How Similar are Amphetamines and Methamphetamines?

The terms amphetamine and methamphetamine sound similar and are similar types of drugs. Up until the first half of the 20th century, both formulas were prescribed by physicians. However, physicians became aware of the difference and the potential for patients to suffer addiction. Although having similarities, the drugs do have important differences.

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Amphetamines and methamphetamine elevate the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. When in abundance, the neurotransmitters produce a feeling of euphoria in addition to increasing physical energy and encouraging insomnia. As both types of drugs affect the central nervous system, they produce a number of cardiovascular symptoms that include increased blood pressure and pulse rate. In excess, either formula may induce dizziness, heart attack or stroke.

Chemically Different

Amphetamine is chemically known as phenylethylamine. Methamphetamine is known as N-methylamphetamine. Amphetamine contains one methyl group while methamphetamine has two. The chemical difference means that methamphetamine works faster, is stronger and more addictive. When taken, methamphetamine converts into amphetamine and remains as amphetamine when excreted from the body.


Medications in the amphetamine category have a variety of uses. The type of formula is commonly prescribed for individuals suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, which enables patients to become focused and alert. The psycho-stimulants are also an ingredient in prescription weight loss formulas.


Methamphetamine offers effects similar to amphetamines. However, the fast-acting effect of euphoria that methamphetamine produces make the drug appealing to substance abusers. The potency of the drug also increases the danger of using methamphetamine.

Abuse and Addiction

Both drugs have the potential for overuse, abuse and addiction. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency room visits contributed to stimulant abuse nearly tripled by 2010. Stimulants are the second most widely abused drug.

Chronic abuse leads to eventual addition. When stimulants disrupt brain chemical levels, the brain responds by blocking the receptors used by dopamine and norepinephrine. Abusers must then take more of the drug in order to experience the desired effects. The body becomes accustomed to the effects of the drugs when used habitually or in larger doses. When the body does not get the drug, which it now needs for normal function, cravings and withdrawal symptoms occur.

For this reason, patients taking prescription amphetamines should never abruptly stop taking the medication. When a physician determines that someone no longer needs the drug or requires a dosage adjustment, the dose must be decreased gradually to prevent adverse effects.

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