Anyone who’s ever scored some adderall from a friend in college to study for a big exam is no stranger to the potent medication commonly used to treat attention deficit disorder in teenagers and young adults. The euphoric feeling associated with the drug as well as the increased ability to focus and energy are hailed as a panacea among people who struggle with ADHD and inability to concentrate for extended periods of time.
Ironically, those same highly sought after symptoms and side-effects are identical to another common drug widely available on the streets known as crystal meth. So what exactly is the reason that two seemingly radically different drugs, so divergent in their perceived applications by the general public to have essentially the exact same side-effects and basic profile. The answer is the two drugs have virtually identical chemical structures and compositions.
Dr. Carl Hart is a world renowned expert of drug abuse and addiction as well as professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University. Hart incidentally happens to be the first tenured African American professor of sciences at Columbia University and is highly distinguished amongst his colleagues in the field of addiction and drug abuse. His list of credentials and accolades is prodigious enough to classify him as a preeminent scholar in the emerging field of drug addiction and its root causes.
In a recent article on his website www.theinfluence.org, Hart proposes that the chief distinction between crystal meth and Adderall is the consensus of the public. Hart elaborates that this notion of toxic meth is largely due to a misconception promulgated by public service announcements.
“Perhaps it has something to do with public “educational” campaigns aimed at discouraging methamphetamine use. These campaigns usually show, in graphically horrifying detail, some poor young person who uses the drug for the first time and then ends up engaging in uncharacteristic acts such as prostitution, stealing from parents, or assaulting strangers for money to buy the drug. At the end of advertisement, emblazoned on the screen, is: “Meth—not even once.” We’ve also seen those infamous “meth mouth” images (extreme tooth decay), wrongly presented as a direct consequence of methamphetamine use. These types of media campaigns neither prevent nor decrease the use of the drug; nor do they provide any real facts about the effects of meth. They succeed only in perpetuating false assumptions. Swayed by this messaging, the public remains almost entirely ignorant of the fact that methamphetamine produces nearly identical effects to those produced by the popular ADHD medication d-amphetamine (dextroamphetamine). You probably know it as Adderall®: a combination of amphetamine and d-amphetamine mixed salts.”
Hart conceded that he too was under the misconceived notion that methamphetamine was much more lethal than d-amphetamine, in spite of the fact that the chemical makeup of the two drugs is almost exactly the same. After thoroughly investigating and researching the raw data Hart has dispelled this perception on the part of the mainstream masses.
To bolster his claims, Hart and his team of researchers conducted a double-blind study of 13 men who regularly use methamphetamine. In the study men were administered a dose of d-amphetamine, methamphetamine and a placebo. The following were the results of the study:
Like d-amphetamine, methamphetamine increased our subjects’ energy and enhanced their ability to focus and concentrate; it also reduced subjective feelings of tiredness and the cognitive disruptions typically brought about by fatigue and/or sleep deprivation. Both drugs increased blood pressure and the rate at which the heart beat. No doubt these are the effects that justify the continued use of d-amphetamine by several nations’ militaries, including our own.
And when offered an opportunity to choose either the drugs or varying amounts of money, our subjects chose to take d-amphetamine on a similar number of occasions as they chose to take methamphetamine. These regular methamphetamine users could not distinguish between the two. (It is possible that the methyl group enhances methamphetamine’s lipid-solubility, but this effect appears to be imperceptible to human consumers.)
It is also true that the effects of smoking methamphetamine are more intense than those of swallowing a pill containing d-amphetamine. But that increased intensity is due to the route of administration, not the drug itself. Smoking d-amphetamine produces nearly identical intense effects as smoking methamphetamine. The same would be true if the drugs were snorted intranasally.
The importance of Hart’s research has profound effects that shake the established science to its very core and upend widely held beliefs by the pharmacological industry. In one instance, it demonstrates that a drug, which is legally consumed by millions of youths in the US, is indistinguishable to an illegal street drug corresponding with a litany of negative attributes. Conversely, it indicates that meth users are essentially in the same camp as the millions of legitimate users of the socially acceptable adderall.
Despite statistics that say the use of methamphetamine has been steadily on the decline there are still reasons for heightened concern. There are over 3.5 million American children currently using a ADHD drug, which demonstrates a nearly 500% increase since 1990 according to the U.S. National Drug Control Policy director R. Gil Kerlikowske. These alarming numbers are nothing to take lightly.
It appears evident that big pharma has identified a manner in which to market ADHD to the general public in an unabashed effort to purvey them legal meth. As Dr. Hart so articulately relates,
“It took me nearly 20 years and dozens of scientific publications in the area of drug use to recognize my own biases around methamphetamine. I can only hope that you don’t require as much time and scientific activity in order to understand that the Adderall that you or your loved one takes each day is essentially the same drug as meth. And I hope that this knowledge engenders less judgment of people who use meth, and greater empathy.”