Methamphetamine and cocaine are both stimulant drugs that can each have a similar effect on the body. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, both are Schedule II controlled substances. This means that they have some limited accepted medical use, but the potential for abuse of each is very high. It is rare for doctors to prescribe either cocaine or methamphetamine. When they do, it is typically a one-time prescription that is nonrefillable.
Despite some superficial similarities, the National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that meth and cocaine are actually very different from one another.
Cocaine is a substance derived from plants. Specifically, it comes from the leaves of the coca plant that grows in the South American countries of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. A series of chemical transformations take place in manufacturing labs in remote jungle locations before it is ready for use.
On the other hand, methamphetamine is man-made, manufactured from certain precursor chemicals. It is fairly easy to make because the ingredients needed are readily available in over-the-counter medications. These include phenylpropanolamine, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Federal law now places restrictions on the availability of products that contain these chemicals and requires that they remain in a locked cabinet or behind the counter until dispensed.
The effects of methamphetamine last much longer than those of cocaine. The reason is that the body metabolizes cocaine much more quickly. Within one hour of taking cocaine, the body will remove 50% of it. By contrast, removing 50% of a methamphetamine dose from the body takes 12 hours. Therefore, the high from taking cocaine lasts only briefly compared to that of methamphetamine.