Ever wonder why amphetamines are sometimes prescribed to patients suffering from a variety of symptoms, while methamphetamine’s are a dangerous drug that kills thousands of people each year? If so, continue reading to find out what distinguishes these two closely related and controversial substances.
What are Amphetamines?
Due to the close relationship between amphetamines and methamphetamines, it is important to learn about amphetamines first. Amphetamines are their own classification of drugs that act as stimulants to the central nervous system. The stimulating effects of amphetamines produce heightened alertness and awareness that keeps users awake. Although amphetamines are occasionally used to treat ADD, ADHD, narcolepsy, and obesity, the risks associated with continued use has made the drug highly controversial. Sustained amphetamine use can easily lead to physical addiction, resulting in significant symptoms of withdrawal when users quit the drug abruptly.
Amphetamines are not a naturally occurring drug. Rather, the drug is synthesized in a lab setting. Amphetamines were first synthesized in 1887 from an ephedrine compound by Romanian chemist Lazar Edeleanu. Edeleanu found the drug to have a similar chemical structure to adrenaline, a stimulant that is naturally produced in the human body.
The drug may have been originally produced in 1887, but amphetamines were not used for medical purposes until 40 years later in 1927. Interested in determining the body’s reaction to the drug, pharmacologist Gordon Alles tested amphetamine on himself in order to determine the drug’s effects and what it could potentially be used for. Since then, Ritalin and Adderall, both forms of amphetamine, have been prescribed as a treatment for hyperactivity disorder.
Following are some interesting facts and information about amphetamines:
- Amphetamines have similar physiological effects to cocaine. The major underlying difference between the effects of both drugs is that the effects of amphetamines last much longer.
- The reaction of the central nervous system to amphetamines has caused amphetamines to be occasionally used as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
- In addition to possible cardiac arrest, the sustained use of amphetamines can lead to toxic psychosis, as well as behavioral and physiological disorders.
- Sustained amphetamine use can also lead to violent psychosis that is very similar to symptoms of schizophrenia.
- Studies have estimated that amphetamines have been prescribed to nearly four million children that have been diagnosed with ADD and ADHD.
- According to studies released by the World Health Organization, amphetamine use is more widespread than both cocaine and heroin abuse in more than 20 countries around the world.
The Difference Between Amphetamine and Methamphetamine
It is common for many people to mistakenly believe that amphetamine and methamphetamine are the same type of drug. They may have strikingly similar qualities and characteristics, such as they are both stimulants with dangerous side effects, but they are not exactly identical. Although minimal, when examining amphetamine vs. methamphetamine in closer detail, there are some differences between the two.
Amphetamines comprise an entire class of drugs, including methamphetamine that fall under the category of amphetamines. Methamphetamine breaks down in the body and is easily metabolized into amphetamine. The scientific name of amphetamine is methylated phenylethylamine.
Methamphetamine is scientifically known as double methylated phenylethylamine. The primary scientific difference between amphetamine and methamphetamine is the doubling process. Otherwise, the two stimulants are near identical. Thus, they have similar natural side effects and risks of addiction. Methamphetamine breaks down in the body and metabolizes into amphetamine.
Methamphetamine also contain a number of other drugs and a variety of chemicals that can greatly increase the potency and dangers of taking the drug. When taken properly, amphetamines are powerful drugs that have several beneficial uses. However, the corrupted nature of methamphetamine dilutes any benefits and increases the dangers of using this recreational drug.
Amphetamine use can cause many side effects, such as:
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Shallow breathing
- Impaired speech
- Dry mouth
- Rapid pulse
While both drugs share these same common side effects, the effects are much stronger with methamphetamine than amphetamines and the effects become noticeable much more quickly.
Every year, the Department of Health and Human Services publishes the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which shows detailed statistics on meth use. The most recent study found the following information:
- During the last calendar year, there were a recorded 323,000 methamphetamine users, which was a total decrease of nearly 70 percent since 2006.
- The number of first time methamphetamine users was reported at 90,000. This is also a significant decrease from previous years. For instance, in 2002, the total reported number of first time users was 299,000.
Methamphetamine use is not safe under any conditions. Due to the fact that it lacks FDA approval, there are no regulations controlling its potency or the substances that make up its ingredients. This makes the effects of methamphetamines devastating. In fact, pure methamphetamine is powerful enough to kill an adult with just one dose.
Users can become addicted after using the drug only a couple of times. Most people begin using the drug for recreational use, simply as a means of staying awake and alert. After staying awake for long periods of time, users usually “crash,” which involves sleeping for a long period of time in attempt to allow the body to recover. Users then take the drug again to feel more awake after sleeping for such long periods. Thus, the never ending cycle of methamphetamine use begins.
Methamphetamine addiction is very hard to break, and the dangerous disease can have long term permanent side effects, such as brain damage, damage to neurotransmitters that control feelings of pleasure and happiness, and mental psychosis that can mimic the extreme paranoia associated with schizophrenia.
So, when analyzing the differences amphetamines and methamphetamine, the similarities become quite evident. In fact, methamphetamines are merely a drug formed from the extra processing of amphetamines. This doubling effect increases the side effects and dangers of the synthetic drug. Deservedly so, methamphetamine are an illegal substance that should never be used for any reason.