Meth vs Cocaine

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Meth and cocaine are two of the most dangerous drugs of abuse. Both substances work by stimulating the central nervous system so they produce similar effects. However, when you drill down a little farther, there are significant differences between meth vs coke. Keep reading to find out about their similarities and differences along with some pointers on what to do if you become addicted.

Meth vs Cocaine: Appearance

Meth and cocaine belong to the same drug class but they’re vastly different in chemical makeup. Cocaine or coke is derived from the coca plant. The final product appears as a fine, white powder. Coke can also be made into a rock-like form known as crack by mixing the powder with water and baking soda.

Meth, also known as methamphetamine, is made out of different materials that almost anyone can obtain. Ingredients used to make meth include cold and flu medicines, drain cleaner, acetone, lye, kitty litter, and battery acid. Its appearance can vary depending on the ingredients used to make it. It may look like a white powder, an oily, brownish substance, or a glass-like crystal form.

In order to maximize profits, dealers often cut cocaine and meth with additives to increase the amount of the product. Some additives are harmless, while others can be toxic. Here are some of the additives used in the process:

  • Laxatives
  • Laundry detergent
  • Caffeine
  • Iodine
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Lithium metal

Meth vs Cocaine: Routes of Administration

When it comes to how they’re used, meth and cocaine are surprisingly similar. Both drugs can be snorted, injected, and smoked. Meth can also be taken in pill form. As a powder, cocaine can be rubbed into mucous tissues, such as the gums.

The route of administration used greatly influences how quickly the drug takes effect. Pill form tends to produce the slowest effects, followed by snorting. Injecting meth or cocaine produces effects almost instantaneously since the substance goes directly into the bloodstream. Smoking also delivers fairly quick results but not as fast as injecting.

Metabolism Rates

Perhaps the biggest difference between cocaine and meth has to do with how your body metabolizes each drug. Metabolism rates are measured by a drug’s half-life, which is how long it takes the body to eliminate 50 percent or half of the dose taken, be it through urine, sweat, or excrement. With cocaine, the body can eliminate half of the amount ingested within an hour time so it has a short half-life.

Meth’s half-life runs considerably longer. Meth has a 12-hour half-life, so it takes 12 hours for your body to eliminate half the dose taken. When comparing cocaine vs meth, this means the body eliminates cocaine 12 times faster than it does meth. This difference alone is a clue as to how much more damaging meth is to the body compared to cocaine.

As stimulant drugs, both cocaine and meth produce similar effects. Both drugs cause high levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that’s normally released when you experience joy, pleasure, or contentment.

These two drugs increase dopamine levels by keeping it from being reabsorbed back into the brain’s cells. However, meth goes one step further. Meth forces the cells to release more dopamine so levels run considerably higher than with cocaine. This accounts for why a meth “high” lasts so much longer than cocaine’s effects.

Meth vs Cocaine: Addiction Potential

Both meth and cocaine are highly addictive due to their ability to increase dopamine levels in the brain. The more often you use one of these drugs the more likely you’ll develop a psychological dependency. This means your mind has come to believe that it needs the drug’s effects to cope with day-to-day life. Dopamine levels play a central role in causing addiction to develop. Since meth produces higher levels of dopamine than cocaine, it carries a higher addiction potential.

Short-Term Effects

Aside from the rush of euphoria and energy that comes with coke or meth high, once their effects wear off, you can expect to experience some very uncomfortable side effects. Also known as withdrawal or “crashing,” these effects result from depleted dopamine levels in the brain. Not surprisingly, meth withdrawal tends to be more intense than cocaine withdrawal.

Here’s a breakdown of their short-term effects:


  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety


  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Tremors
  • Paranoia
  • Itchy skin

Meth vs Coke: Long-Term Effects

Chronic use of meth or cocaine leads to serious health consequences, though the damage left behind by meth is considerably worse. The effects of long-term cocaine abuse include:

  • Damage to the heart
  • Movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
  • Infertility
  • Chronic depression
  • Psychosis

Here are some long-term effects of chronic meth abuse:

  • Tooth loss
  • Hallucinations, both visual and auditory
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Loss of brain function, such as inability to remember, learn and problem-solve

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Overdose Rates

While stimulants don’t get near the amount of media attention as opiates, rates of stimulant abuse and overdose have been steadily increasing over the past 10 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, rates of cocaine-related overdose more than tripled between the years 2012 and 2018. For meth and prescription stimulants like it, rates of overdose have increased almost five-fold within the same time period.

Treatment for Cocaine and Meth Addiction

Despite their considerable differences, meth and cocaine cause strong drug cravings that make it all but impossible to stop using them. Drug cravings, combined with the overall physical damage these drugs do to the mind and body leave chronic users helplessly addicted. For these reasons, professional treatment is needed when drug use spins out of control.

Since they’re both stimulant drugs, treatment for both types of addiction is similar. Treatment programs help you make it through detox and provide behavioral therapies designed to help you learn to manage daily life without the need for the drug. If you or someone you know struggles with a meth or cocaine addiction, it’s never too soon to seek out the needed treatment help.


  • – Stimulant Abuse: Pharmacology, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Treatment, Attempts at Pharmacotherapy
  • -How Is Methamphetamine Different from Other Stimulants, Such as Cocaine?
  • – How Stimulants Affect the Brain and Behavior

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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