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Cocaine vs Meth: Understanding Stimulant Addiction

Stimulants are potent drugs, with two of the most popular types being methamphetamine and cocaine. Nowadays, more people have fallen victim to drug addiction and you may be asking yourself why. After all, where does cocaine come from? Who invented meth? Learning the answers to these questions could help you better understand the scope of the problems surrounding meth and cocaine.

The Truth About Cocaine

Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from the leaves of coca plants and comes in a white powder form. To stretch the volume of cocaine, dealers and manufacturers cut the product with sugar or local anesthetic. While cocaine provides a temporary high, it remains present in the body for much longer.

Where Does Cocaine Come From?

To answer the question, “where does cocaine come from?” you have to travel back thousands of years. Indigenous people in the Andes Mountains and Amazon Rainforest chewed coca leaves for thousands of years. Chewing the leaves provided them with energy. However, European scientists began to isolate cocaine from coca leaves in the 1850s and described it as a wonder drug.

Cocaine is made from the leaves of coca plants from South America, particularly Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. The manufacturing process occurs in remote labs where manufacturers take the raw product and use chemical transformations to create the powdered drug. Most of the cocaine powder found in the U.S. comes from Colombia.

How Does Cocaine Affect the Body?

Cocaine is a stimulant. Stimulants speed up the messages between your brain and body, increasing alertness. Smaller people with a lower weight might experience the effects of the drug as stronger. Likewise, if someone hasn’t taken cocaine before, the high also becomes more intense.

Since cocaine is an illegally produced drug, there is no standard strength. Every batch is different and might affect each person differently.

The Highs and Lows

In lower doses, cocaine causes a sense of euphoria. When people take cocaine, they talk more and have intense feelings of well-being. As they increase the dose, the euphoria can turn into anxiety, tension and increased body temperature. People might experience tremors, seizures and can even fall into a coma when they take too much.

Dopamine is the chemical responsible for sending measures to the pleasure center of your brain. Too much dopamine can also make people more sensitive to touch, sight and sound. Unfortunately, after the high, most people experience the rebound effect. Cocaine has a quick, intense high, but when it’s over, the body tries to regain balance. People begin to come down as the drug wears off. The crash is the intense exhaustion that follows. It often lasts longer than the high because a person’s body needs to recover.

The Bodily Damage

While cocaine is typically responsible for short-term highs, consistent use can lead to long-term effects on a person’s body. How someone takes cocaine impacts the drug’s effect on the body. For instance, if someone chooses to snort cocaine, it can lead to nosebleeds, a loss of smell, irritation of the septum, hoarseness and a chronic runny nose. Smoking, on the other hand, can damage the lungs. Users can have asthma or other forms of lung damage. Injection leaves puncture marks on a person’s arms and can lead to an infection. Likewise, injecting increases the chances of contracting infectious diseases like hepatitis C and HIV.

Because cocaine reduces blood flow within the gastrointestinal track, it can cause ulcerations and tears in the stomach. Many people who use cocaine long-term suffer from chest pain that feels like a heart attack. It can cause inflammation in the heart muscle, aortic ruptures and can deteriorate the heart’s ability to contract.

Neurological issues can also develop. A person’s risk of a seizure or stroke increases and he or she can develop bleeding in the brain or bulges in the walls of cerebral blood vessels. Other issues may include reduced cognitive function and the development of movement disorders. Hospitalizations of cocaine users often have patients with acute kidney problems. Repeated use can cause dead tissue to build up on the organs.

Are Crack and Cocaine the Same?

While crack has almost the same chemical compound as cocaine, it is not precisely the same. Crack began appearing in the 1980s as a rock or solid version of cocaine. Manufacturers take cocaine and mix it with baking soda or bicarbonate and water. They heat the mixture to its boiling point until it forms into a rock.

What Are the Similarities?

Crack performs similarly to cocaine. It triggers a dopamine rush to the brain and creates a powerful high and intense comedown. Both drugs have a similar impact on the body and are highly addictive.

What Are the Differences?

One of the main differences between cocaine and crack is the prices. Cocaine tends to be more expensive. In addition, crack acts faster than cocaine. Since everyday crack involves smoking it, it gives the user an immediate effect. Crack is considered more addictive and dangerous because it takes less time to create a high. Crack also tends to have a higher purity level, which is more potent in the body.

