Amphetamine and methamphetamine are both psychoactive drugs in the subcategory known as psycho stimulants. They are chemically similar, and have similar effects on the brain. However, the small differences that exist between the two drugs give them a very different character in the world of drug use and abuse. While the psycho stimulant effects of amphetamine can be used medicinally to treat certain conditions, methamphetamine almost always appears in dangerous and illegal form.
Amphetamine and methamphetamine are so chemically similar that the difference between them is essentially a matter of intensity. Amphetamine is methylated phenylethylamine, while methamphetamine is double methylated phenylethylamine. When methamphetamine is metabolized in the body, it turns into amphetamine and is excreted as amphetamine. Both drugs cause the brain to be flooded with norepinephrine and dopamine. This can stimulate feelings of euphoria, and increase energy and concentration levels.
The additional “methylation” of methamphetamine means that it acts more strongly and more rapidly in the body. As a result, methamphetamine is considered to be too volatile and dangerous for use as a therapeutic drug. In the past, methamphetamine was used to treat everything from alcoholism to Parkinson’s Disease. Once the true dangers of the drug were recognized, its therapeutic use was discontinued in almost every area. The only place methamphetamine currently appears as a legal drug is in over the counter nasal decongestants that are CSN (central nervous system) inactive.
Legal Amphetamine Use
The qualities of amphetamine have made it a popular drug for various conditions. The drug can be used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, because the stimulant effects allow the brain to concentrate more easily. It is also useful in the treatment of narcolepsy, since it increases alertness and energy. The drug can be found in diet pills, because it also serves as an appetite suppressant.
Amphetamine and Methamphetamine Abuse
The qualities of amphetamine also lend themselves to abuse. Stimulant drugs like amphetamine are at the forefront of the growing problem of prescription drug abuse in the United States and other countries. Academia is one area where illicit stimulant use is ever more popular, as students look to increase their academic performance in competitive and high-pressure environments. Amphetamine is also popular among athletes who rely on their performance for their livelihood.
Methamphetamine is a popular drug among growing numbers of people due to its fast acting high and accessibility. Methamphetamine is one of the easiest illicit drugs to manufacture, and as a result it is very cheap to purchase. When methamphetamine is sold on the street, it is most commonly referred to as meth, speed, or crank. The term “crystal meth” refers to methamphetamine hydrochloride, which has been processed to take the form of clear crystals that can be smoked.
Both amphetamine and methamphetamine are very addictive, which adds to the risks of using them recreationally. The risk of addiction with amphetamine use is generally negligible when it is used to treat a diagnosed condition under the supervision of a medical professional. However, using amphetamines for non-medical purposes without supervision greatly increases the potential for addiction in addition to presenting other dangers.
Abuse Around the World
According to the World Drug Report, confiscations of amphetamine-type stimulants stayed at roughly the same level in 2010 as in previous years. However, the year marked a significant shift in the amount of amphetamine confiscations vs. methamphetamine confiscations around the world. Amphetamine confiscations dropped by 42 percent to 19 tons. In contrast, global methamphetamine confiscations increased by 44 percent, indicating a significant increase in the production and use of methamphetamine around the world.
Mexico and the United States accounted for the majority of the increase in methamphetamine confiscations, as well as the majority of amphetamine-type stimulant confiscations overall. However, methamphetamine confiscations also increased by a smaller percentage in Europe, indicating that the market is growing elsewhere as well, even if it is at a slower rate.