Crack vs. Meth: What’s the Difference?

crack vs meth

Crack and meth are both highly addictive stimulants that can cause serious bodily harm, psychological damage, and substance use disorders. However, the main difference between the two drugs is that methamphetamine is a manmade drug while crack is derived from a plant. Additionally, the immediate side effects of meth can last up to several hours longer than crack.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each drug to determine their differences, side effects, and treatment for addiction.

Related post: Cocaine vs. Crack: What’s the Difference?

What is crack?

Crack is a rock crystal form of cocaine, which is a powerfully addictive stimulant that’s made from the leaves of the coca plant.1 Recreational use of crack is illegal but it’s still commonly abused and is typically smoked through a small, glass pipe.  Although crack is plant-derived, it’s made with toxic and dangerous chemicals that are bad for your health and overall wellbeing. When you use crack, it enters your bloodstream and goes directly to your brain, producing a powerful and short-lived euphoric high, which makes it very addicting. The high usually only lasts five to 10 minutes, so people who abuse crack take frequent doses of it to make the effects last longer.

Short-term and long-term side effects of crack use

Common short-term effects of crack cocaine include:

  • Extreme happiness
  • Burst of energy
  • Mental alertness
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia

Crack can also cause several short-term health issues, like:

  • Nausea
  • Fast/irregular heart beat
  • Tremors
  • Muscle twitches
  • Restlessness 
  • Increased body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils

Research also indicates that cocaine use in the “crack” form is often associated with more frequent and intense psychiatric symptoms, including paranoia, homicide, and suicidal behavior.2

Common long-term effects of smoking crack are:

  • Addiction
  • Strong cravings for crack
  • Cough
  • Respiratory distress
  • Asthma
  • Higher risk of infections like pneumonia
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke 

What is meth?

Methamphetamine (meth) is another powerful, highly addictive stimulant that is sold in powder form or rock form (also called crystal meth). Unlike crack, meth is a manmade drug that’s manufactured with toxic chemicals and over-the-counter decongestants.3 Meth use affects the central nervous system and produces a powerful, euphoric high. However, once the good feelings subside, meth users tend to feel on-edge, overly excited, angry, or afraid.4 

Similar to crack, the effects of meth affect the user quickly, but they tend to last longer. People usually take meth in a binge and crash pattern, using it every few hours to keep the high going. One form of meth, crystal meth, is so potent that someone may get addicted to it after using it only once or twice.

Short-term and long-term side effects of meth use

Common short-term side effects of meth use include:

  • Increased physical activity
  • Increased wakefulness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Faster breathing
  • Rapid or irregular heart beat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature

Common long-term effects of meth use are:

  • Addiction
  • Severe weight loss
  • Increased risk of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis B and C
  • Dental problems
  • Intense itching and skin sores
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in brain function
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Sleeping problems
  • Violent behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations 

“Croak”: A Mixture of Crack and Meth

The term “croak” is used to describe a mixture of crack and meth. These illegal batches of drugs combine the two substances and may also include filler compounds that are harmful to your health. When you smoke croak, you’ll experience the powerful high produced by the stimulants. However, the crash that occurs afterward is much more intense. Combining crack cocaine and meth may also be more likely to cause severe health effects, overdose, and death.

Crack vs. Meth

Although meth and crack are similar drugs, they are also distinctly different. They’re both powerful and addictive stimulants, but chemically speaking, they are different drugs so they have different side effects. Another main difference between the two substances is crack is a plant-based drug while meth is a manmade, synthetic drug.

Most importantly, neither drug is more dangerous or worse than the other. Instead, it’s important to recognize that they’re both illegal, addictive stimulants that can cause addiction, withdrawal, overdose, and serious short-term and long-term health problems.

Symptoms of crack addiction

If someone is addicted to crack, they might experience some of these symptoms or display some of the following signs:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Alertness
  • Anxiety
  • Contracted blood vessels
  • Decreased appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dilated pupils
  • Extreme euphoria
  • Fast heart rate
  • Getting overly excited
  • Hallucinations that bugs are burrowing under the person’s skin (also called “coke bugs”)
  • Hypertension 
  • Hyperthermia 
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia
  • Pressured speech
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures 
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the effects of crack wear off

Symptoms of meth addiction

When someone is addicted to meth, they may experience some of these symptoms or display some of the following signs:

  • Tweaking (not eating or sleeping for several days and suffering from anxiety)
  • Dental problems like severe tooth decay and gum disease
  • Depression
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Intense cravings for meth
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Paranoia
  • Poor reaction time and motor skills
  • Skin sores

It’s not always easy to tell when someone is addicted to meth or crack, but certain behavioral changes may also indicate when something is wrong. For example, people who are addicted to meth or crack cocaine might behave in some of the following ways:

  • Participate in nonviolent or violent crimes to get money for drugs
  • Suddenly lose interest in hobbies or activities they used to enjoy
  • Take part in risky behaviors like having unprotected sex or driving under the influence
  • Performing poorly at work or school
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or within relationships

Treatment for crack and meth addiction

Crack and meth addiction are both very difficult to overcome, but you or an addicted loved one can get help to get sober. Substance use disorder is a chronic brain disease that requires consistent, ongoing, individualized treatment for sustained recovery. People who are addicted to meth or crack may benefit from medical detox, residential rehab, outpatient rehab, sober living, or a combination of these treatment services alongside individual counseling and therapy.

While detox is typically the first step to recover from crack and meth addiction, there are currently no approved drugs to treat the effects of stimulant withdrawal. During detox, a team of nurses and doctors can provide relief from withdrawal symptoms by administering medication to treat symptoms like body aches, tremors, and anxiety. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), another method called Motivational Incentives for Enhanced Drug Abuse Recovery, which uses prize-based incentives to promote abstinence, may also be highly effective for many people addicted to stimulants.5 

Related post: Meth Mouth: How Does Methamphetamine Addiction Affect Teeth?

Start your recovery with detox Austin, TX

In conclusion, if you or a loved one is struggling with crack or meth addiction, help is available. The caring staff at Briarwood Detox Center provides detox Austin, TX and Houston, TX to help addicted individuals find freedom in sobriety. In addition to providing individualized detox programs, we also offer art and music activities during treatment and H&I meetings, for those who are interested in learning about the 12-Step Program for recovery. We can help you get through withdrawal and provide individualized recommendations for ongoing treatment in rehab or sober living.

For more details, please contact us online or call (512) 262-4426 today to speak with an admissions representative. 


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cocaine 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181074/ 
  3. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine 
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/methamphetamine.html 



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