The Realities of Meth

People with a substance abuse disorder are more likely to seek dangerous, illicit substances like cocaine and methamphetamine. Meth, like cocaine, is a stimulant that impacts the central nervous system. It comes in a white powder with no taste but does have a bitter smell. People can also find it in a crystallized form and a pill form.

Who Invented Meth?

While meth is often created in residential labs, you may be wondering, “who invented meth?” Scientists created amphetamines to mimic the ephedra plant. Ephedra is a shrub used in traditional Chinese medicine. In the 1800s, a chemist discovered the active ingredient in ephedra — ephedrine. Methamphetamine was created from amphetamine. At first, doctors prescribed methamphetamine to patients to treat asthma, narcolepsy and obesity. In the 1930s, an amphetamine inhaler called Benzedrine was used for nasal congestion and asthma. As people discovered it also had euphoric side effects, companies began to manufacture Benzedrine pills for narcolepsy.

During World War II, both sides used methamphetamine to keep soldiers awake. Methamphetamine triggers a response much like adrenaline in those who take it. Soldiers became more alert and had an easier time taking risks. Following the war, Americans began to use Benzedrine recreationally. Amphetamines became less popular, however, when the FDA began to require prescriptions for Benzedrine in 1959.

Where Does Modern Methamphetamine Come From?

Injectable methamphetamines became popular in the 1960s. As drug abuse spread, the U.S. made the use of methamphetamine illegal. However, the drug continued to be manufactured and distributed. Meth was a cheaper option than cocaine, so it was more widely available in rural communities. Illegal manufacturers began to crystalize meth for use.

In the 1980s, the U.S. began to tighten regulations on the use and sale of ephedrine. Illegal meth labs, however, discovered that pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medicine, could also be used to manufacture meth. In the 1990s, while the government was focused on drug trafficking organizations, people began to learn how to produce meth in private labs in their homes and kitchens.

How Does Meth Affect the Body?

Like cocaine, meth increases dopamine. The purpose of methamphetamine is to experience pleasure, euphoria and increased motivation. It can also help improve problem-solving and enhance a person’s memory during the initial high. However, remember that those highs are always temporary and followed by extreme lows and other dangerous side effects.

The Ups and Downs

Those who use meth experience a powerful rush of dopamine. They are energetic and confident. People develop an addiction to chasing the initial high that they feel. Meth causes the body temperature to rise, increases a person’s heart rate and can also trigger pain attacks, anxiety, mood swings and paranoia.

People build up a tolerance to meth over time. The initial high requires more of the substance later. Meth can cause hallucinations. People can hear and see things that don’t exist. They may feel their skin is crawling and often scratch or pick at it in response. Some people binge on the drug to maintain a high without the comedown, but it only puts off the inevitable.

A crash from meth leaves the user depressed and exhausted; in some instances, the person may sleep for 24 to 48 hours. The comedown typically feels the opposite of the high itself. For example, a person may be fatigued, hungry, and unable to concentrate or focus. In severe cases, those who develop addictions to meth may also experience psychosis.

The Damage To Your Body

Meth can wreak havoc on people’s bodies. Their skin becomes dull and blemished. Pimples and sores have a challenging time healing because of incessant picking. Meth causes the teeth to break and rot. Users may also struggle with dry mouth.

The drug can also cause serious heart issues. Meth causes the nervous system to send messages from the brain to the heart to beat faster. A person using meth may have high blood pressure, weakened heart muscles and narrow blood vessels. In some cases, acute heart attacks can occur because of meth use.

The Road to Recovery

Those who struggle with substance abuse often have difficulty coming to terms with the fact that they have an addiction. Recovery is full of complex facets, just like the addiction itself.

Why Do Meth and Cocaine Cause Addiction?

Meth and cocaine are considered two of the most addicting drugs available. For decades, the drugs have remained popular among recreational users and continue to be challenging to break free from.

Addiction Risk Factors

There are a lot of risk factors behind addiction. People from all walks of life and backgrounds can experience addiction at any point. Some people believe addiction occurs because of a moral failing or weak willpower. The reality of addiction is far more complicated. Addiction has nothing to do with a person’s will or moral code.

