What Is the Difference Between Meth and Adderall?

They are both stimulants that can cause increased energy, improved focus, and elevated mood. They are both often abused, a practice that can lead to addiction. Yet one is a popular prescription medication, while the other is a dangerous illegal drug. What is the difference between meth and Adderall?

What Is Adderall?

To understand what is the difference between meth and Adderall, it can be valuable to review some basic facts about each drug. We’ll begin this exploration with Adderall, then move on to meth.

Adderall is the brand name of a medication that is most commonly prescribed to treat people who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy.

Adderall contains a balanced mixture of racemic amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, both of which are stimulants. The medication increases the amount of two neurotransmitters – dopamine and norepinephrine – that deliver messages throughout the central nervous system:

  • Dopamine is associated with feelings and abilities such as pleasure, motivation, focus, and learning.
  • Norepinephrine is involved with features such as memory, alertness, and attention.

When a person takes Adderall, they usually experience the following types of effects:

  • Feeling more awake and alert
  • Increased energy
  • Better ability to focus and concentrate
  • Enhanced capacity for acquiring and recalling information

From 2017-2021, the annual number of Adderall prescriptions in the U.S. increased by about 29%, rising from 32.2 million to 41.4 million. In addition to the millions of people who take Adderall on a prescription basis for a legitimate health condition, many others abuse this medication. 

Some of those who abuse Adderall do so to help them study longer and retain a greater amount of information. Others do so for recreational purposes, to enhance the effects of other drugs, or to help them stay awake so they can continue to party.

What Is Meth?

Meth is short for methamphetamine. Like the ingredients in Adderall, meth is also a stimulant. However, meth is more powerful than Adderall and it poses a greater risk of abuse and addiction. Though there are limited medical uses for methamphetamine, the majority of meth use in the U.S. involves illicit recreational substance abuse.

As with Adderall, meth use results in excess dopamine in the central nervous system. This can cause a person to experience a euphoric rush along with a dramatic boost in energy, focus, and confidence. 

The intensity of these symptoms, coupled with the desire to avoid the physical and psychological crash that occurs when these symptoms wear off, can prompt people to use the drug multiple times. This can quickly push the individual into addiction. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has reported the following about meth use in the United States:

  • About 2.5 million people in the U.S. used meth in the previous 12 months. 
  • More than 60% of those who used meth (or about 1.6 million people) developed methamphetamine use disorder, which is the clinical term for meth addiction. 

NIDA also reported that, in 2021 alone, more than 32,000 overdose deaths involved meth or similar substances.

What Is the Difference Between Meth and Adderall?

There are several answers to the question, “What is the difference between meth and Adderall?” Here are a few of them:

Legal Status

It is legal to purchase, possess, and use Adderall in the United States if you have a prescription from a qualified healthcare provider.

Meth is a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S. With the exception of Desoxyn (a prescription medication for ADHD and weight loss that contains methamphetamine), it is typically illegal to buy, possess, or use meth.


Most people who abuse Adderall use legally produced drugs that have been diverted. This can include buying, borrowing, or stealing Adderall that was prescribed to someone else, or purchasing the drug from illegal online pharmacies.

Much of the meth that is abused in the U.S. today is produced in illicit drug labs. Though it can be dangerous to manufacture meth, the process does not require advanced equipment. This allows people to produce the drug in sheds, basements, hotel or motel rooms, and other easily accessible places.

Means of Use

Adderall is usually swallowed in pill form, though some people grind these pills into a powder that can be inhaled through the nose.

Meth can be abused in many forms. It can be swallowed, snorted as a powder, heated and smoked, or dissolved into a solution and injected. 

Duration of Effects

The primary effects of Adderall are increased wakefulness and focus. Someone who takes Adderall usually begins to feel these effects within an hour of taking the medication, and they typically last for four to six hours.

The intense burst of energy and euphoria that results from meth use can begin to be felt within a few minutes of taking the drug. These and other effects of meth can last for 12-16 hours. 

Long-Term Harm

People who have become addicted to Adderall risk several types of long-term harm, including insomnia, malnutrition, heart problems, hypertension, and seizure. 

The long-term dangers of meth addiction can include severe dental decay, extensive skin damage, psychosis (including hallucinations and delusions), paranoia, structural and functional brain changes, memory loss, and aggressive or violent behaviors.

Find Meth Addiction Treatment in Worcester, Massachusetts

If you have become addicted to Adderall, meth, or any other stimulant, Lake Avenue Recovery is here to help. Our stimulant addiction treatment center in Worcester, Massachusetts, offers customized outpatient programming, including day and evening options, to help adults end their stimulant abuse and build a foundation for long-term recovery.

When you choose Lake Avenue Recovery, you will have the opportunity to receive personalized care and comprehensive support from a team of highly skilled professionals. We understand the devastation that stimulant addiction can inflict on a person’s life, and we are committed to providing the focused services that will empower you to achieve a drug-free future.

To learn more or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call us today. We look forward to answering your questions and helping you decide if Lake Avenue Recovery is the perfect place for you.