Drug use and abuse in the United States has a long-standing and changing history. From being “a national threat” around the year 1969 to being stamped “public enemy No. 1” in 1971, drug use and abuse doesn’t seem to be something ending soon. Taking stimulants like cocaine and crystal meth causes serious side effects and addiction. Cocaine and meth are two too-often abused stimulants, they act on the body and brain of the user. While these drugs impact dopamine levels in the brain, it is at times difficult to say how they are different from each other.

You may be asking yourself, “How does cocaine and crystal meth compare?” Before we dive into these issues, it is important to point out that addiction, though crippling the lives of many people and families, and costing huge dollar amounts in treatment and warding it off, it can be treated.

Don’t remain silent and continue suffering from the use and abuse of illegal drugs, seek professional help because things can get worse. Like cancer, addiction is easier treated if an individual seeks help early in advance because the symptoms worsen or before severe damage to the body is done.

What’s Cocaine?

Labeled as the “caviar of street drugs”, cocaine is used and abused by many people from fashion models to Hollywood celebrities to Wall Street personas. Today, cocaine is classified as a Schedule II drug meaning individuals can potentially abuse it though doctors may administer it for certain medical uses including its use in certain surgeries as a local anesthetic. On the streets, it is sold as a fine, whitish crystalline powder having other names as “snow,” “coke,” “blow,” or “flake.” Some users even combine it with heroin to create what is known as “speedball.”

Generally speaking, there are two forms of cocaine that individuals tend to abuse. There is the water-soluble substance in form of hydrochloride salt and the water-insoluble one also referred to as freebase. The powdered form or the hydrochloride salt is usually snorted or injected by the user. The freebase or the water-insoluble cocaine is usually processed using sodium bicarbonate or ammonia and water before heating it to get rid of the hydrochloride. The freebase form produces a smokable substance that releases a cracking sound when smoking, hence the street name “crack.”

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How Is Cocaine Abused?

The main routes of administration of cocaine are inhalation, intravenous, intranasal, and oral. A person may snort (intranasal administration) cocaine by inhaling it through their nostrils or rubbing it onto the mucous tissues. People may also use cocaine by injecting it (intravenous administration) where it’s directly released into the bloodstream. Injecting the substance increases the intensity of the effects it induces in the body and mind. A person may also smoke cocaine where the absorption into the bloodstream tends to be similar to that of an injection.

How Does Cocaine Affect The Brain?

A research team from the University of Colorado Boulder found out that cocaine works by heightening the amount of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical involved in creating the feeling of pleasure in a person’s brain. It is a component of the reward pathway of an individual’s brain, and when it is released, it encourages repeat behaviors. Cocaine makes the brain not to reabsorb dopamine, meaning it builds up in the brain thus stepping up the excitatory effects. The team also found out that cocaine makes glial cells to trigger an inflammatory response allowing more dopamine to be pumped into the brain. When there is a flood of dopamine within a person’s brain it causes the “high” or euphoric feeling.

What Are Cocaine Side Effects?

A person using cocaine will have side effects that include the following:

  • Restlessness

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Paranoia

You may know a person is using cocaine if they have:

  • High energy levels and are more active

  • Dilated pupils

  • Cheerful or excited speech

What Are Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms?

When a person is psychically dependent on the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop suddenly. The withdrawal symptoms of cocaine may subside, but cravings may return. The withdrawal symptoms are not only psychological but also physiological and they include:

  • Wanting more of cocaine (craving)

  • Feeling fatigued

  • Having depression and anxiety

  • Experiencing lack of the feeling of pleasure

  • Unable to concentrate

  • Experiencing pain, tremors, chills, and aches

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What’s Crystal Meth?

The use and abuse of crystal meth brings a different image. The substance is referred to as the “bikers coffee.” You may have noticed cocaine use being labeled on high profile persons such as supermodels and celebrities, but when it comes to crystal meth, it is associated with people of low economic class.

Unlike cocaine which is naturally occurring, crystal meth, also known as methamphetamine is a man-made substance. It is derived from various ingredients including drain cleaners, OTC allergy and cold medications, gun cleaners, battery acid, muriatic acid, gasoline additives, acetone, lye, ammonia, and kitty litter.

Crystal meth comes in the form of a white, bitter-tasting powder, it may also be available as a pill. When you look at it, it resembles glass fragments. It looks like some bluish, white rocks. The chemical composition of methamphetamine is similar to amphetamine, which is used to treat disorders like narcolepsy, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and sleep disorder. Crystal meth is given other names as “crack,” “ice,” “chalk,” “meth,” and “speed.”

How Does Meth Affect the Brain?

Methamphetamine works by increasing dopamine in an individual’s brain. The crystal meth’s ability to rapidly bring about high dopamine levels in the user’s brain produces the “rush,” “flash,” or the euphoric feeling.

How is Crystal Meth Abused?

People may take crystal meth by smoking or inhaling, snorting, and injecting. In case of the pill form of the drug, it is mostly swallowed. When injecting the powder, a user will first dissolve it in water. Sometimes, users dissolve the powder in alcohol, to get a faster, more intense high. Since the “high” off crystal meth starts and fades pretty quickly, individuals often use the drug in a pattern known as “binge and crash.”

What are the Side Effects of Crystal Meth?

People who take crystal meth may have side effects like:

  • Reduced appetite

  • Increased physical activity and wakefulness

  • Faster breathing

  • Increased blood pressure

  • Increased body temperature

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

Long-term use of crystal meth can cause extreme loss of weight and severe dental problems. A person may experience intense itching that results in skin sores. It is common for long-term users of methamphetamine to have anxiety, sleeping problems, hallucinations, and violent behaviors.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Meth

If you’re addicted to crystal meth, stopping it’s use suddenly may cause withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • Severe depression

  • Fatigue

  • Anxiety

  • Intense drug craving

  • Psychosis

If you are addicted to crystal meth or cocaine, you may experience serious problems. The two substances are highly addictive and when you become hooked, it may seem impossible to get out of its grips. That said, you need not be worried because there is hope to recover from addiction. Want more information about how Chapters Capistrano can help? Feel free to call 949-276-2886 and one of our addiction specialists will help get the information and help you need.

Medical disclaimer:

Chapters Capistrano strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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