors would always give us medicine and it never worked. Well I found out that they where allergic to all the chemicals used to make the cleaning products and ever since I’ve stopped using all these products themail allergies are gone and I have saved lots of money cause I don’t go to the doctor anymore. Here is where I got all my natural cleaning products at great prices and sometimes cheaper than the store products. http://Www.melaleuca.com/rcmunoz

      • painkills2

        I don’t think those products will help a pollen allergy, but I’m glad you don’t have to go to the doctor anymore. Doctors suck.

        • Christopher Stronski

          I agree. First off we wouldn’t know what is going on with your children or if its even allergy related. That’s just a doctor’s opinion. If it is allergies is there any common familial allergies? If there are not then what do your children come into contact with that you do not (such as during school). If its not allergies then at best allergy medicines could mask the real issue. Like taking painkillers works wonders but it isn’t a reason to diagnose someone with any injury without examining. General practitioners if that is who you are seeing general are not adept at complicated diagnoses or treating them. They are what the title suggests, generally competent in treating illness. But only a specialist would notice things that could be important. Also I would point out that “natural” has no legal definition. You can label anything as natural. If it can exist in nature regardless of how its produced then it is natural. On top of that if the products are natural in the way you are probably thinking they do not generally do their job nearly as well as say bleach. Natural products have also been known to be much more toxic then man made ingredients. This is very noticeable in the agricultural industry. There are multiple types of cleaning agents. Instead of carte blanch getting rid of them the best solution is differential diagnosis. Add or subtract one cleaning product at a time. You may be risking sanitation when it was only one of the products. And that product might not even be necessary. Its also generally considered safe after 24 hours for some cleaning products. Try to approach it more logically. They are your children which leads to rash emotional decisions. Such as rejecting doctor’s opinions, confirmation biases on your part, and instead of conducting a well thought out plan emotionally people tend to drastically change everything and then they incorrectly correlate everything as being the problem. When the only real way to tell is keep a very detailed dialogue at least daily. List symptoms, rate symptoms, etc. and don’t nudge your children’s self ratings into any one direction. The power of suggestion can lead to malady. Add one product keep track of your children’s symptoms for a period of time and see if that actually caused it. You could be doing more harm then good if you eliminated all cleaning products (probably based on a blog or reader’s digest article) and you think your children are better. They may be or you may be viewing it through biased eyes. In either case if those chemicals had nothing to do with your children’s issues then the real issue has not been addressed. I would also point out those chemicals are used in all public places so if they were the issue one would expect your children to continue to have allergy issues from attending school alone.

          • Christopher Stronski

            Just to clarify this for you I am not a medical doctor. I deal with statistics and is an area of any study that can easily be bombarded with questions and statements that if not answered properly will discredit the paper. This article does not really constitute a research experiment in anyway. But that irrelevant for this topic. What I was trying to convey to you is if you can remove emotions from you thought process. Use logic (unfortunately something the public school system has failed miserably at teaching) to approach a problem, such as correlation does not mean causation. And your children are not dying then a better approach would be to slowly add each cleaning product back and see if there are any effects. Also try to keep pets and children away from an area that has just been treated for about 24 hours. Its probably safe in much less time but that’s a rule of thumb to remove any question. Do not add products that are not absolutely necessary. If a products causes a reaction look for a different product that has different ingredients (it may not even be the active ingredient causing the problem). So I would stick with products that have been proven to maintain sanitary conditions. Especially within the bathroom and the kitchen. So called natural products are based on folklore and history. Which is full of inaccuracies or even in China the belief that mercury extends ones life (they now know it just causes the mind and body to degrade irreparably. So no lemon juice or orange peels etc. do not do the things that are claimed. They prevent scurvy if your on a long sea voyage. But do not clean. In some cases it provides more material for bacteria to use to grow at a faster rate.

