Meth vs Crack: What are the Differences?

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Meth vs Crack What are the Differences

Methamphetamine and crack cocaine are common illicit stimulants. While these drugs produce some of the same side effects, they have some significant differences.

This article will explore the difference between meth and crack. You will learn:

  • The effects and risks of meth and crack
  • The similarities and differences between crack and meth
  • How to recognize addictive stimulant abuse
  • What to expect during stimulant addiction treatment
  • How to find effective substance abuse treatment

If you are one of the millions of people in the United States struggling with addiction to meth, crack, or other drugs, you must seek treatment. Contact the Archstone Behavioral Health specialists now to explore your treatment options or to set up an intake assessment.

What is Meth?

Meth is a shortened term for methamphetamine. Meth is an illicit, synthetic stimulant drug. People make meth in dangerous, illegal labs using a range of chemicals, such as pseudoephedrine and acetone.[1]

People typically use meth by injecting or smoking it. This potent central nervous system (CNS) stimulant produces side effects that include:

  • Aggression or violent behaviors
  • Anxiety
  • Cardiovascular issues, including stroke and heart attack
  • Convulsions
  • Death
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Fast heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Tremors

Users may experience short-term side effects for several hours after ingesting meth. Frequent or heavy meth use can lead to long-term side effects, including:[2]

  • Aggression and violence
  • Changes in how the brain functions
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Decreased motor and verbal skills
  • Delusions (thinking or believing things that are not true)
  • Memory loss
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Severe dental damage

The consequences of meth abuse may become life-threatening. It is critical for people with crystal meth addiction to seek treatment and ongoing support.

What is Crack?

Crack is an illicit stimulant derived from the South American coca plant. Like powder cocaine, it is an intense, highly addictive stimulant. However, crack cocaine is a solid form of cocaine. It is most commonly white, yellow, or pale pink in color.[3]

People ingest crack by heating and smoking it. The effects of crack start almost immediately after someone uses it. Short-term side effects include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Euphoric high
  • Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, and sensations
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased alertness
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid heart rate

People who abuse crack for extended periods may develop long-term physical and mental health problems, including:[4]

  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Malnourishment
  • Psychosis
  • Respiratory damage

People who develop an addiction to crack require comprehensive treatment and ongoing care to avoid relapse.

Meth vs Crack: What are the Differences?

Meth and crack are stimulants. Both drugs can cause long-term, life-threatening consequences. They both pose a significant risk for addiction. However, they are different substances.

Crack is derived from a natural source. People use the extract of the coca plant to make cocaine, which people can then turn into crack. The process of making crack requires baking soda, water, and other common chemicals. The effects of crack are short-lived.

Methamphetamine is a synthetic drug. People create meth by combining hazardous chemicals. Its effects last up to several hours.

Meth vs Crack: How are They Similar?

Methamphetamine and crack stimulate CNS activity. They increase the amount of brain chemicals related to reward and pleasure.

Crack and meth are highly addictive, and the DEA classifies both drugs as Schedule II substances.[5] Meth and crack are also both illegal drugs, however, methamphetamine is approved for medical use. Rarely, it is prescribed as Desoxyn, a medication used to treat ADHD or obesity.[6] Crack cocaine does not have medicinal uses, but cocaine does, so crack remains a Schedule II Controlled Substance, as well.

Abusing either drug can lead to significant harm. People who develop an addiction to crack or meth typically require substantial intervention and support to stop using these drugs.

Exploring Addiction to Crack and Meth

Recognizing addiction is the first step toward lifelong recovery. Meth and crack abuse can cause noticeable changes in a person’s appearance and behaviors. Here are some of the signs of stimulant addiction to watch for:

  • Extreme anxiety or agitation
  • Dishonest or criminal activities
  • Sores or scars on the skin
  • Risky behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated or having unsafe sex
  • Poor motor skills
  • Memory problems
  • Having periods of extreme energy or agitation followed by a “crash” that involves depression and increased sleep
  • Loss of interest in relationships, hobbies, or responsibilities
  • Significant weight loss

People who abuse stimulants often experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them. Symptoms may include depression, fatigue, insomnia, and more.

Withdrawal symptoms can make it nearly impossible for people to quit using stimulants when they choose. Most people require treatment and support from an addiction treatment center.

What to Expect in a Stimulant Addiction Treatment Center

Treatment for meth or crack abuse often begins with a medically-supported detox program. Then, people must participate in a comprehensive treatment program. Treatment plans typically consist of:

  • Medications to manage withdrawal symptoms
  • Behavioral therapies and counseling
  • Group and family therapy
  • Mental health and medical care
  • Holistic therapies, including mindfulness, exercise, nature therapy, and nutrition support
  • Coping skills
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Aftercare planning

Get Help Now

If you or a loved one struggle with meth or crack addiction, you are not alone. Contact the Archstone Behavioral Health specialists now to explore your treatment options or schedule an intake evaluation.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Methamphetamine
  2. NIDA: What are the long-term effects of methamphetamine misuse?
  3. United States Department of Justice: Crack Cocaine Fast Facts
  4. National Institutes of Health (NIH): Long-Term Outcomes of Patients With Cocaine Use Disorder: A 18-years Addiction Cohort Study
  5. United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): Drug Scheduling
  6. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Desoxyn