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The ‘Speedball’, Risks of Mixing Heroin and Cocaine

Speedballing is a dangerous practice of mixing heroin and cocaine. These two drugs are significantly risky to use on their own, but combining them is even more dangerous.
It is a practice that is likely to damage your body, mind, and quality of life if it doesn’t kill you.

What Is Speedballing?

Speedball is the term often applied to a combination of cocaine and heroin.
While cocaine has some highly specific uses in the medical world, both cocaine and heroin are almost exclusively used illicitly.

Speedballing takes these two potent, unregulated substances and combines them, with the intention being to elicit a powerful high. It should be noted that these drugs are both addictive and can damage the body when used independently.

As briefly discussed in a report by researchers Jon Samuels, Steven S. Schwalbe, and Gertie F. Marx, speedballing is meant to chase the energetic high of cocaine with the euphoric sedation of heroin. While the study itself is relatively old (published in 1991), the information within it is still accurate. The concept of a speedball is not new.

Why Do People Try Speedballing?

It is important to remember that most people, both those who choose to abuse drugs and those who do not, are not highly medically literate. Their information about drugs comes from a variety of sources, including less reputable ones like the general rumor mill or even people who willfully mislead them into buying drugs.

Where the average person gets prescribed potent drugs from a doctor, who is obviously medically literate, people who choose to abuse drugs often don’t. While it is unrealistic to expect everyone to be fully knowledgeable, it is important to have accurate information when specifically choosing to put drugs as potent as heroin and cocaine in your body. Always get information from quality sources about the drugs you intend to take.

The idea of speedball is to take cocaine (a stimulant) and heroin (a depressant) for a push-pull reaction in the brain. Essentially, the goal is to achieve the high of both, but use their competing properties to avoid their adverse side effects.

woman suffering from cocaine withdrawal

However, the reality of taking a stimulant on top of a depressant is much riskier than people who choose to take a speedball usually think.

Once a person begins speedballing, even if they realize the dangers, it can potentially be too late to stop without help. Both cocaine and heroin are highly addictive. Using them together puts a person at great risk for physical and psychological dependence.

Dangers of Mixing Stimulants and Depressants

Stimulants can indeed mask some of the negative side effects of depressants. One of the biggest dangers of this is that heroin outlasts cocaine in the body. This can then lead to the full effect of heroin hitting the user, who can easily have taken more heroin than intended while its effects were masked. The user is then at serious risk for heroin overdose.

Speedballing is more or less based on a false premise — that taking a stimulant and a depressant together will make both safer. In reality, it opens the user up to a host of risks, including the quite serious possibility of a lethal overdose.

Additionally, taking a stimulant with a depressant is noted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to have the following potential side effects:

  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Serious sleep deprivation
  • Paranoia

In addition to the person potentially being totally incapable of complex motor skills while high, the combination can also lead to stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, and respiratory failure.

A person speedballing is essentially turning their body into an amateur chemistry experiment where marginal failure could lead to serious problems, and serious failure can lead to death. The line at which this occurs is blurry and varies from person to person.

The body must try to balance two dangerous drugs. It’s incredibly easy for the body to get overwhelmed. Overdose is especially likely due to the heroin component of a speedball.

High Likelihood of Addiction

Cocaine is highly addictive, hijacking the brain’s dopamine circuits and forcing a feeling of extreme happiness. It additionally will weaken both the naturally occurring process and its own, causing it to be harder for the user to be happy unless they use more and more cocaine.

Heroin, meanwhile, is a notoriously addictive opioid. It binds to the brain’s opioid receptors and can affect how pain, pleasure, breathing and other functions operate.

Long-time heroin users can experience fairly severe withdrawal even relatively soon after a dose.

Riverside-rehab-facility

They might feel highly restless, experience serious pain, and have an extreme craving for more heroin.

A person who chooses to engage in speedballing is almost guaranteed to become addicted to one or both of these drugs.  These drugs are abusing the body in two different ways. This complicates the withdrawal process.

Is There a Safe Way to Speedball?

No, there is no safe way to combine heroin and cocaine.
Speedballing is always going to be a gamble with your life and health. Both cocaine and heroin are drugs that the body builds tolerances to. This means you have to take increasing amounts of the drugs to elicit similar effects over time. With higher doses, overdose is more likely.

At best, engaging in speedballing is putting two highly addictive drugs into your body. Both have long-term health effects, and both are often cut with cheap and potentially dangerous chemicals. There is no circumstance where a speedball should be considered a safe drug mix.