    • Christopher Stronski

      I don’t see what you see very much at all. What I have noticed is general practitioners limiting how much they will prescribe. Which is sensible when you think about it. A general practitioner is not there for treating chronic problems involving drugs that should be respected. I have not seen them vilified by the media. I think that is a case of confirmation bias on your part and hysteria or sensationalism where none exists. I do see people who greatly overrate their pain level because they don’t understand that a pain level of 9 or 10 is the equivalent of being on fire. I will watch them very easily walk around and claim they have a pain level of 10. There are also unrealistic expectations that you should feel no pain at all. The goal of pain management is generally to lower pain levels to tolerable levels. As a pain sufferer I am content with Tylenol and tramadol because its lowers my pain level of 5 or 6 to about 2. I further lower it through weight control, exercising muscles that will support the area in pain, and other methods that don’t involve drugs at all such as heat or cold packs. And lifestyle changes that prevent flare ups. Antidepressants and such medications in themselves have shown to be good medications at lowering pain levels since they lower levels of stress and depression. I also have not seen or read in reputable studies many cases of legitimate patients in need of strong opiate medications being denied access to them. A lot of reports indicate that patients general don’t get proper pain treatment when they actually need it simply because they do not tell the doctor what is happening. As if he/she should just know. But if they prescribe you something and you do not say anything then why should they suspect a problem of some sort? You aren’t telling them it doesn’t work or that there are unbearable side effects. On last note about opioids there is a known condition in which taking opioids themselves causes a syndrome in the body that actually causes the patient more pain. So a pain specialist is why other doctors don’t prescribe opioids. Not to mention its wise to avoid putting anyone under 50 or 60 on a medication that slowly deteriorates the mind if it can be avoided. But I don’t see evidence of what you claim. There’s no demonization of pain patients getting pain medication and it is a completely separate issue then the failed war on drugs. I think you have confirmation bias and see parallels where none exist. Tens of millions of pain patients? Really? That’s around 20% of the population. You would have me believe 20% of the population is in that much chronic pain? And suicide after stopping pain medication is much more likely due to depression since the body depended on the substance to feel good. But there is no real suicide epidemic compared to a very real opioid epidemic. You don’t seem concerned with very much except being able to have access to whatever medicine you feel you should have or want to take.
      As far as your Claritin-D story I call you out on bullshit. There is a monthly limit for starters. And if you are caught buying it at more then one store or you try to consistently buy more then you are allowed to buy then the pharmacist has an obligation to no sell the drug. Its been a very proven tactic in greatly reducing methamphetamine production and abuse. There’s also no reason you should have trouble getting a months worth of Claritin-D if you are using it properly. You would fall far short of your monthly allowance. But if your allergies are that bad (and the D part of Claritin D does not address allergies but treats a symptom of people who get a runny nose) then you should probably see an allergy specialist. Its much more prudent to stop the allergy from occurring than take an allergy pill which seems to not work well because you need additional medication to treat what is essential symptoms of allergies (so Claritin-D is clearly not working well for you if you chronically need it). You kind of sound like the type of person who wants an antibiotic for whenever you feel sick even though a large majority of the time the antibiotic has done nothing but produced bacteria immune to it and you really got better because the human immune system is a marvelous thing that is really good at attacking an invasion. The length of time until it fully works and you start feeling better simply coincide with the time period of most antibiotic subscription. But its a classic logical fallacy of correlating two things simply because one proceeded the other. Should I believe rigorous studies involving thousands of subjects over long lengths of time who are not currently on drugs to begin with and there is no control group to compare the 13 active meth addicts to? Or should I believe studies that are well thought out addressing all the failings of a 13 subject study of (again) active drug users of methamphetamine. I don’t mean to disparage you but a) I have not seen what you have seen and I know several pain patients in my family b) you are going on a study that is the equivalent of a poorly constructed baking soda volcano in a elementary school science fair, c) and you clearly are demonstrating erratic writing with clear confirmation bias and almost seemingly conspiracy type thinking. A small number of injustices while tragic is not tens of millions of people (again I don’t know how you came up with such an absurdly large number) in pain committing suicide in high rates. In fact causes of suicide haven’t gone up due to pain. They haven’t gone up in a meaningful way at all. The population has exploded. That’s why science uses per capita and not the actual number. Per capita suicide rates have remained steady for the US meaning rates have only increased because the population increased making it more likely to happen in higher numbers because there’s more people. And denial of pain medicine is not cited among any major contributing cause to suicide. You seem to either be making up your information so you seem to be right, noble, and concerned about others suffering or just plain ignorant. But I could at least find more merit in your way over exaggerated claims if you were not complaining about not being able to get free access to more then one drug. When one of the drugs you mention if used properly should only come to about half of what you are allowed to buy per month.

