Dr. Carl Hart is a neuropsychopharmacologist at Columbia University, who has dedicated his career to educating the public about drugs and drug policy, and ending the war on drugs.
He shares scientifically supported truths that go against much of our “conventional wisdom” regarding drugs, to show just how badly the public perception of drugs has been distorted by the hysteria of the war on drugs. Check out his appearance on All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC below, where he talks about misconceptions about crack and meth.
While it’s true that Adderall and methamphetamine are not chemically identical, the point Dr. Hart makes is that they have very similar effects.
And Dr. Hart isn’t the only authoritative voice pointing out the incredible similarities between prescription ADHD drugs and street meth. This excellent editorial by Alexander Zaitchik on Motherboard corroborates Dr. Harts claims, from the perspective of a former user.
Aside from some foul cutting material, Winnebago methamphetamine and pharmaceutical amphetamine are kissing chemical cousins. The difference between them boils down to one methyl-group molecule that lets crank race a little faster across the blood-brain barrier and kick just a little harder. After that, meth breaks down fast into good old dextroamphetamine, the dominant salt in America’s leading ADHD drug and cram-study aid, Adderall.
Writing as someone who has consumed his share of product from both buckets (more about which below) I can attest that the difference between Adderall and street crank is much overstated, bordering on complete social fiction.
This is not exactly a state secret. After legal speed started its comeback as a treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder, The Journal of Neuroscience published a study that functioned as a polite tap on the shoulder. Amphetamine and methamphetamine, the researchers wrote, are “about equipotent” and “produce qualitatively similar behavioral responses.” Both excite the central nervous system in nearly identical ways, flooding and blocking dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline receptors. Also, meth is meth is meth. The brain responds the same whether it’s produced by the Sinaloa boys and slung by the gram-baggie as glass, or made by Lundbeck Inc. and sold in orange bottles at CVS as the meth-based ADHD drug Desoxyn®.
Most people understand that heroin and Oxycontin are both hard, addictive drugs. Not so with speed. When it comes to amphetamine, we’ve chosen a national split-screen in which doctors airily put millions of healthy children and adults on daily speed regimens while SWAT teams throw concussion bombs in baby cribs in pursuit of small-fry meth dealers.
Here’s another interview with Dr Hart, where he explains more about his stance on drugs in society, and details how context determines our vastly different perceptions of similar drugs.