Meth-Spiked Adderall Threatens Kids. Blame the DEA.

By Josh Bloom — Mar 24, 2021
In today's "just when you think it can't get any worse" feature, DEA agents are now seizing counterfeit Adderall pills that contain pure methamphetamine. Although Mexican drug cartels are blamed for making these pills to get young people addicted to meth, the ultimate blame falls on DEA policies. What a mess.
Real and Counterfeit Adderall Tablets. Can You Tell Which is Which? Photos: Go…

As if our never-ending war on drugs hasn't already done enough damage (1), children are now in the cross-hairs. Counterfeit tablets of Adderall, a drug typically used to treat ADHD, containing high doses of pure methamphetamine are being seized in the Northeast, primarily in New Hampshire. Since children and teens primarily use Adderall, the manufacture of "Meth Adderall" pills is especially ghoulish.

Feel free to blame the DEA for this latest debacle (2). The agency is responsible for the passage of a 2006 law that required the decongestant drug Sudafed to be labeled a controlled substance because its active ingredient, pseudoephedrine, was being used to "cook meth" (3). The results were predictable. In the absence of a supply of pseudoephedrine – Sudafed's active ingredient – meth labs, especially in Mexico, were forced to improvise resulting in the widespread use of a much better way of synthesizing the drug (called the P2P method). This, in turn, resulted in the US being flooded with more, purer, and less expensive meth than before Sudafed was taken off the shelves. The numbers speak for themselves.

(Left)  Methamphetamine seizures (pounds) in the US 2006-2016. Graph (modified): Sahil Chinoy. N.Y. Times Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection. (Right) In the five years following Sudafed's removal from counters the purity (brown line) of seized methamphetamine doubled and the price per gram dropped 5-10-fold. The yellow arrow indicates the year 2006 - when the Sudafed restrictions became law.

Now people with runny noses can only get Sudafed behind the counter, must provide photo ID (which you know damn well will put you into a DEA database), and are restricted to a monthly limit on the number of pills they can buy. The OTC "alternative" is called Sudafed PE (phenylephrine), an essentially useless drug that cannot be converted to methamphetamine.

The counterfeit Adderall tablets that are now flooding New England are such good copies that it is difficult to tell them from the real pill, especially by the children and teens who trade or sell them. The DEA blames Mexican drug cartels for trying to expand their market by getting young people addicted to methamphetamine. Lovely.

"Cartels in Mexico [are] making a business decision to manufacture pills,  Adderall pills, made with nothing but methamphetamine."

DEA Agent Jon Delana

Finally, the people running the Mexican drug cartels might not be the consummate example of humanity at its finest, but at least you have to give them credit for their craft. Good luck telling these apart. 

(Left) Pharmaceutical Adderall, Photo: Good Rx. (Right) Pills seized in New Hampshire by the DEA, Photo: WMUR

Perhaps we should have just left the damn Sudafed alone.


(1) By far, the worst damage done by the DEA is the mandated reduction in opioid manufacturing and prescribing . The results of this fiasco are exponentially increasing deaths from illicit fentanyl and unimaginable suffering of chronic pain patients. If you have a little time on your hands, here are 65 articles on this topic. 

(2) When I say the DEA is at fault, I mean the political appointees who (mis)manage the agency, not the agents who are doing impossible jobs trying to keep some really dangerous drugs off the street. I have spoken to a number of them, and without exception, they have all come across as helpful, honest, and dedicated. 

(3) The conversion of pseudoephedrine to methamphetamine was the basis of the show "Breaking Bad." Walter White also switched to the P2P method when he was required to make more product.

(4) I suggest that you watch DEA agent Jon Delana's interview in its entirety.




Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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