      • Christopher Stronski

        Okay I don’t know who Olmy Olm is or why he deleted his replay in less than 12 hours but an article in scientific America (actually a blog on their website) does not constitute proof of anything. Refer to all the magazines you want. Unless its a study published and accepted based on a rigorous defense of its conclusions (and believe me when you present a paper it gets demolished from all fronts questioning just about every angle that could falsify your paper to the point that it often takes several revisions before the paper is actually accepted). Even then you can tell if a paper holds merit by whether its cited by anyone and how often it is cited. If no one has ever cited it or one person has (which may have been a citation being negatively critical of the paper) then no one is basing future research on it. Which in rare instances does not mean it isn’t correct or important. But those are very rare instances and in most cases the reasoning behind not citing it is because technology or theory has not caught up with it yet. Lots of areas of General Relativity or the Grand Unified Theory are still unable to be tested properly. And very few people have the sort of mind to posit an idea that moves an entire scientific field into a new epoch.

      • painkills2

        Your comment is full of such inaccurate crap that it would take me hours to respond to each and every lie. And you’re not worth it.

    • b4integrity

      Quit shopping at Walmart already! Try Costco instead.

      • painkills2

        I found that the Walgreens brand of Claritin-D is cheaper and works just as well. I don’t buy enough food and staples for a Costco membership to be affordable.

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  • Karen Ferguson

    Wow. I read articles all the time and never have I ‘met’ someone so ‘after-the-truth.’ Thank you. Not only did you write it so I could understand it, but I *cringed* thinking “I passed on that info, too.” It’s what we were ‘told’ at the time. I remember I invited a police officer to class to talk on meth. I couldn’t get my arms around it. Drugs, Inc. said it was epidemic.
    Whew…good thing I told him: no embellishment..these students have been hearing about drugs for 10 years. Yet, the “meth and rotten teeth” came out. I know better now. Thank you. You Rock the house down, Dr. Hart!!! Is your sabbatical up yet? 😉

  • December27

    A book by Andrew Weil, *From Chocolate to Morphine: Everything You Need
    to Know About Mind-Altering Drugs*, makes a similar case for a wide
    range of mind-altering substances. As I recall (it’s been maybe 20 years
    since I read it; there is a more recent 2004 update), his argument is
    similar about the false impression created by anti-drug hype, and that
    just like with alcohol, the vast majority of people who experiment with
    drugs–even heroin, cocaine, and other illegal ones–can use them
    recreationally or socially without becoming addicted or dependent.

    I
    think all of these substances should be legal, regulated, and
    quality-controlled just as marijuana is in some places. Adults should be
    able to experiment with our own bodies as we choose as long as we
    don’t harm others. Removing the criminal element, then, will make it
    much easier (and less expensive) to help those few who do have problems.

    • Christopher Stronski

      To an extent I would agree. I am not aware of studies showing the vast majority of people can use it recreationally on occasion. I do know of many studies that state the opposite depending on what we mean by vast majority. But it is not a criminal issue for the user. The pusher I could argue is criminal. But the user is a health issue better dealt with using non law enforcement means. It is very political though. A wake up call is that drug cartels are in favor of continuing our current failed strategy because it benefits only them. But there would have to be laws about some drugs that cause real physical damage. Also the not cause harm to others issue is a gray area. By definition a person is not thinking clearly while using some of these substances or worse hallucinate and think they are being watched or attacked (paranoia). So there are a lot of issues to work out. I wouldn’t legalize drugs in the sense that you suggest. I would decriminalize the process of dealing with drug use.
      Another line of thought is the definition of causing harm to others. If you become socially disconnected, stop being productive in society, and other big picture issues then it might be harder to say no harm is being caused to others. Especially family members who may have to deal with the person. And alcohol and tobacco are among the worst socially harmful substances. Why they are completely legal and say steroids (which do not affect the mind) are not is puzzling.

