A Comparison of Addiction to Cocaine and Methamphetamine

A Comparison of Addiction to Cocaine and Methamphetamine

Cocaine and Methamphetamine are two drugs that are often linked together because they produce similar effects and because they belong to the same class of drugs called psychostimulants.

In addition, they both have the potential for causing dependence and abuse which further strengthens the bond associate between them. Though there are many similarities, a fair number of differences do also exist, which will be discussed here.

Where Do They Come From?

Methamphetamine is man-made, while cocaine is derived from the coca plant.

Is There A Difference in the Way They Are Used?

Both can be smoked, injected intravenously or snorted. The difference being that methamphetamine can be taken in pill form. In addition, cocaine can be used medically as an anesthetic and as an appetite stimulant while methamphetamine has no proven medical use.

Where and By Whom Are the Drugs Used?

Out of the two drugs, Methamphetamine has a much more defined area of use as well as stereotype of user. Statistics show that use of methamphetamine is highest in western areas of California, Honolulu, Hawaii, and western areas of the continental United States. Urban areas of California, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado and Washington, show increased use of methamphetamines. In recent years however, use of methamphetamine has increased in rural and urban areas of the South and Midwest.

Cocaine use varies so there is no geographic pattern that clearly delineates where the drugs are used. Cocaine use however, is usually significantly higher in large cities and metropolitan areas as opposed to non-metropolitan areas.

A possible reason for the difference between cocaine and methamphetamine addiction by area is that in rural areas, cocaine is not as easily accessible. Methamphetamine however, can be made in a garage or basement with household products, making it quite easy for individuals to make their own high.

Do They Produce The Same Effects?

Perhaps the reason why cocaine and methamphetamines are confused is because both produce a very well received rush almost immediately. This is followed by feelings of extreme happiness or euphoria which is referred to as a rush.

Methamphetamine’s high can last from eight to twenty four hours and fifty percent of the drug is removed from the body in twelve hours. Cocaine’s high on the other hand, lasts from twenty to thirty minutes and fifty percent of the drug is removed from the body in one hour.

Both cocaine and methamphetamine, when injected intravenously or smoked, can cause an almost immediate rush which is followed by a high. When ingested nasally, which is referred to as snorting, neither methamphetamine nor cocaine cause a rush or a high. A similar effect is produced when methamphetamine is ingested orally.

Are the Physiological Effects Similar?

Both methamphetamine and cocaine can cause immediate effects of irritability, anxiety, increased heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and possible death. Methamphetamine's and cocaine's short-term effects also can include increased activity, respiration, and wakefulness, and decreased appetite.

Chronic use of cocaine or methamphetamine can cause dependence and possibly stroke. In either case, cocaine or methamphetamine can lead to psychotic behavior. These behaviors are characterized by hallucinations, paranoia, violence, and mood disturbance.

Some data suggests that violence is more common among methamphetamine users than among cocaine users. Drug craving, paranoia, and depression can occur in addicted individuals who try to stop using either methamphetamine or cocaine.

Is there a difference in Neurotoxicity?

Neurotoxicity refers to the toxic damage these drugs can incur on the brain, specifically on neuron transmission. Neurons are responsible for the processing and transferring of information. Methamphetamine can be neurotoxic in animal species ranging from mice to monkeys. Methamphetamine specifically damages neurons that produce serotonin and dopamine. Since the usual doses taken by humans are comparable to the doses causing neurotoxicity in animals, it is reasonable to believe that this also causes the same effect in humans. On the other hand, cocaine does not cause neurotoxic damage to dopamine and serotonin neurons.

Transmission of HIV/AIDS

Whether discussing methamphetamine or cocaine, a risk for HIV/AIDS still exists and must be considered when engaging in any type of sexual behavior.

Rachel Hayon, BSN, MPH, RN

Ashley, Richard. Cocaine: Its History, Uses, and Effects New York: Warner Books, 1975.
Rothman, et al. "Amphetamine-Type Central Nervous System Potently than they Release Dopamine and Serotonin." (2001): Synapse 39, 32-41 (Table V. on page 37)
Vascia, Gabriella; Christopher C. Tennant (2002). Cocaine use and cardiovascular complications. MJA 177 (5): 260-262.
Zicker, P. (2001). Methamphetamine, Cocaine Abusers Have Different Patterns of Drug Use, Suffer Different Cognitive Impairments http://www.nida.nih.gov/NIDA_notes/NNVol16N5/Meth_Coc.html Accessed 21 November 2007

Topic Discussion

  1. Addict

    When ingested nasally, which is referred to as snorting, neither methamphetamine nor cocaine cause a rush or a high.

    That is incorrect. Why would people do it if it doesn't cause a "high"?

  2. Addict

    That is definitely incorrect. It does cause euphoria!! Both drugs do.

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