Is Adderall Really Just Glorified Meth?
I once worked at a Buy/Sell/Trade store in Pittsburgh. It was a quiet job—I’d polish the glass cabinets and organize shelves for eight hours at a time. Every two weeks or so, a group of meth heads would traipse in, identifiable by their ripped clothes, their twitchy movements. They’d stack a little pile of $1 DVDs on the counter, some scratched CDs, anything they could get their hands on. Everyone knew where their cash would be going, but there was nothing we could do about it, other than try not to stare at their open sores.
That memory has led me to steer clear of the drug. After all, I grew up in the post-Reagan, D.A.R.E. generation. I watched Helen Hunt leap out of a window, seemingly unprovoked. “Meth: Not. Even. Once,” we were told. It was an anti-drug hysteria. But a recent article by Dr. Carl Hart, a psychiatry professor at Columbia University, forces us to reassess our perception the drug by suggesting that meth is almost chemically and physiologically identical to the popular study drug Adderall.
In the article, Hart argues, “We should view methamphetamine…like we view d-amphetamine,” effectively dropping the social stigma that tends to gather around cheaper, street versions of pharmaceutical drugs. The adverse effects we typically associate with meth—it’s addictive, hallucinatory, and can physically deteriorate the user—are byproducts of overuse and mishandled insufflation. According to Hart, “meth mouth,” that mangled dentistry nightmare that’s been associated with meth use, is largely an invention of the anti-drug lobby. If we were to grind up Adderall and smoke it out of a tarred crack pipe, or snort a line off of a toilet lid, we’d detect little to no difference between the meth head and the Adderal admiral. The only difference is the glamour and the social acceptance of it all. Breaking Badderall, anyone?
To defend this controversial opinion, Hart begins with the fact that both drugs are FDA-approved ADHD medications. From there, he went on to describe how users of Adderall and meth are virtually indistinguishable, both in their reactions to the drugs, and in their physical dependence. They both experience the horse-blinder focus that can help college students hone in on those last two pages of their thesis before the semester ends. They’re both rather unenthused about the prospect of eating or sleeping, instead riding a wave of energy for upwards of two days.
There is one big difference between the drugs. Meth is not regulated. With Adderall, you’ve got a carefully monitored dosage clearly written on the side of the bottle to guide you. With meth, there is no such guidance. Hart doesn’t want us to elevate Adderall users to “meth head” status, nor does he want to encourage us all to run out to our nearest chem lab, but instead hopes that his publishing “engenders less judgment of people who use meth, and greater empathy.” With greater social understanding comes better treatment for those abusing Adderall or meth. And that’s a message we can all get behind.
First image via Crazytown.
Stay tuned to Milk for more throwback D.A.R.E. references.