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Medically Reviewed

What is the Difference Between Meth and Cocaine?

- 4 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer:

Sahil Talwar, PA-C, MBA


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Methamphetamine (meth) and cocaine are both central nervous system stimulants, which means they speed up vital processes in your brain. As a result, both meth and cocaine can cause some similar effects, such as heightened energy, fast heart rate, increased blood pressure, and even anxiety or paranoia. While these drugs have many things in common, they have some key differences as well.

For starters, while meth is available by prescription under the name Desoxyn, most people abuse a version of meth that is manufactured illicitly. Cocaine is also approved for medicinal use but as a local anesthetic and most cocaine use is illicit cocaine use. Meth is a synthetic drug, while cocaine is derived from coca leaves.

Additionally, while both drugs are equally as dangerous, more people abuse cocaine than meth. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 4.8 million people abuse cocaine while 2.5 million use methamphetamine.[1,2]

Despite their differences, both meth and cocaine are dangerous drugs to misuse. If you or a loved one abuse cocaine, meth, or a combination of the two, you should always seek professional drug rehab.

What is Methamphetamine?

Meth is a powerful stimulant drug that is used medicinally to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) under the brand name Desoxyn. However, most people who misuse this substance are not receiving it via prescription. Instead, they are buying an illicit form of meth that may contain dangerous household chemicals and adulterants. Meth typically comes in the form of crystalline rocks or a white powder.

The side effects of meth may include:[3]

  • Increased attention
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Lowered appetite
  • A rush of euphoria
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased body temperature
  • Feelings of anxiety or paranoia
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Symptoms of psychosis

Typically, the effects of meth can last anywhere from 4 to 15 hours. When compared to other stimulants, the high of meth is incredibly long-lasting. Many people who abuse meth go on binges, where they are high for several days at a time.

The longer someone is high on meth, the more likely they are to experience adverse effects like paranoia, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, and even psychosis. This makes methamphetamine abuse incredibly dangerous.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is another potent stimulant drug that is used medicinally as a topical anesthetic. Like methamphetamine, most people abusing cocaine are not receiving it via prescription. This puts people at risk of being exposed to dangerous adulterants like illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF). Cocaine typically comes in the form of a fine white powder.

The common effects of cocaine include:[4]

  • A rush of euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Talkativeness
  • Hypersensitivity to touch, sight, or sound
  • Increased focus
  • Increased heart rate and body temperature
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Erratic or violent behavior

The effects of cocaine usually last up to 30 minutes. As a result, people who abuse cocaine may use large amounts of it in a short period. Unfortunately, this increases their risk of experiencing adverse effects, including life-threatening emergencies like overdoses.

The Main Differences Between Meth and Cocaine

The first difference between meth and cocaine is how they are made. Illicit meth is a synthetic drug that often contains household chemicals and over-the-counter medications like Sudafed. On the other hand, cocaine is derived from a natural plant known as the coca leaf.

Other differences between meth and cocaine include:

  • Duration of effects – the effects of meth can last up to 15 hours, while cocaine usually only lasts 15 minutes.
  • Scope of use – cocaine is more widely used than meth, mainly because of the romanticization of cocaine abuse in popular culture
  • Cost – while the cost of meth and cocaine varies based on your location, meth tends to be cheaper
  • Long-term effects- meth is more widely known for causing dental decay, psychosis, and severe malnutrition, while cocaine is known for causing significant damage to the nose due to snorting, cardiovascular effects, and gastrointestinal issues

While cocaine and meth are different in many ways, long-term use of either drug can wreak havoc on almost every area of your body. If you or a loved one are addicted, you should always seek support for meth or cocaine addiction from a professional treatment program.

Finding Help for Meth and Cocaine Addiction

If you or a loved one suffers from meth addiction, cocaine abuse, or a combination of both, it’s time to seek professional help. At Carolina Center for Recovery, we offer a wide array of services including evidence-based behavioral therapy, individualized treatment planning, and extensive aftercare support.

To learn more about our stimulant addiction treatment programs, contact the Carolina Center for Recovery today.


  1. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the scope of cocaine use in the United States, Retrieved November 2023 From
  2. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What is the scope of methamphetamine use in the United States, Retrieved November 2023 From
  3. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What are the immediate (short-term) effects of methamphetamine misuse, Retrieved November 2023 From
  4. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): What are the short-term effects of cocaine use, Retrieved November 2023 From