A speedball (or powerball) is a mixture of two illicit drugs: cocaine and heroin. Generally, speedballing consists of both of these substances being injecting directly into the bloodstream via needles, though they are sometimes snorted together. Individuals who speedball allege that they experience a longer-lasting, more intense high than what they experience when they take either one of the drugs alone.
Heroin is a common opioid that slows down a person’s breathing and can result in respiratory failure, particularly if it is combined with other depressants like alcohol. Cocaine is a stimulant and has the opposite effect as it increases the heart rate and energy levels and can result in rapid breathing. It is often believe that mixing heroin with cocaine will cancel out or balance the adverse side effects of the drug, but this is not true. In fact, mixing the two drugs is more dangerous than using one of the drugs alone since the effects of the drugs are amplified when used together. Mixing the drugs together increases the risk of overdose as well as permanent body damage.
Speedballing is particularly risky since it forces an individual’s body to process more and multiple kinds of drugs at the same time. Taking a stimulant and depressant at the same time causes what is known as a “push-pull” reaction that is incredibly dangerous. Using cocaine requires that the body consume and utilize more oxygen, whereas heroine slows down breathing, which puts a strain on overactive lungs, brain, and heart, thereby creating confusion and chaos in an individual’s body. Specifically, speedballing makes it harder for an individual’s body to get the proper amount of oxygen that is necessary to keep itself safe while also balancing out the effects of cocaine. Worse yet, due to the fact that cocaine tends to wear off at a faster pace than heroin, individuals who are speedballing will often inject more frequently than individual who are using cocaine or heroin separately.
Speedballing Side Effects
The side effects that tend to be associated with cocaine are hypersensitivity to sound, sight, and touch, anxiety, high blood pressure, rapid or irregular heartbeat. The side effects that are often associated with opioids like heroin are a slowed breathing rate and drowsiness.
When the two drugs are combined (speedballing), the side effects impact the brain and are very unpredictable. Primarily, the side effects can include blurred vision, confusion, drowsiness, incoherence, uncontrollable movements, mental impairment as a result of lack of sleep, paranoia, and stupor. Speedballing also has long-term side effects on the body’s major organs like the heart, lungs, and liver. Some people have reported depression and manic episodes as well. Worse yet, there is a high risk of death. There are also fatal side effects like heart attack, stroke, respiratory failure, and aneurysm.
Factors That May Influence How the User Is Impacted by Speedballing
There are a variety of factors that can impact how the body is affected by the combination of cocaine and heroin. It is also important to note that the same person can utilize the exact same amount of the combination on two different occasions and have different experiences. Some of the factors include the following:
- The Drug – The amount used, the purity of the drug, the frequency of previous use, whether the drug has been mixed or cut with other drugs, and how the drug was administered.
- The Setting – Who the user is with and where the user is physically
- The Person Taking the Drugs – Their personality, mood, medical history, mental health, and individual biology
In 2015, there were 63 percent of cocaine-related overdose fatalities involved heroin or another type of opioid. During the first half of 2015, fentanyl-related deaths that involved cocaine in the state of Florida increased to 42 percent. Between 2013 and 2015, cocaine production increased by 100 percent for the Colombian cartels.
Understanding the Dangers of Mixing Drugs
When speedballing, the chance of respiratory failure is far greater due to the differences in how long heroin and cocaine affect the body. The euphoric effects of cocaine will wear off quicker than heroin, and as a result, the full respiratory-impairing effects of heroin will strike the body. In addition, when the two drugs are mixed together, they strengthen each other’s effects, very often leading to an overdose.
During 2014, cocaine was the cause of the second-most number of overdose-related deaths, and each year, cocaine use has increased. This increase comes following a decline in cocaine-related overdoses between the years 2005 and 2009. Data shows that the increase is being driven by poly-drug use.
Even if the mixture of heroin and cocaine is something you can handle, there are still other risks in a speedball. Speedball is normally not only a hit of cocaine and heroin, as other street drugs or adulterants are often mixed in.
For example, a recent trend for speedball users includes tainting this cocktail with fentanyl, which is part of an opioid class that can be between 50 and potentially thousands of times stronger than heroin itself. Even if the infamous toxicity of this drug does not contribute to overdosing, it often causes intense sedation. That’s leading people to look for stimulants to just remain alive when they get high, researchers and users said— a new pattern of DIY cocktail drug use with alarming health implications in the midst of an already-deadly opioid crisis.
The use of fentanyl alone has risen exponentially in recent years and has proved to be extremely dangerous. In 2011, fentanyl and related drugs were identified in about 1,600 overdose deaths nationwide. But in 2018, provisional figures from the CDC suggest these substances may have killed over 30,000 people. As of 2016, fentanyl was the drug most commonly linked to overdoses in America.
During the Second Wave of what is known as the Opioid Epidemic, fentanyl began to spread and resulted in a sharp increase in overdose-related fatalities. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Some individuals took the drug purposely because they were aware of its potent and deadly properties, though others weren’t aware of its presence in counterfeit pills (such as oxycodone) and heroin. As a result, there was an increase in overdose deaths.
Where You Can Seek Help for Drug Use, Speedballs or Otherwise
It’s clear that speedball use is very dangerous, despite this, it still remains to be a popular drug of choice for many. If you or a loved one need help to recover from the combination of heroin and cocaine use, give Shadow Mountain Recovery a call today. We have experienced staff that can help combat addiction to any drug, and we specialize in holistic treatment to treat the mind, body, and spirit.
If you or a loved one needs an individualized treatment plan to help with meth addiction, call Shadow Mountain Recovery today: (855) 572-7814