In America, two illicit drugs are of particular concern: meth and cocaine. While these stimulants act on the body in similar ways, and both carry significant risk of addiction, there are important distinctions between the two. Today, we will discuss the comparison of cocaine vs meth.
The History of Cocaine
Cocaine’s history dates back to the earliest days of mankind; thousands of years ago, ancient Incan tribes in the Andes mountains chewed coca leaves to combat the effects of thin mountain air. Native Peruvians used these leaves in religious ceremonies. Upon their arrival in the Americas, Spanish soldiers forced laborers to consume coca while working in the silver mines.
Cocaine was first extracted from its natural counterpart in the 1800s, which is when the medical community began to take notice. Soon, it was included in Coca-Cola, medicinal elixirs, and even wines. The drug was officially banned in 1922 and wouldn’t experience a resurgence of popularity until the 1970s. At that time, Columbian drug traffickers created a vast network designed to smuggle cocaine into the United States. It has remained one of the most trafficked substances in the world to this day.
How Cocaine Works
Cocaine is a stimulant drug that is typically mixed with fillers like talcum powder, sugar, or corn starch. It may come in a powder or crystal form (crack). Most individuals snort or smoke this substance in an attempt to achieve a quick, short-lived “high.” This occurs because cocaine stimulates receptors within the brain responsible for euphoria, attention, and activity. However, the body quickly develops a tolerance, which means that individuals will need to increase their dosage or frequency of use to achieve a similar effect.
Chronic cocaine use can lead to a host of physical and mental disorders. Those using this substance are at higher risk for death via cerebral hemorrhage, stroke, heart attack, and respiratory failure. Women dependent on cocaine will give birth to children who are addicted. Despite these dangers, use of this stimulant continues to rise.
The History of Meth
Amphetamine was first manufactured in Germany in the year 1887. Shortly afterward, methamphetamine – a more potent version of the substance – was developed in Japan. Because the powder was water-soluble, it was immediately recognized as an injectable drug. It was used in World War II by both sides to keep soldiers awake. Once military stockpiles became available to the Japanese public, the world’s meth epidemic began.
In the 1950s, this substance was prescribed as an antidepressant and appetite suppressant. It also maintained popularity among truckers and students – anyone who felt the need to stay alert for long periods.
When injectable methamphetamine became more common, the government took action, finally outlawing the drug in 1970. After this time, motorcycle gangs were primarily responsible for the drug’s distribution. Because it was cheaper to manufacture, this substance became increasingly popular in rural communities. By the 1990s, drug trafficking organizations had set up large labs in California, which were able to generate up to fifty pounds of meth in a weekend. Today, most meth is produced in clandestine labs throughout the country.
How Meth Works
Meth, short for methamphetamine, is a manmade crystalline drug that is taken by snorting, smoking, or injecting. No matter which way meth is consumed, it is highly addictive. This is due to its effects on the brain; this stimulant creates a rush of hyperactivity, confidence, and a false sense of happiness. It also serves as an appetite suppressant.
Because of its severe effects on the body, meth begins to destroy the body over time. Continued use of this substance is associated with memory loss, psychosis, aggression, and brain damage. Meth is a highly concentrated substance, meaning that many users report addiction after just one dose.
Similarities Between Meth and Cocaine
Cocaine and meth are similar in a few key ways:
- They are both stimulant drugs
- Cocaine and meth impact the levels of dopamine in the brain
- Those using these drugs commonly inject, smoke, or snort them
- Both create a euphoric rush upon use
- Cocaine and meth both cause anxiety and irritability
- Increased temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate are affiliated with both
- Chronic abuse may result in psychosis (hallucinations, paranoia, and mood disturbances)
- These drugs have strong potential for abuse
The Difference Between Meth and Cocaine
Despite the above similarities, there are significant differences between these two stimulants.
- Meth is man-made, while cocaine is derived from a plant
- A high from meth lasts between 8 to 24 hours, while a cocaine high lasts just 20 to 30 minutes
- The half-life of meth is 12 hours; cocaine’s is just one hour
- Methamphetamine is neurotoxic (it damages neurons responsible for the production of serotonin and dopamine)
- Meth increases dopamine release while also blocking dopamine re-uptake; cocaine only does the latter
Help for Stimulant Addiction
Regardless of the nuances, the use of both meth and cocaine has risen to epidemic proportions. Lakeside-Milam recognizes the dangers of stimulant drugs and has designed programs specifically for those combatting this addiction. At our Washington treatment centers, we provide evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders.
For more information about our approach, contact our admissions team.