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Meth vs Cocaine: What’s the Difference?

Meth vs Cocaine | Paradigm Malibu

Two stimulant drugs used by hundreds of thousands of Americans each year are cocaine and methamphetamine, commonly called meth. They can have similar effects at first glance, but the drugs themselves, as well as their more long-term effects, can be very different. Read on to find out more about meth vs cocaine, their characteristics, how they are similar, and how they are different.


How Cocaine Is Made and Used

Cocaine is made from the coca plant, which is indigenous to Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, countries in South America. The plants are harvested by local manufacturers and made either into the powder known as cocaine (and also called coke or blow) or into the rock form known as crack (also called rock or nuggets). The drug is then smuggled throughout South and Central America and some of it comes into the United States, mainly through the Mexico-Texas border. Some of it comes through California and Arizona.

From there, the drug is sold to drug wholesalers, who distribute it to mid-level and low-level drug dealers. Along the way, it is often mixed with other substances to stretch it. Some of these substances can be dangerous, and people who buy and use the cocaine have no idea what has been mixed with theirs. The cocaine powder is snorted through the nose, and the crack form is smoked through a pipe. Crack is less expensive than cocaine powder, so cocaine is often found in wealthier areas and crack is often found in poorer areas.


How Meth Is Made and Used

Meth, on the other hand, is a synthetic drug made here in the United States as well as in Central and South America from ingredients that anyone can purchase. One common ingredient is cold and flu medications; this is why you are asked for ID when you buy these medications now. Other ingredients that might be used include lye, battery acid, drain cleaner, acetone, and kitty litter. These various ingredients are mixed together, filtered, and drained to create the drug, which can be used in several different forms. Fillers, often dangerous ones, are commonly added to stretch it. Meth is usually snorted but it can also be smoked, injected, or consumed orally.

Large warehouses in Central America make most of the meth used in the United States, but meth users also cook up their own batches in their homes and other locations. Once a home has been used as a meth lab, it is uninhabitable and usually cannot be sold. Sometimes, the process causes an explosion, which can devastate a home and kill the occupants.


Similarities Between Meth and Cocaine

Both meth and cocaine are stimulants. They both work by increasing the supply of dopamine (a feel-good hormone) in the brain, which creates a rush or wave of euphoria. The effects of these drugs include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • High blood pressure
  • Possible heart attack or stroke, which can lead to death


Both drugs are highly addictive.

If either of these drugs is used long-term, individuals might suffer from hallucinations, paranoia, and violence. Some evidence shows that violence is more common among those who use meth than among those who use cocaine, but it is possible for both types of drug abusers. In addition, strong cravings and depression can occur when regular users stop using either cocaine or meth.


Meth Vs Cocaine: The Differences

One major difference when it comes to the use of meth vs cocaine is that cocaine does not typically cause permanent brain damage. It can in the case of a stroke, but the use itself does not damage brain cells. Meth, on the other hand, causes damage to the brain neurons that produce the two hormones responsible for good feelings, which are dopamine and serotonin.

Another difference between meth vs cocaine is how long the high lasts for each of these drugs. A cocaine high is short-lived and lasts a maximum of 30 minutes. As the user comes down from the high, they often use more of the drug to get high again. Using it over and over again is called a binge. A meth high lasts from 8 to 24 hours, and while the time in between highs is longer, some users will use the drug again as the high begins to wear off, which is also called a binge.

While cocaine is very addictive, meth is even more so. It is possible to be a casual cocaine user; the same cannot be said about meth. Once someone starts using meth, it would be very rare for them not to become addicted.


Treatment for Meth and Cocaine Addiction

The treatments for both meth addiction and cocaine addiction are similar because both drugs are highly addictive and both drugs are stimulants. In addition, both can be overdosed on and both cause cravings and severe withdrawal symptoms.

The first step is a detoxification, which occurs in a medical setting much of the time to prevent severe symptoms from becoming dangerous.

Once the detoxification process is complete, inpatient rehabilitation is most effective for meth and cocaine addictions. There is no medication that has been approved for these addictions, so behavioral interventions are necessary for recovery. They include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management interventions, and the Matrix Model, which has been specifically designed for individuals who abuse or who are addicted to stimulants such as cocaine and meth.


How You Can Get Help

If you or someone you know is using cocaine or methamphetamine, you have several options. One is to go to your primary care physician, who can refer you to an addictions specialist. You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP. They can refer you to a drug treatment program that can help. Finally, if you have a counselor or therapist, you can talk to them. They can also facilitate treatment for your cocaine or meth addiction.

It is important to take the first step today, because the longer your addiction goes on, the harder it will be to recover. The good news is that many people recover fully from meth and cocaine addiction, so if you get the proper treatment, you can go on to enjoy the rest of your drug-free life.


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