Many of us tend to put drugs into two categories. The first is the prescription drug category. These are prescribed by a doctor, and a person takes them because they need to. They come along with a few side effects, but we generally see them as safe. The second is the street drug category. We see these as dangerous, life-altering, life-threatening drugs which thugs and junkies use and abuse to get high. There’s a clear difference, right?
Not so fast. According to new research, they might be more similar than you think.
It turns out that Adderall, a drug commonly prescribed for ADHD, is nearly identical to another drug when it comes to chemical structure. That drug is a street drug… crystal meth.
Dr. Carl Hart is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University. He is best know for his research into drug abuse and drug addiction. Hart was also the first tenured African American professor of sciences at Columbia University. He earned his bachelor of science and master of science from the University of Maryland, and his Ph.D in neuroscience from the University of Wyoming. You might call him an expert when it comes to the science of drug use.
In a recent article, Hart explains that there is only one major difference between crystal meth and Adderall: public perception.
In his article, he writes that the reason the general public has such a radically different view of crystal meth and Adderall is due to the public campaigns that discourage methamphetamine use. He notes that the campaigns usually show some poor person who uses the drug for the first time then ends up stealing from their parents, assaulting strangers or becoming a prostitute in order to get money for the drug.
Hart writes, “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… 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” (Adderall).
The professor was involved in a study to confirm the theory. In the study, 13 men who regularly used methamphetamine were brought into the lab. Researchers gave them each a hit of methamphetamine, d-amphetamine or a placebo on separate days under blind conditions. They repeated the study many times with each person over several days, with multiple doses of each drug.
Hart explains, “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.”
The study found that the regular methamphetamine users could not distinguish between the Adderall and the crystal meth they were given.
The professor concludes that the study “should serve as a lesson on how media distortions can influence even scientific knowledge about the consequences of drug use.”
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