Difference Between Cocaine and Heroin (With Table)

Drugs are addictive substances that can be classified into various types depending on various forms of classification. Based on the response they elicit they are depressants, steroids, inhalants, hallucinogens, narcotics and stimulants. Cocaine is classified as a stimulant while heroin is classified as a depressant drug.

Cocaine vs Heroin

The difference between cocaine and heroin is that they belong to two very different classes of drugs and have a different overall reaction on the drug user and hence are classified into different groups. Cocaine comes under a class of drugs that is a CNS stimulant while heroin is just the opposite. Heroin is a depressant.

Cocaine as discussed a stimulatory drug. The meaning of this is cocaine stimulates the central nervous system and its parts to give elevated senses and body characteristics. Cocaine also comes from the coca plant native to South America and comes in all forms ranging from powder to liquid forms.

Heroin as discussed has a depressing effect on the user. This means once consumed heroin brings down a person’s senses and inhibition from the normal state and relaxes them. Heroin is obtained from the seed of the opium poppy plant from which other opioid drugs are also produced. This heroin is also an opioid.

Comparison Table Between Cocaine and Heroin

Parameters of ComparisonCocaineHeroin
Obtained FromCocaine is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant.Heroin is obtained from the seeds of the opium poppy plant.
Type of DrugCocaine is a stimulatory drug for the CNS.Heroin is a depressive drug for the CNS.
CausesCocaine works by accumulating dopamine in the brain.Heroin works by inhibiting the action of neurotransmitters.
Consumed ByCocaine can be smoked, injected or vaped.Heroin can also be smoked, injected, ingested or vaped.
Antidote for Overdose.There is no antidote for a cocaine overdose.Antidote for a heroin overdose is thankfully present.

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is a schedule II drug in the US. It is a very addictive and dangerous drug. Cocaine is usually found as a white powder that is found either in powder form or in form of pellets. Cocaine can be ingested in a variety of ways, they can be snorted through the nose, heated and made to evaporate and then snorted or smoked or even dissolved into a second substance to be injected into the body with a needle.

Cocaine is obtained from two varieties of the coca plant mainly their leaves. The plants are Erythroxylum coca or Erythroxylum novogranatence. The leaves of these plants are processed to extract this powerful drug from them. Cocaine comes under the class of drugs that stimulates the human body and its senses.

Chemically cocaine is an alkaloid that has psychoactive properties in contrast to heroin which is an opioid. As stimulant cocaine binds to dopamine receptors in the brain that leads to the accumulation of dopamine in the brain tricking the brain into having an elevated feeling of energy and happiness. Once the effect wears out the person suddenly falls from this highly elevated good state and thus feels the urge to take the drug again. This is why cocaine is highly addictive due to its rewarding nature of the action.

However prolonged use causes nasal problems, pupil dilation, pressure issues and also death by cardiotoxicity.

What is Heroin?

Heroin is a schedule I drug in the US. It is also a very addictive and dangerous drug. Heroin is usually found as a white or yellowish powder like cocaine. It is consumed in similar methods like that of cocaine which is by smoking, snorting, inhaling or injecting into any accessible vein by a syringe.

Heroin is a morphine derivative. It is obtained from the same plant as morphine which is the opium poppy plant namely Papaver somniferum. The seeds of this shrub are processed to extract this drug. Heroin comes under the class of drugs that depresses the body’s normal functions and mental ability.

Chemically heroin is an opioid. As a depressant, it binds to the neurotransmitters which cause delayed transmission of messages from the brain to the body. This provides the body enough time to relax and this gives the feeling of calm. It also causes flushing of the body due to increases in levels of serotonin in the brain.

However, the sense of euphoria and pain relief can be quite addictive and hence people get involved in long term heroin use. Similar damage to the nasopharyngeal passage and the vascular system is caused as in the case of cocaine. Usually, in intense cases, respiratory depression causes death.

Main Differences Between Cocaine and Heroin

  1. Cocaine is classified as an alkaloid chemically while heroin is classified as an opioid chemically.
  2. Cocaine use causes dilation of pupils, higher heart rate, high energy while heroin use causes sleepiness, pain relief and less mental agility.
  3. Cocaine is extracted from the plant Erythroxylum coca while heroin is extracted from the plant Papaver somniferum.
  4. Cocaine causes more irritation in users while heroin users are calmer.
  5. Prolonged cocaine users can develop cardiotoxicity while prolonged heroin users can develop respiratory depression both of which can cause death in extreme cases.
  6. Cocaine is mainly smoked while heroin is mainly injected by users although another form of ingestion is also common.


The use of any kind of drug has an atoll on the body and mind of the patients. Both cocaine and heroin give the users an altered state of mind which is more preferred by them over their normal state due to which they return to taking drugs to feel like that over and over again. A false state of mental well being is what is sought by drug users.

However in users who inject drugs high rates of transmitted injection and diseases like HIV is also common. Heroin can also cause loss of appetite and cocaine use can cause muscle tremors as immediate effects that can affect the user’s health. An effort should be main to limit drug use and to ban them from sell and care must be taken of addicted persons to aid them in recovery.


  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=gW55KlGBTIQC&oi=fnd&pg=PP11&dq=cocaine&ots=vB449ilNAM&sig=uTuo09RJeHUz92wUmluUZiQlxqs
  2. https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/abstractdb/AbstractDBDetails.aspx?id=125283
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