Individuals who are addicted to drugs try to achieve the greatest high possible. One way addicts achieve an optimal high is by speedballing, which is mixing a stimulant drug and a depressant drug together. By taking a stimulant and a depressant at the same time, two things happen: (1) the negative side effects of each drug are decreased, and (2) the addict feels less intoxicated than they really are. This results in the individual consuming more of the drugs than they realize is actually going into their bodies, and their chances of overdosing is elevated.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, speedballing creates a “push-pull” effect on the user:

A speedball is a combination of heroin and cocaine. Cocaine acts as a stimulant and heroin acts as a depressant, so taking them together creates a sort of “push-pull” reaction in the body and brain. People use cocaine and heroin at the same time to get an intense rush with a high that is supposed to combine the effects of both drugs, while hoping to reduce the negative effects. However, the combination of cocaine and heroin can have fatal consequences. Negative effects of stimulants include anxiety, high blood pressure, and strong or irregular heartbeat, while the negative effects of depressants include drowsiness and suppression of breathing,” (NIDA).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2014, cocaine use resulted in the second-most drug overdose deaths. And since cocaine’s availability didn’t increase over time, why were cocaine-related deaths increasing in recent years? The CDC’s WONDER database gathered information from death certificates and found that this increase resulted from individuals mixing cocaine with opioids.

An article from US News explores this issue further:

For instance, an examination of CDC data show that 6,784 people died of a cocaine-involved overdose in 2015. Of these, 2,565 also had heroin as a contributing cause of death and 1,077 had a prescription pain reliever. In 1,542 cases, fentanyl contributed to the cause of death, and some of these drugs overlapped, meaning that about 63 percent of cases involved an opioid” (US News).

What are These Drugs?

The most common speedballing drugs used together are heroin (the depressant) with cocaine (the stimulant). These drugs can be mixed together into one syringe, separated into two separate syringes, or snorted together. Each of these drugs are extremely dangerous and hazardous to one’s health independently from one another, but when mixed together, the higher the risk of forming a dependency or addiction can be.

Heroin — heroin is a depressant made from morphine, which is a natural substance derived from the seed pod of opium poppy plants. Heroin’s effects include nausea, vomiting, insomnia, itching, impaired mental functioning, dry mouth, going back and forth between consciousness and semi-consciousness, stomach cramping, mental disorders, liver and kidney disease, and more.

Cocaine — cocaine is a potent stimulant drug made from coca plant leaves. This drug is illegal but can sometimes be used as an anesthetic for surgeries. Cocaine’s effects include paranoia, extreme happiness, energeticness, irritability, increased alertness, hypersensitivity of the sense, dilated pupils, constricted blood vessels, increased body temperature, elevated blood pressure, fast heartbeat, restlessness, and muscle twitching.

Effects of Speedballing

The speed ball drug side effects can be life-threatening. Heroin produces calming effects on the individual while cocaine gives people energy, and this combination can lead to many dangerous consequences for the individual.

Respiratory depression — The effects cocaine wear off much quicker than the effects of heroin, so the individual is left with the effects of the depressant. Depressant drugs increase the risk of slowed breathing and respiratory depression, which is described as ineffective breathing.

Overdose — In addition to respiratory depression, overdose can also be an effect of speedballing since the quantity of substances cannot be handled by the body.

Diseases — Sharing needles can increase the risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis C, or other infections transmitted through blood.

Addiction — Cocaine and heroin are both highly addictive substances, and long-term use of these drugs can lead to dependency or addiction. The individual may also experience harsh withdrawal symptoms in absence of the drugs.

Negative side effects — The combination of cocaine and heroin use can also result in muscle cramps, bone pain, blurred vision, paranoia, restlessness, confusion, shaking, stupor, insomnia, and vomiting.

Personal life problems — Relationship problems, job loss, financial burdens, trouble with the law, or other problems in the addict’s personal life can arise from speedballing.

Who is affected by Speedballing?

One young man, Mike Devlin, was in his senior year of college when his dependence on painkillers began. He had been prescribed painkillers to cope with the pain of various sports injuries, which led him to consume even harder drugs. Devlin had formed an addiction that spiraled out of control when he began speedballing heroin and cocaine.

I started experimenting with alcohol and drugs a little before high school. I played lacrosse my whole life, and during high school, I underwent a couple surgeries. I was prescribed painkillers, and once I started taking those, I realized I didn’t need anything else. When I got to college, I underwent another surgery and decided to stop playing lacrosse. Addiction is a progressive illness, and it was progressing. Right before my junior year of college, I spent my first summer away from home, and I kind of just lost hope in everything. I fell into the world of addiction and drugs altogether. That year, I found a sense of desperation and wanted to get help. I left school and came to an outpatient program in New York. At that point, it was the pills that were a problem for me, so I went back to school thinking, ‘Oh, I can still smoke pot, I can still drink, I can still do cocaine.’ Eventually all those things weren’t doing it for me, so I reverted back to what I know works for me. I went back to the pills, which started progressing into heroin. The big thing for me was speedballing – doing cocaine and opiates together. That’s what made me feel comfortable, made me feel on top of the world,” said Devlin.

Another young man, 23-year-old Dave from Manchester, was previously addicted to heroin, but moved to speedballing when he moved to the city.

His story is shared in an article from BBC News:

Drug dealers here sell heroin and crack together as a package deal. Everyone else was doing it, so I didn’t even think about it and have been speedballing for a year. You get more of a rush compared to other drugs and it is very addictive. You stop paying attention to your body. Sometimes I go through several days without eating, because the drugs are so addictive you don’t feel like eating, and it takes a toll on your body,” said Dave.

Dave eventually decided to get help for his battle with speedballing. He spoke with other addicted individuals going through the same issues as him, and this gave him a much-needed “reality check.” Dave now goes to schools to talk about his addiction in the hopes of preventing more people from going down his path.

Since there are so many different treatment options to choose from, it can be difficult to determine which is right for you. For information on addiction and treatment, call Stop Your Addiction. With Stop Your Addiction, achieving long-term sobriety is only a phone call away!

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