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Crack Vs. Meth | Differences & Similarities

Published on January 29, 2021
Crack Vs. Meth | Differences & Similarities

Crack cocaine and methamphetamine (meth) are highly addictive stimulants with powerful effects. In addition, both crack and meth can be extremely harmful to your physical, behavioral, and mental health.

However, meth tends to be even more potent than crack and lasts much longer in your system. Meth is also more likely to cause severe long-term health effects, including skin sores and tooth decay. 

Crack Vs. Meth

Crack cocaine is derived from the coca plants of South America. Although it is plant-derived, the processing of cocaine involves toxic and dangerous chemicals. Methamphetamine is a synthetic (man-made) stimulant made with several harmful chemicals and over-the-counter decongestants.

Crack

Crack is a form of powder cocaine that is processed into a crystallized rock that causes a rapid and intense high. 

When smoked, crack cocaine enters your bloodstream and is sent directly to your brain. It blocks the reabsorption of dopamine in your brain, which causes it to buildup and results in a euphoric high. 

Meth

Meth is sold in powder form or as a rock (crystal meth) that can be snorted or smoked. Similar to crack, meth blocks the reabsorption of dopamine but also increases it. This leads to even higher levels of dopamine than crack, which causes an intense “rush” of euphoria. 

How Long Do The Effects Last?

The length of high differs significantly between the two drugs. The effects of crack happen almost immediately but the high fades within 5-10 minutes. The effects of meth happen rapidly as well but can last much longer. 

Some of the short-term side-effects of crack and meth include:

  • euphoria
  • increased energy
  • decreased appetite
  • mental alertness
  • increased heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased body temperature

In addition, high doses of either drug may cause the following adverse reactions:

  • anxiety
  • panic
  • paranoia
  • irritability
  • violent behavior

Half-life refers to the amount of time it takes a drug to reduce by half in your system. About half of the amount of crack is removed from your system in at least an hour. Meth has a much longer half-life of about 12 hours. 

Long-Term Effects Of Crack & Meth

Meth and crack are often used in a binge and crash pattern, which causes frequent and heavy use until the body eventually becomes overwhelmed by the drug. Over time, this can cause changes in the brain as well as psychological and physical health issues. 

Long-term health effects of meth and crack include:

  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • violent behavior
  • psychosis
  • cognitive impairment
  • increased risk of stroke
  • weight loss
  • increased risk of Parkinson’s disease

Although both drugs are highly addictive, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has found methamphetamine currently has higher rates of use in the United States. Meth also tends to be more potent and longer-lasting, increasing the risk for damaging health effects.  

The two most common health effects associated with long-term methamphetamine use include:

Meth Mouth

Long-term methamphetamine use is likely to cause tooth decay and gum disease. This condition is often referred to as “meth mouth” and can lead to blackened, rotted, and fragile teeth. 

Meth Psychosis

High amounts of meth can cause hallucinations of bugs crawling on or under the skin (“meth mites”). The sensation of meth mites can cause compulsive skin-picking, which can cause sores and infections on the face and body. 

Overdose

Crack and meth can both lead to dangerous reactions if you take high amounts or mix them with opioids. High amounts can lead to potentially fatal symptoms, including cardiac arrest, heart attacks, and seizures. 

If you think you or a loved one may be overdosing, please seek medical attention immediately. 

Withdrawal

Frequent substance abuse can quickly lead to physical and psychological dependence. Once your body is dependent, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop using them. 

Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe but may include:

  • fatigue
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • psychosis
  • intense cravings

Meth & Crack Addiction Treatment

There are many effective treatment options available if you think you or a loved one may have a substance use disorder (addiction). Both outpatient and inpatient treatment programs offer behavioral therapy, which is believed to be highly effective for meth and cocaine addiction. 

Behavioral therapy can teach you more about addiction, including how to manage cravings and triggers. This type of therapy can also help you identify negative thoughts and behaviors and learn healthy coping skills. 

To learn more, please connect with us today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.
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