    • b4integrity

      The reason the US enacted its first federal drug law, The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, was to ensure that drugs offered for sale in commerce were: pure; unadulterated; and branded properly.

      The reason this law led to our current horrendous counterproductive drug policy, is that the tobacco & alcohol drug pushers had so much political power that they got their hard drugs exempted from this first drug law and every other drug law thereafter.

      Their argument was that their drugs were “recreational drugs” and not “medicines” so their hard drugs were not subject to the Pure Food and Drug Act.

      Today, over a century later, we are still suffering from this perversion of science, reason, morality, and law. That is why the majority of people are so ignorant that they do not comprehend that the two most deadly & dangerous of ALL drugs, tobacco & alcohol, are, first of all, drugs, and second of all, are the two most deadly & dangerous of ALL drugs.

      That’s why you hear so many ignorant people saying: “alcohol and drugs” instead of “drugs, including alcohol” or “alcohol and other drugs”. All these ignorant people think that “alcohol” is different from “drugs”. Their ignorance is killing them and us.

      Either: 1) tobacco & alcohol are classified & regulated as the schedule I & II controlled substances these hard drugs are; or, 2) the CSA is repealed and the DEA is abolished.

      We must return to the Equal Protection of the Law, or we are not a “nation of laws”; we are instead a “nation of men” where the most powerful men pass laws that satisfy their selfish self interests, with no concern at all to “form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”.

  • Jeff Zacharias

    As someone who has worked in the addiction field for 12 years – and been in recovery from meth as my drug of choice for 13 years – I think this article compares apples to oranges. It doesn’t take into account a wide variety of individuals who use any of these stimulants through the lens of power/control/oppression/cultural issues/gender issues/etc. For me it seems like the author is trying to be a contrarian and make a case for something that is destroying the lives of the demographic I mainly work with which is gay/bi/queer men around meth usage.

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  • RebelWriter1960

    So, methamphetamine HCL is “virtually” identical to…methamphetamine HCL. Who knew?

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  • rwscid

    Thanks for an informative article. Once again, to my absolute shock, it appears the mass market journalists have been content with writing what sells advertisements, i.e., what titillates the reader, rather than pursuing a comprehensive understanding of an issue, i.e., what bores the reader.

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  • The article says “see figure,” but there is no figure included in the article. Was this an oversight?

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  • Michael McCasland

    I think Dr. Hart is a breakthrough voice on this subject and have a lot of respect for him, but the study he presented, which varied meth, aderol, and a placebo to existing addicts does not address the question he presented: does the addition of a methyl group to methamphetamine make it more addictive than aderol? His research was conducted on people who are already addicted to meth so it is no surprise they liked meth and aderol, a derivative of meth.

    A better study would be to simply normalize (if possible) a comparison of people who use meth and those who use aderol and see if there is a statistically significant difference in addiction rates.

  • Megan Davis

    You need to be clear that you are comparing Adderall to pharmaceutical meth and NOT street meth. Very reckless on your part. Last I checked, Adderall isn’t made of paint thinners and battery acid. Also, you cited a study that had all of 13 subjects. I don’t even need my chemistry degree to see how asinine that is. Come on now!
    Adderall has helped countless people for so many reasons. I would be dead if it weren’t for Adderall, and that’s not an exaggeration. Yes I am fully aware of the abuse, however that doesn’t change the fact that it has been a godsend for so many people that truly do suffer from ADD and ADHD
    Adderall already has a huge stigma and you’re just adding fuel to the fire. Shame on you.

    • Zach

      For real you don’t need a chemistry degree to know that they are completely the same I mean a birch and oak tree are further apart genetically so seriously tell me they are not the same thing

    • Archie Kellner

      Paint thinner and battery acid in street meth? This type of disinformation is only compounding the problem. You are speaking on things you obviously know nothing about. Have you analyzed street meth? No? Then you are speaking from ignorance, shame on YOU. First of all, paint thinner is never used as a solvent, naphtha is and the acid from a battery isn’t used, the lithium is. Secondly, if you knew anything about chemistry you would know that reagent used in a reaction a very rarely found in the finished product. Do you know what your table salt is made from? It is precipitated through the same acid-base reaction used to precipitate meth salts. In other words, hydrogen chloride(hydrochloric acid) and lye(sodium hydroxide) is what your table salt (sodium chloride) is made from. Is there acid in table salt? Is there lye in table salt? Do not speak on things you do not know or understand, you only compound the problem.

