Amphetamine vs Methamphetamine

Amphetamine vs Methamphetamine sound alike, but they’re not exactly the same. They’re different in three main ways:

  • Whether they’re allowed by the law.
  • The good and bad things they can do to you.
  • How people usually take and misuse them.

But before we get into those differences, let’s first understand what these substances are.

What Are Amphetamines

Amphetamines are like special drugs that make your body and brain go faster. There are different kinds of amphetamines, such as amphetamine, dextroamphetamine, methylphenidate, dexmethylphenidate, and lisdexamfetamine. There’s also one called methamphetamine, but we’ll talk more about that later.

When you take an amphetamine, it makes your brain talk to your body super fast. This makes you feel more energetic, faster to react, and better at paying attention. People sometimes call these drugs speed, uppers, or pep pills.

In the United States, some amphetamines are approved by doctors to help with certain problems. They’re used to treat conditions like ADHD (which makes it hard to focus) and narcolepsy (which makes you fall asleep suddenly). Doctors might also give amphetamines to people who need help with losing weight.

Here are some examples of prescription medicines with amphetamines in them. We’ll start with the brand names and then tell you the amphetamines they have.

Common Medicines with Amphetamines

Some medicines with amphetamines include:

  • Adderall (has racemic amphetamine and dextroamphetamine)
  • Ritalin (has methylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (has dextroamphetamine)
  • Focalin (has dexmethylphenidate)
  • Vyvanse (has lisdexamfetamine)

The legal, doctor-prescribed amphetamines are usually in the form of pills or capsules that you swallow with water. But illegal amphetamines are often found as pills or powders that people smoke, breathe in, inject, or swallow in a harmful way.

Even though some amphetamines are used for medical reasons, it doesn’t mean they are completely safe. Depending on the type of amphetamine medicine, a person might have side effects like feeling anxious, sick to their stomach, having diarrhea, stomach cramps, headaches, feeling dizzy, being restless, or losing their appetite.

These bad effects happen a lot. Also, people who are supposed to take amphetamine medicines sometimes use them too much or in bigger amounts than the doctor told them to.

Sometimes, people who don’t have a prescription for amphetamine medicines use them to help them stay awake, focus better, and remember things when they’re studying. And some people use these medicines just for fun.

No matter why someone starts using amphetamines the wrong way, it can lead to big problems. When it gets really bad, we call it “amphetamine use disorder” or “methamphetamine use disorder.” Here are some bad things that can happen if you have this disorder:

  • Terrible headaches
  • Not being able to see well
  • Your heart beating too fast or not normally
  • Having a very high body temperature and blood pressure (which is dangerous)
  • Your heart could stop working or you could have a heart attack
  • Damage to your liver (an organ in your body)
  • Getting really angry or aggressive
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • Feeling very paranoid (like thinking everyone is against you)
  • Going crazy (which is called psychosis)
  • Having seizures (when your body shakes and jerks)
  • Even dying

But don’t worry, there’s hope. When someone gets help from a good doctor, they can start to fix their problem with amphetamines and work toward a better future.

What Is Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a very strong and super-addictive type of amphetamine.

People often call this drug “meth,” “ice,” “crank,” or “crystal meth.” It usually looks like tiny crystal rocks. People use meth by smoking it, breathing it in, swallowing it, or injecting it into their body.

Unlike regular amphetamines, methamphetamine doesn’t have any important medical uses. In the United States, there’s only one prescription medicine with methamphetamine, called Desoxyn. Sometimes, doctors use it for ADHD and obesity, but it’s very risky, so they don’t use it much.

When people misuse methamphetamine, it can cause serious problems in their body and mind. Here are some of the bad things that can happen:

  • Really bad damage to their teeth and gums
  • Can’t stop picking at their skin, leading to scabs and sores
  • High blood pressure (like the force of blood inside their body is too strong)
  • Hurts their heart, which can make it stop working or cause a heart attack
  • Problems with their lungs, like pneumonia and other issues
  • More chance of getting Parkinson’s disease (a brain problem)
  • Changes in their brain, which can make them think and remember things poorly
  • Forgetting things
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there
  • Feeling like they’re not connected to their thoughts, feelings, or what’s around them
  • Going crazy (called psychosis)
  • Thinking about hurting themselves
  • Taking too much and getting really sick
  • Even dying

Meth abuse and addiction are really, really bad. In 2020, it’s believed that methamphetamine overdoses might have caused more than 20,000 deaths.

