What’s a Speedball?
Various drugs are sometimes taken together when users are seeking a different kind of high than the individual substances provide. So what is it? It’s a combination of heroin and cocaine, which are both illegal drugs.
Heroin and cocaine commonly come in powdered forms and can be dissolved into a liquid. The term “speedballing” refers to injecting this potentially lethal combination into the bloodstream. Sometimes speedballs are snorted, but the high isn’t as intense as when it’s taken intravenously.
There’s a misconception that taking these two drugs together can balance out their opposing effects. In reality, the combination of heroin and cocaine can result in permanent damage to the body and increases the risk of overdosing. There are still questions about exactly how the two drugs interact and impact one another’s effects.
In 2016, roughly 80% of synthetic opioid-related overdose deaths in the United States involved a second drug, such as cocaine. Heroin is an opioid that can slow breathing and lead to respiratory failure, particularly if it’s consumed along with depressants like alcohol. This was the lethal combination that resulted in the death of actor Cory Monteith in 2013.
Cocaine is a stimulant that increases your respiration and heart rates. When taken together with heroin in a speedball, the effect can be deadly. The concoction is responsible for the demise of several celebrities, including comedian John Belushi and actors River Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
Other names or slang terms for combinations of heroin and cocaine include H & C, goofball, he-she and smoking gun. The mixture of heroin and crack cocaine also has slang terms like moonrock, eightball and chasing the dragon. Then there’s serial speedballing, which refers to ingesting a sequence of cocaine, heroin and cough syrup over several days. Snorting heroin and cocaine together is sometimes called bipping or crisscrossing.
What Does It Do?
The cocktail of drugs in a speedball can result in serious side effects and sometimes death. While heroin is a depressant that slows your breathing and impairs respiratory function, cocaine is a stimulant that increases your heart rate and energy level, so your body requires more oxygen. Rather than canceling each other out, as some people assume, this combination puts added strain on the heart, lungs and brain.
Potential speedball effects include:
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety, agitation
- Uncontrollable movement
- Increased body temperature
- Blurred vision
- Respiratory failure
- Heart attack
The amount of the drug combination that’s taken is less indicative of how a person is affected than a few external factors. Where you are, who you’re with, your mood, personality and medical history all play a role in how speedballing affects your mind and your body. Since cocaine and heroin have opposite effects on the body, it’s possible you might not feel that high from it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not having a physical impact on your body. The risk of overdosing is increased because people often redose if they don’t feel a strong enough high.
What Does a Speedball Feel Like?
Speedballing can create a push-pull reaction as the depressant and stimulant work against each other in your body. This is why you might experience drowsiness, confusion, uncontrollable movements or anxiety and agitation. Sometimes, injecting it can result in an intense high that doesn’t involve the negative side effects of cocaine or heroin, which is why some people find it more appealing than taking the two substances individually.
However, speedballing doesn’t typically create the same high effect as cocaine alone, which is usually sought after for the immense euphoria it temporarily provides. Injecting a mix of cocaine and heroin creates a more extreme high than snorting the two drugs. But the potential for overdosing is greater with the combination because the high doesn’t feel as intense as it does from one of the drugs alone, making people think they can take more of the mixture.
Speedball Effect and Addiction
The two drugs combined to create speedballs, cocaine and heroin, are highly addictive and can result in withdrawal when no longer taken at the same frequency. Heroin is one of the most addictive substances available today, and cocaine can cause immense psychological dependence in users in a very short time. It’s not clear why the feeling of speedballing is so appealing to users when it effectively cancels out the extreme highs of both these addictive substances. Regardless, speedballing creates dependence on two hard drugs that’s very difficult to overcome. If you’re struggling with an addiction to speedballing, cocaine or heroin, it’s vital to seek professional treatment.
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While little is currently known about the long-term side effects of speedball abuse, both cocaine and heroin take a serious toll on the mind and body after a prolonged period of use. The addiction to both substances can become all-consuming and lead to risky sexual behaviors, violence and interference with a person’s daily obligations, such as work, parenting or school.
Detoxification from cocaine can result in withdrawal effects including irritability, sleep problems, intense cravings for the drug and decreased appetite. The psychological aspect of the addiction is more challenging to overcome than the physical symptoms. That’s why the major aspects of cocaine addiction recovery include abstinence, rehabilitation and preventing a relapse.
Addiction to speedballing is serious and requires treatment. However, treatment can be tricky because heroin and cocaine affect the brain differently and very little is known about how they interact. While methadone has been used to treat opioid addictions, it hasn’t been as effective against addiction to speedballing. The same is true of buprenorphine, which is used as a heroin substitute during treatment to relieve cravings without providing a high.
Studies have suggested that methadone reduces a person’s desire for cocaine but not the speedball combination. It’s thought that perhaps carefully balanced combinations of prescribed medications might be more effective in managing this addiction because they target the effects cocaine and heroin each have on the brain.
In addition to medication, individuals dealing with addiction can benefit from counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy to rewire pathways in the brain so they respond to the addiction differently. Another way to manage speedball addiction without medication is regular vigorous physical activity.
At FHE Health, we offer effective treatments and a safe space to address addiction so you can get back on track and live a healthier lifestyle. Contact us today at (833) 596-3502 so our team of caring counselors can help you begin your recovery journey.