      • Megan Davis

        Sorry for the delayed response. To answer your question – Yes, I actually have analyzed street meth. Signed,
        An actual chemist

    • Uno Tyson

      Ether and lithium are not paint thinner nor battery acid.

      • Megan Davis

        Neither are million other things. Not sure what point you’re trying to make.

        • Olmy Olm

          “Street meth” is not actually just meth, yes, often other things are mixed into it: and this is something Dr Carl Hart is well-aware of himself, and has made clearn many times. But the meth itself is meth.

          Also, “ADD” is a hoax.

        • Olmy Olm

          P.S.: And if you want to play the credentials game: Dr. Carl Hart has a PhD in Neuroscience and is a professor at Columbia University.

          ‘Carl Hart is the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Columbia University. He is also the Dirk Ziff Professor of Psychology in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry. Professor Hart has published numerous scientific and popular articles in the area of neuropsychopharmacology and is co-author of the textbook Drugs, Society and Human Behavior (with Charles Ksir). His most recent book, “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society,” was the 2014 winner of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. Professor Hart has appeared on multiple podcasts, radio and television shows including Real Time with Bill Maher and The O’Reilly Factor. He has also appeared in several documentary films including the award-winning “The House I Live In.” His essays have been published in several popular publications including The New York Times, Scientific American, The Nation, Ebony, The Root, and O Globo (Brazil’s leading newspaper).’

    • Olmy Olm

      P.S.: He’s not trying to add stigma to Adderall. He’s trying to kill the stigma of meth. I suppose getting a chemistry degree doesn’t do much for one’s reading interpretation skills. A shame.

  • alpha_centauri

    This wannabe “Neuroscientist” needs to actually study drugs, chemical structures of drugs, and stop writing propaganda like this. Adderall and Dexedrine are not the same as meth even pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine and street meth.

    • Shelwin

      I agree. Plus, I don’t think the prescription stimulants should be prescribed as they are, either.

      • Christopher Stronski

        Yes as a statistician self reported anecdotes on using a drug (which alters your perceptions I should add making it even more useless) is not science and he should know better. 13 people with no control group is an experiment you would expect from a high schooler. Not a neuroscientist which isn’t even a real title. Its a self made title. As far as I can tell he holds no doctoral degree (which he probably does or at least should) and his credentials is that he teaches psychology classes. So he can’t do chemistry, doesn’t know the intricacies of the brain physiologically. Apparently thinks someone already on methamphetamine is a reliable person to administer any stimulant or placebo to and come up with any result other then what he wants it to be. I had to see a neuropsychiatrist and do two days of testing, background history, questioning (a part of the two days), and hours upon hours of tests constructed to determine if someone has an issue and what the issue is before receiving Adderall. And I get it from the chief of psychiatry at my local VA hospital. Not a family doctor who I said I can’t concentrate I think I need a stimulant. In fact I don’t feel good taking stimulants which is a good indicator as to whether the diagnosis is correct or not. If you feel energetic, better, euphoric, etc. from taking these medicines then you don’t have ADD/ADHD. And I also can’t believe some of the doses general practitioners prescribe this stuff. But assuming everything about the article is true why start prescribing methamphetamine more when he only claims it creates the same effects. So there’s no added value to it. And if nothing else the negative value of it being addictive in the category of heroin. One more thing. I have been on the same dose of Adderall for years. If you have ADD its not like pain management. You don’t need to keep increasing the dosage due to tolerance. That is just a sign of someone who thinks the euphoric effects are suppose to happen. But people will believe what they want if they have not been educated enough to ask questions.

    • Olmy Olm

      He is mostly talking about the actual effects of the drugs, which is what matters, after all. Or do you think it doesn’t?

    • Olmy Olm

      Oh and Dr. Cart Hart has a PhD in neuroscience and teaches at Columbia University.

