Amphetamine vs. Methamphetamine: Unveiling the Differences

Young man standing alone on wooden footbridge and staring at lake. Thinking about life. Mist over water. Foggy air. Early chilly morning. Peaceful atmosphere in nature. Enjoying fresh air. Back view.

Amphetamines and methamphetamine belong to the same class of substances known as stimulants, but their disparities go beyond mere categorization. While amphetamines have medicinal uses and are prescribed for specific conditions, methamphetamine is an illicit street drug with no legitimate medical purpose. In this article, we will explore the characteristics and consequences of both substances, shedding light on their individual effects and the signs of stimulant abuse.

What is Amphetamine?

Amphetamines, such as Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Vyvanse, are synthetic drugs that stimulate the central nervous system by interacting with neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. Primarily prescribed for individuals with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, these medications can enhance focus and increase energy levels.

However, amphetamines are often misused for non-medical purposes, with students being the most common offenders. Approximately 13% of U.S. college students resort to using amphetamines, known as “study drugs,” in an attempt to improve their academic performance. The brain’s reward system is directly impacted by amphetamines, leading individuals to develop a cycle of substance-seeking behaviors that can result in addiction.

Signs of amphetamine use disorder may include irritability, disrupted sleep patterns, weight loss, headaches, numbness in limbs, hostile behavior, exhaustion, diarrhea, constipation, verbal or muscle tics, dizziness, memory loss, and impulsive behaviors.

What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, also referred to as meth, crank, or ice, is an illicit synthetic stimulant consumed through injection, snorting, or smoking. Unlike amphetamines, methamphetamine is created by combining amphetamine with various toxic household substances such as drain cleaner, battery acid, paint thinner, or lighter fluid. Consequently, the human body struggles to process these ingredients, leading to severe psychological and physical effects.

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Upon initial use, the individual experiences an intense rush of energy and confidence. However, once the meth wears off, known as the meth crash, the individual goes through a period of lethargy, insomnia, cravings, confusion, and anxiety. Methamphetamine is highly addictive, with users often becoming dependent almost immediately.

Long-term methamphetamine use is associated with serious health complications, including dental decay, premature skin aging, liver failure, psychosis, cognitive problems, and cardiac arrest.

Signs of methamphetamine abuse or addiction may include paranoia, irritability, skin sores, chronic insomnia, sudden weight loss, nervous or anxious behavior, high-risk activities, hyperactivity, sagging skin, and severe tooth decay.

Stimulant Withdrawal Management and Treatment

Whether someone is struggling with an amphetamine use disorder or a meth addiction, the path to freedom begins with detoxification and withdrawal management. This phase involves medical supervision and psychological support as the individual navigates the challenges of withdrawal. While there is no specific medication for stimulant withdrawal, certain antidepressants like Paxil, Prozac, and Remeron have demonstrated effectiveness.

Withdrawal symptoms vary in severity based on the duration and extent of the substance use disorder, along with the individual’s overall health. Typically, symptoms peak within one week and gradually subside over a period of two weeks.

Although there are differences in amphetamine and methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms, the most common include extreme fatigue, drug cravings, depression, anxiety, increased appetite, slowed cognitive functioning, vivid dreams or nightmares, excessive sleeping, and suicidal ideation or behaviors.

Due to the profound impact on the brain, treating methamphetamine addiction is more complex than addressing amphetamine addiction. Following detox, enrolling in a comprehensive treatment program becomes essential. Treatment typically involves individual and group psychotherapy, elements of the 12-Step program, holistic activities, life skills training, and health and wellness counseling.

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Continuing care efforts play a crucial role in reinforcing recovery after treatment program completion. Examples of these efforts include residing in sober living, attending outpatient psychotherapy sessions, participating in a recovery community, and joining a support group.

By embracing a range of therapeutic activities, individuals can make the necessary changes to achieve a new life of health and wellness in recovery.

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