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Amphetamines vs. Methamphetamine: What's the Difference?

By Mikayla Price
Medically Reviewed by Nicole Arzt, LMFT on December 12, 2020
These drugs can bring on similar effects when misused, but they have big differences that you need to know.

Amphetamines and methamphetamine are both stimulant drugs. They speed up the information traveling between your brain and the rest of your body. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that in the short-term, both can make you feel:

  • Intense pleasure or happiness
  • More active and talkative
  • Less hungry

Amphetamines and methamphetamine have some key differences, though.

What Are Amphetamines, Exactly?

They’re a class of stimulant drugs that doctors may prescribe to treat conditions like: 

  • ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Narcolepsy, a condition that makes you sleepy during the day
  • Weight loss (in rare cases)

Some common prescription amphetamines are:

  • Adderall
  • Dexedrine  
  • Vyvanse

Amphetamines can be legally taken when prescribed by your doctor. They’re not legal if you take them without a prescription. Misusing them as a study aid or to get high can lead to addiction, an overdose, and other health problems. 

What Is Methamphetamine?

This drug’s chemical structure is similar to amphetamines. In rare cases, doctors prescribe legally-made methamphetamine to help treat ADHD and obesity. 

But it’s far more common for people to take illegal street versions of this stimulant. “Meth” is a dangerous drug that you can smoke, snort, swallow, or inject. It can hurt your health in a number of ways soon after you take it. And if you keep using it, you’ll be more likely to have long-term problems.

Methamphetamine is more potent than amphetamines, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says. At similar doses, much more of it gets into your brain. And the damage it does to your central nervous system is more harmful and long-lasting.

Get Help Now

Residential treatment centers provide a drug-free place away from obstacles that could trigger your cravings. You typically stay in a treatment center for one to several months and participate in individual and group therapies. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with meth addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help.

Treatment & Resources for Meth Addiction