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  • Practice Balance

    maybe you ,,,,alpha, should stop feeling threatened by different studies from men with exotic hairstyles cant be jamed into your expensive University schooled boxfull of outdated science.
    ALLOW ROOM FOR GROWTH…GOOD SCIENCE IS ABOUT GOING FORWARD..And dont get me started about propaganda.

  • georgia sokolay

    My father was a drug addict and almost died from crank addiction which makes me more likely to become addicted to drugs or develop a dependency. I’ve taken adderall for years and i do run out and because of the drug type i delay on refilling it and i don’t crave it or have withdrawal i just suffer lack of energy and my ADD gets in the way. adderall boosts me and allows me to focus and be productive and helps with depression but it isn’t like meth. meth creates a dependency in your brain and fucks you up, if you abuse any amphetamine long enough in high doses you’d likely create a dependency which is why its prescription drug. It’s stupid to compare the two as equals

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  • Danny Silveira

    I’ve tried all the Methylphenidates and the Dex called Focalin and then I tried Adderall which is a mix of Amphetamines and that’s what I have been taking for the last 5 years for both work and school. I’ve of course tried street Meth and street Meth cannot be compared to any type of pharma Amphetamines or even Dextromethamphetamine (Desoxyn). Who knows who made that street Meth, plus the street is usually smoked or burned down your nostril and why do you think it burns so much people? It’s made by a reckless cook and it’s made by anything they can get their hands on these days. Before 1979 it was possible to get your hands on P2P (Phenylacetone) and with a few other steps plus Methylamine, back then it was possible to make the correct chemical structure of Methylamphetamine but those days are long gone. These days the chemical structure of crystal Meth looks more like something in the shape of 4-Methylaminorex (look it up) which is on a whole other level. 4-Methylaminorex is more destructive and more toxic to both your body and your brain, more than any type of Amphetamine, Dextroamphetamine or Dextromethamphetamine, clandestine or pharma made. But don’t think you’re always going to get 4-Methylaminorex, you can even get something that is even worse and even more toxic, making your life a living hell when you run out, and in the future you’re most likely going to experience both mental problems and health problems, also, kiss your teeth goodbye! Also notice when you use crystal Meth you become hypersexual? From my experience, that doesn’t happen with any kind of pharma made Amphetamines. I’m going to be honest though, the pharma Amp works for school and work but when I want to have a good time, party and bang chicks all night, sure I’ll buy some crystal but I always have to pay for it in the end when I run out. Let me add that the the street crystal Meth is so toxic that the pharma Amps couldn’t even touch you if you tried and if you do you’re just wasting them. You have to wait at least a week to get all that garbage out of your system and just deal, deal with that depression, that misery and that drag! I find myself stuck in bed for a week with my back in pain, yet I still get myself to get myself out despite the pain from laying in bed for so long.

  • Ian Perkins

    Amphetamine doesn’t keep you awake for 24 hours at a time, unlike methamphetamine. And the sleep deprivation that comes with meth use leads to problems you don’t usually get with amphetamine, like smelling of ammonia, and exacerbates other problems, like paranoia.

    • Olmy Olm

      I’ve heard of people experiencing those problems on Adderal.

      Also, method is important. I’m sure smoking or injecting something makes the effect stronger than eating it.

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  • Alice

    As a person who has been on Adderall most of my life (25 years). I have severe ADHD/ADD. I lost my insurance about 5 years ago. It took me about 18+ months to get it back. I became scattered distracted and irritated because I couldn’t concentrate or focus no matter how hard I tried. I went to a party and there was Some meth there and so I decided to try it I didn’t notice it until my friends car wouldn’t start. I went out there to help almost immediately I was able to figure it out. And not be distracted by my surroundings. I fixed it. The meth lasted for about 4-6 hrs. I continued to self medicate with methamphetamine I have been on it for years and I am able to concentrate focus and maintain a normal day. I do concur with this study who has had long term use of d& methamphetamine both.

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  • b4integrity

    Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Methamphetamine is similar to amphetamine, but is not “virtually identical”. Go back to pharmacology class and pay attention this time!

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  • Ezra MacVie

    The article says “(see figure)” for a comparison of the chemical structures of d-amphetamine and methamphetamine.

    Where’s the figure?