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Meth vs Heroin

Difference Between Meth and Heroin, Dangers of Mixing Meth and Heroin, Effects, Overdose & Addiction Treatment


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, meth is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It was developed early in the 20th century from its parent drug, amphetamine, and was used originally in nasal decongestants and bronchial inhalers. Like amphetamine, methamphetamine causes increased activity and talkativeness, decreased appetite, and a pleasurable sense of well-being or euphoria. 

However, methamphetamine differs from amphetamine in that, at comparable doses, much greater amounts of the drug get into the brain, making it a more potent stimulant. It also has longer-lasting and more harmful effects on the central nervous system. These characteristics make it a drug with a high potential for widespread misuse. Methamphetamine was originally prescribed as a decongestant and weight loss aid, methamphetamine was once widely and legally available in tablet and injectable forms throughout the U.S. 

meth vs heroin
A study by neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt found that heroin is the world’s most addictive drug.


Heroin is a drug that reaches the brain very fast once it’s consumed, for this reason, it is very easy for a person to develop heroin addiction even from one or a few uses. Before we get to the main topic, let’s learn about what heroin is. According to the scientific piece ‘Heroin’, published by The National Library of Medicine, “Heroin is a white or brown powder or a black, sticky goo.

It’s an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance in the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. It can be mixed with water and injected with a needle. Heroin can also be smoked or snorted up the nose. All of these ways of taking heroin send it to the brain very quickly. This makes it very addictive.

Regular use of heroin can lead to tolerance. This means users need more and more drugs to have the same effect. At higher doses over time, the body becomes dependent on heroin. If dependent users stop heroin, they have withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, diarrhea and vomiting, and cold flashes with goosebumps. That is why a medical heroin detox process is very needed.

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Which Drug is More Addictive? Meth vs Heroin

There is no straightforward answer to the question of which drug is most addictive. The subject of addiction in general does not come in black-and-white terms. There are a lot of gray areas when it comes to figuring out if a person has an addiction disorder, and the very definition of the word addiction leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Most addiction experts agree that there’s both a physical and a psychological aspect to addiction. Addictive substances have physical effects on the brain and cause pleasurable sensations that prime the brain’s pleasure-reward response. At the same time, a person’s stress levels, life satisfaction, attitudes about drug use, and the presence of other mental illnesses are all considered to be factors in the development of an addiction disorder.

People can even become addicted to substances that are not considered to be physically addictive because they can form an emotional attachment to the drug and any kind of intoxicant will cause the brain to associate that drug with a pleasant reward. There is therefore no definitive way to measure how addictive a drug is. However, experts and researchers have found a way to rank common drugs for addictiveness based on five factors:

  1. Dependence: This is based on factors such as the relapse rate, the percentage of people who become addicted to the drug versus how many simply use it, self-reports of the need for the drug from addicted persons, how hard it is to quit, and the degree to which the drug is likely to be used despite knowledge of the drug’s harmfulness.
  2. Withdrawal: The severity of the symptoms that arise when addicted persons stop taking the drug.
  3. Tolerance: How soon users find that they need to take more of the drug to get the same effect and how much more they need to take.
  4. Reinforcement: This is based on human and animal experiments testing regarding how likely subjects are to seek out more of the drug given.
  5. Intoxication: This is how high people typically get on the drug.

Based on these criteria, we can begin to discuss how addictive some of the most popular legal and illicit drugs are in comparison with one another.

Which is Worse Meth or Heroin?

A study by neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt found that heroin is the world’s most addictive drug. Heroin causes the quantity of dopamine in the brain to increase by up to 200%. Dopamine is associated with motor function, motivation, reward, and the brain’s pleasure centers.  

Regular heroin users often develop a tolerance, which means that they need more of the drug to achieve their desired effects. Heroin is extremely dangerous because the amount that can cause death is only five times greater than the quantity required for a high. While meth may not be as addictive as heroin, it is still incredibly addictive. The drug also boosts dopamine release, leading to an increase of this chemical in the brain. 

meth vs heroin
While both cause a high, heroin and meth produce opposite effects.

Experiencing these unnatural levels of dopamine causes a strong desire to continue using the drug. It becomes addictive because the body experiences intense cravings to maintain the euphoric state, resulting in constant redosing and binge-like behavior. Frequent meth use can build up a tolerance to the drug that will require a person to take more of the drug to feel the same effects as before. 

Meth users may find it challenging to feel happy without meth and will experience withdrawal symptoms when it wears off. These symptoms indicate drug dependence, which can form quickly with chronic meth use and even faster with binge use and higher doses.

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Difference Between Meth and Heroin

Methamphetamine, commonly referred to as meth or crystal meth, is an illegal stimulant drug. Methamphetamine comes in white crystal-like rock or powder and is most commonly used by smoking, snorting, and injection. A prescription tablet form of methamphetamine (Desoxyn) is available to treat narcolepsy. Street names for methamphetamine include crank, crystal, ice, and speed.

Heroin is an illegal opioid drug made from morphine, which comes from opium poppy plants. Heroin comes in a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. People inject, sniff, snort, or smoke heroin. Street names for heroin include smack, big H, hell dust, and horse.

While both cause a high, heroin and meth produce opposite effects. Meth is a stimulant that causes a ‘high’ that lasts between 4 and 14 hours. Heroin is a depressant that slows the activity of the central nervous system (CNS), including breathing. A heroin high is much shorter than meth high and usually lasts only a few minutes. Use of either of these powerful illicit drugs can lead to a substance use disorder (SUD), also known as ‘drug addiction.’

