Adderall vs Meth: What is the Difference?

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Adderall and meth are both central nervous system stimulants that are prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While you might know it as an illegal drug, meth is prescribed under the brand name Desoxyn.[1] The illicit version contains a variety of dangerous chemicals, making illegal meth dangerous to abuse.

Both Adderall and meth have a high potential for abuse and addiction. While the two drugs have a lot of things in common, there are some differences to be aware of.

For starters, there is a difference in their chemical structure, as methamphetamine (meth) contains an additional methyl group. Additionally, the ingredients are different. The prescription version of meth only contains methamphetamine, while Adderall has a group of amphetamine salts.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What Adderall is
  • What meth is
  • The differences between Adderall and meth

If you or a loved one are addicted to either meth or Adderall, contact New Jersey Addiction Interventions today to speak with a team member about your treatment options.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription stimulant drug that is FDA-approved to treat ADHD. While it helps manage the symptoms of ADHD, Adderall is known to be highly addictive when it is abused. If you do not have ADHD, taking Adderall will cause a mind-altering effect with symptoms like euphoria and increased energy.

The side effects of Adderall might include:[2]

  • Nervousness
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in sex drive or ability
  • Shaking or tremors

Adderall is considered a Schedule II controlled substance in the United States.[3] This means it has medicinal purposes but poses a risk of substance abuse. If you or a loved one misuses Adderall, contact New Jersey Addiction Interventions for assistance in finding a drug rehab program.

What is Meth?

Meth is both a prescription and an illegal drug depending on how it is sourced. If you are receiving meth from a doctor to treat your ADHD, you are probably used to hearing it referred to as Desoxyn. On the other hand, drug users might obtain meth from drug dealers after it is created in an illegal drug lab.

Prescription meth and illegal meth are very different. The prescription medication only contains pure methamphetamine salts. Illegal meth often contains dangerous household chemicals like acetone.

The side effects of prescription meth might include:[4]

  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth

Meth abuse causes increased energy, euphoria, fast heartbeat, paranoia, weight loss, and even dental decay.

What are the Differences Between Adderall and Meth?

Adderall and meth have many similarities, from their effects and uses to the risk of addiction, but they are two different substances. Key differences include:

Chemical Structure

First, Adderall and meth are structurally different. To the naked eye, the structure of these drugs might seem identical. However, at a closer look at their chemical structure, you would find that methamphetamine has an additional methyl group that contains a carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms.[5]


Legal meth only contains methamphetamine hydrochloride. Illicit forms of meth contain unknown impurities and cutting agents that drug dealers have added to the substance.

On the other hand, Adderall contains four amphetamine salts:

  • Dextroamphetamine saccharate
  • Amphetamine aspartate monohydrate
  • Dextroamphetamine sulfate
  • Amphetamine sulfate

Frequency of Prescribing

While both meth and Adderall are prescribed to treat ADHD, meth is not used as frequently as Adderall. This is mainly due to the attitudes surrounding meth, as it has become an incredibly damaging substance of abuse. However, it is important to note that Desoxyn can be helpful for those with ADHD despite the feelings surrounding meth.

Unlike the limited use of Desoxyn, Adderall is frequently prescribed for children and adults suffering from ADHD. Many people use this prescription drug long-term to manage their condition with great success.

Risk of Abuse

Lastly, meth has a higher risk of abuse.  Since illicit forms of meth contain dangerous substances, the consequences of abusing it are also greater. For example, long-term abuse of meth can lead to severe malnutrition, dental decay, cardiovascular risks, and more.

Up to 2.5 million people used meth in 2021 and about 1.6 million were addicted to it.[6]

It is important to note that you can become addicted to Adderall. It is most common for young adults and college students without ADHD to misuse it, as it allows them to stay up late and focus on studying for hours at a time. In fact, 60% of non-medical Adderall use happens among people aged 18 to 25 years old.[7]

If you or a loved one abuse meth or Adderall, you should seek professional addiction treatment.

Find Help for Adderall or Meth Addiction

If you or a loved one abuses a stimulant drug like Adderall or meth, it’s time to seek professional help. At New Jersey Interventions, we can connect you with a highly-rated stimulant addiction treatment center in your area.

Contact us today to learn more about how to get connected with a reputable drug rehab program near you.


  1. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): Methamphetamine
  2. Medline: Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine
  3. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): Drug Scheduling
  4. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Desoxyn Label
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Methamphetamine
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the scope of methamphetamine use in the United States?
  7. Johns Hopkins University: Adderall abuse on the rise among young adults, Johns Hopkins study suggests

Medically Reviewed: June 7, 2024

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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