Genetics plays a vital role in addiction. About half of a person’s risk of addiction is based on genetics. If you have family members who suffer from addiction, you have a higher chance of developing an addiction. In some cases, a child of an addict may abstain from their parents’ drug of choice but still develop a different type of addiction.

Next, the environment plays a role in addiction. Children and teens without parental figures or guidance are more likely to turn to drugs, alcohol and other addictive behaviors. Many who suffer abuse or come from difficult families use drugs to cope. Peer pressure can also lend a hand in developing an addiction. Not all peer pressure is overt. For young people, the availability of cocaine and meth can cause someone to use drugs as a way to fit in with the rest of the group.

Cocaine and Meth’s influence

Meth and cocaine encourage users to binge on the drug. People take doses back to back to keep the high rather than face the crash. When you take a drug repeatedly, in that pattern, you are more likely to develop a habit and an addiction. Meth and cocaine are potent stimulants. They create a high unlike any other, but as you use them, you must take stronger doses every time to reach the high again. The more you use over a long period, the harder it will be to stop. The comedowns become harder to handle. People struggle to quit because of the crash.

When on cocaine or meth, a person’s judgment becomes compromised. To avoid the pain of withdrawal, they seek out the drug again to continue the cycle.

What Does It Take To Give Up Cocaine?

Cocaine withdrawal can last for months following the final dose. The symptoms can range from uncomfortable to unbearable, dependent on the particular person and his or her original habit. Quitting cold turkey can lead to severe depression.

Understanding Withdrawal

Withdrawal begins within the first few hours after the last dose. Initial symptoms include anxiety, exhaustion, irritability and increased appetite. The first few hours cause a decrease in cocaine cravings. During the first week, the cocaine cravings return and become intense. Users feel exhausted and yet still find it difficult to fall asleep. Many people suffer from depressive mood swings and nightmares.

Between weeks two and four, the cravings continue and so does the depression. People in recovery have difficulty controlling their emotions. They tend to feel agitated and irritable. Into weeks five through 10, people experience further healing. They may see a reduction in withdrawal symptoms and fewer cravings. However, cravings can still occur and anxiety and uneasiness could worsen.

Learning To Recover

Recovery is uncomfortable and difficult. It requires a lot of hard work from the person addicted to cocaine. Some patients choose to go to supervised, inpatient centers. The centers provide safety and medical supervision while the patient goes through recovery.

Patients can also choose outpatient treatment, where they visit a treatment center several hours a week to speak with doctors and counselors during recovery. Some doctors prescribe medications to help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Group therapy and psychotherapy can also help a person learn the tools to fight addiction and stay clean.

What Can You Do To Let Go of Meth?

Withdrawal is common in stopping methamphetamine use too. Like other stimulants, it is uncomfortable and exhausting. Meth withdrawal can last for a long time. The amount of time it takes to recover and its difficulty depends on how long the person used, how old they were when they started and how much they used.

Fighting Meth Withdrawal

Upon stopping meth use, users will begin feeling withdrawal symptoms within 24 hours. For the first 24 hours until the end of the first week, people can experience the initial withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, exhaustion, psychosis, carb cravings, anxiety and depression. The symptoms are the most intense during the first 24 hours. Some users might experience withdrawal for months, known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

The following two to three weeks are known as the second phase. Depression is common until about the third week as an increased appetite and craving for meth. While most symptoms taper off by the end of five weeks, the anxiety could continue to linger.

Going Through Meth Recovery

Meth recovery requires more medical attention than cocaine addiction. Many patients experience psychosis that is unmanageable without doctor supervision. Patients always have a choice when it comes to recovery. Severe symptoms could require hospitalization or a detox center. Doctors can prescribe antipsychotic drugs and other psychiatric medications to handle psychiatric symptoms.

Following the initial withdrawals, patients are not finished with rehabilitation. Recovery involves seeking treatment for mental health disorders and seeking therapy in private or group sessions. Some patients require customized approaches to their addiction because meth affects people in various ways.

Say Goodbye To Substance Abuse Disorder With Clean Recovery Centers

Methamphetamine and cocaine are two of the most dangerous and popular illicit drugs. Both stimulants make it difficult to stop and encourage the user to binge. Understanding the answers to “Who invented meth?” and “Where does cocaine come from?” can help broaden your understanding of the drug’s hold on society. If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse disorders, contact us at Clean Recovery Centers today to find out how we can help.


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