Mixing Meth and Heroin

Unfortunately, both heroin and meth are incredibly addictive and dangerous when taken separately, making the dangers of mixing them far greater. It’s not uncommon for people who have substance use disorder to take multiple substances simultaneously. Many people who enter drug treatment programs have polysubstance addictions. There are different reasons for this.

Some people purposely enjoy combining multiple drugs to enhance their effects. Others may have become addicted to each drug separately. Multiple drugs may also be taken as a way to counteract the effects of each. For example, people taking drugs may combine an upper with a downer to avoid falling asleep, or as a way to help them fall asleep after using a stimulant drug.

Two drugs commonly misused together are meth and heroin. Unfortunately, both of these drugs are incredibly addictive and dangerous when taken separately, making the dangers of mixing heroin and meth far greater. Both meth and heroin are classified as being highly addictive, with a range of severe mental and physical side effects. A person combining meth and heroin may experience a powerful high, but they’re at risk for short-term consequences and long-term health effects.

The Dangers of Mixing Heroin and Meth

While both cause a high, heroin and meth have opposite effects from one. Meth is a stimulant with long-lasting effects. Heroin is a depressant that slows the activity of the central nervous system, including breathing. A heroin high doesn’t last long, often only a few minutes. It’s not uncommon for people to find combining depressants and stimulants appealing. The slang name for combining a depressant with a stimulant is called a “speedball.”

Despite the allure of an intense high, the dangers of mixing heroin and meth are significant. When meth and heroin are combined, it’s difficult to determine when too much of either has been taken. This lack of awareness can increase the chances of a fatal overdose. The stimulant masks the effects of the depressant.

meth vs heroin
Behavioral therapies are usually considered the ideal form of treatment for Meth and Heroin addiction.

As a result, the user’s breathing may become slow, but they’re unable to notice until it’s too late. Since the effects of meth outlast heroin, a person’s heart rate may also rapidly change pace. Their heart rate can go from very slow and depressed and then speed up very quickly. A rapid change in heart rate and respiration rate can cause arrhythmias, heart failure, or stroke.

When someone simultaneously abuses two highly addictive substances like meth and heroin, treating their drug use is even more complex. A treatment plan for someone who’s abusing heroin and meth has to take into account each drug separately, and also the combined effects of the two.

There are also differences in withdrawal symptoms with meth compared to heroin, so this has to be addressed in the early stages of detox and treatment. Regardless of the challenges of treating polydrug use, help must be sought as soon as possible. Both meth and heroin are not only dangerous in the short term but can cause severe cognitive, physical, and psychological effects with long-term use.

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Meth Addiction Treatment Near Me

The longer someone takes meth, and the higher the dosage, the more severely dependent on the drug they are likely to be. A high level of dependence means that withdrawal will be difficult. Withdrawal symptoms are optimally managed through a medical detox regime like that provided in a comprehensive treatment program. 

There are no specific medications designed to treat Meth Addiction; however, some medications can help manage specific symptoms of withdrawal like those that address depression, anxiety, and tremors.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that the sooner someone receives help for meth abuse, the better the long-term prognosis is. Meth is highly addictive, and the emotional lows and severe drug cravings associated with its use can make relapse highly likely.

It is important to stay vigilant and for an individual to remain in an addiction treatment program for long enough to form healthy habits, allow new brain connections to form, and learn relapse prevention techniques to control cravings.

Behavioral therapies are usually considered the ideal form of treatment for Meth Addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for addiction uses both individual and group sessions to teach stress management, coping tools, communication, and other life skills to maintain abstinence and improve thinking and behavior patterns overall.

Heroin Addiction Treatment Center

Treatment for Heroin Addiction includes medical treatments and behavioral therapies. For a treatment to be effective, it’s important to match the best treatment approach to meet the particular needs of each patient. Medicines are being developed to help with the withdrawal process. The FDA approved lofexidine, a non-opioid medicine designed to reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Medicines to help people stop using heroin include Buprenorphine and Methadone. They work by binding to the same opioid receptors in the brain as heroin, but more weakly, reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Another treatment is naltrexone, which blocks opioid receptors and prevents opioid drugs from having an effect.

A NIDA study found that once treatment is initiated, both a buprenorphine/Naloxone combination and an extended-release Naltrexone formulation are similarly effective in addiction. Because full detoxification is necessary for treatment with naloxone, initiating treatment among active users was difficult, but once detoxification was complete, both medications had similar effectiveness.

Behavioral therapies for Heroin Addiction include methods called Cognitive-Behavioral therapy and contingency management. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy helps modify the patient’s drug-use expectations and behaviors and helps effectively manage triggers and stress. Contingency Management provides motivational incentives, such as vouchers or small cash rewards for positive behaviors such as staying drug-free. These Behavioral Treatment approaches are especially effective when used along with medicines.

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Co-Occurring Disorders

When a person is diagnosed with both a mental illness and a substance use disorder, they are said to have co-occurring disorders. Though the disorders can exist separately from one another, when they coexist in the same person, they usually cause the symptoms of both disorders to be amplified. It is common for a person with co-occurring disorders to have more severe symptoms than a person with only one of the disorders.

Co-occurring disorders are defined by the dual diagnosis of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder in the same person. These diagnoses can be made at the same time, or they can be made one after the other, but the two disorders occur simultaneously in the same person.

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[1] ‘Heroin’ – National Library of Medicine (

[2] ‘Heroin DrugFacts’ – The National Institute on Drug Abuse (

[3] ‘[Heroin Addiction]’, Sándor Hosztafi, National Library of Medicine (

[4] CDC. Adverse Health Effects Associated with Living in a Former Methamphetamine Drug Laboratory — Victoria, Australia, 2015.

[5] NIDA. 2019, May 16. Methamphetamine DrugFacts.

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