Important Ways Amphetamines and Methamphetamine Are Different

As we talked about earlier, amphetamines and methamphetamine are both strong and risky stimulants, but there are some big differences between them.


  • Amphetamines: The first amphetamine was made in 1887 by a scientist named Laz─âr Edeleanu from Romania while he was in Germany.
  • Methamphetamine: Methamphetamine was first created by a Japanese scientist named Nagai Nagayoshi in 1883. The crystalized form of meth that people mostly use today was developed by another Japanese scientist, Akira Ogata, in 1919.

Medical Use:

  • Amphetamines: Many kids, teenagers, and adults take prescription drugs with amphetamines.
  • Methamphetamine: There’s only one approved medicine with methamphetamine, and doctors are very careful when they prescribe it.


  • Amphetamines: You can legally get and use lots of amphetamines if a doctor prescribes them to you.
  • Methamphetamine: Except for the prescription drug Desoxyn, having, selling, or using methamphetamine is against the law in the United States.

Making the Drugs

  • Amphetamines: Some people use amphetamines that come from doctors, but others use ones that are made illegally.
  • Methamphetamine: Nearly all the methamphetamine in the United States is made illegally, often in really dangerous places called meth labs.


  • Amphetamines: When doctors give people amphetamines the right way, it can help them feel better with just a few side effects.
  • Methamphetamine: Using methamphetamine is always very risky, which is why doctors almost never prescribe it. It can cause serious harm to the body and mind.

What’s the Same Between Amphetamines vs Methamphetamines

Amphetamines and methamphetamines are like chemical relatives. When you compare them, they both can make you addicted, but they also have medical uses.

They give you a lot of the same side effects, but meth is stronger and acts faster in your body. Both are considered strong drugs, but methamphetamines are the most commonly made and sold illegally in the United States.

People who make illegal drugs in Mexico usually make methamphetamines using chemicals they bring from Mexico. The two drugs have similar structures, but meth has something extra called “methyl” (which is made of one carbon and three hydrogen atoms). Street meth often has extra stuff mixed in to make it stronger.

Methylphenidate is a version of amphetamine used to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. It helps kids who can’t sit still and grown-ups who have trouble focusing. But it can also cause common side effects like a faster heart rate, chest pain, and fever. Each person’s body reacts differently to the medication, so it can take some time to adjust.

Amphetamine vs Methamphetamine Addiction

Both amphetamines and methamphetamine are drugs that can make people addicted. However, methamphetamine addiction tends to happen faster than amphetamine addiction.

A study in 2009 found that methamphetamine affects the brain’s dopamine system more strongly than amphetamines. This means methamphetamine makes the brain release more dopamine, which is a chemical that makes you feel good.

Because of this, people who misuse methamphetamine feel a stronger sense of happiness, but it also makes them more likely to become addicted compared to those who misuse amphetamines.


Amphetamines: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said around 18 million Americans take prescription stimulants. In 2020, about 3.7 million people aged 12 and up used prescription stimulants in the wrong way. During that year, about 1.5 million people in this age group had a big problem with prescription stimulants.

Methamphetamine: Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) showed that in 2020, around 2.5 million people aged 12 and up tried methamphetamine at least once, and about 1.6 million people had a big problem with using methamphetamine.

Summary: Amphetamine vs Methamphetamine

Amphetamine vs Methamphetamine: Amphetamines are used for important medical reasons. They help people with attention problems and sleep issues like narcolepsy. Some people also take non-prescription amphetamines to lose weight.

However, using amphetamines for a long time can be very bad for your health. If you use methamphetamine or have a big problem with it, the effects can be even worse. It can make you really sick, both in your body and mind. You might start to believe things that aren’t true or see things that aren’t there.

That’s why it’s super important to listen to your doctor if you take prescription amphetamines and not use them in the wrong way. Misusing them can lead to even more problems with your body, mind, emotions, and actions.

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