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How Dangerous is a “Speedball”?

A speedball is a colloquial term referring to the combination of heroin and cocaine. The combination is incredibly dangerous because it mixes together two highly powerful drugs– one a sedative and one a stimulant. The results can quickly lead to overdose or heart failure, among many other potential side effects. John Belushi, Chris Farley, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mitch Hedberg, and River Phoenix, among countless others, died from using the combination of heroin and cocaine.

One may assume that the combination of a sedative and a stimulant would cancel out the effects of each drug. However, they two drastically reduce the threshold for overdose. This is because heroin reduces one’s breathing rate, while cocaine causes the body to use more oxygen. People who speedball are also more likely to inject more frequently than people using heroin alone, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition. If alcohol is also used in combination with a speedball, the risk of overdose and death is significantly increased.

One method that has increased in use is combining smoking crack cocaine with heroin. According to R. Douglas Bruce in Sande’s HIV/AIDS Medicine, “The unsterile method of use, unpredictable concentrations in street samples, adulterants in the injection mixture, and the lifestyle necessary to procure drugs are responsible for most heroin-associated medical complications.” However, many users tend to use both heroin and cocaine together through intravenous injection, which carries a very high risk of overdose and death.

Often, people will use the two drugs in an attempt to minimize the uncomfortable side effects of one of the substances. For example, if one feels they have done too much of one of the substances, they may use the other to “level out” their high. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens, “Taking stimulants with depressants can cause negative side effects typically associated with the abuse of either one individually, such as a state of general confusion, incoherence, blurred vision, stupor, drowsiness, paranoia, and mental impairment because of lack of sleep.” Other side effects may include loss of coordination, and a greatly increased risk of death from stroke, heart attack, or aneurysm. One may also face respiratory failure from the sedative effects of heroin once the cocaine has worn off. The NIDA explains, “Fatal slowing of the breathing can occur when the stimulating cocaine wears off and the full effects of the heroin are felt on their own.”

No matter how far down the scale you have gone, recovery is possible. You can make the decision to embark upon the rewarding journey of recovery by seeking help now. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, is staffed with knowledgeable and compassionate professionals dedicated to helping clients build happy, fulfilling lives in sobriety, free from the chains of addiction. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431