What Is A Speedball?
A speedball is a mixture of the illicit drugs cocaine and heroin. Usually, speedballing involves both substances being injected into the bloodstream, but they are sometimes snorted nasally together as well. People who speedball claim to encounter longer-lasting and a more intense high than that experienced when taking either drug alone.
Cocaine is a stimulant with nearly the opposite effect of heroin (such as rapid breathing and increased heart rate and energy). It is a popular mistake and misconception that combining cocaine with heroin will either balance or cancel out the harmful and negative side effects of heroin. In reality, mixing these substances is more threatening than using either alone because their adverse effects can be doubled when combined. Heroin is a popular illicit opioid (which is derived from morphine) that slows breathing and can lead to respiratory collapse, especially when mixed with another depressant, such as alcohol.
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Why Do People Abuse Speedballs?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information , the use of this combination appears to be a method of avoiding some of the worst side effects of either substance while simultaneously undergoing a unique euphoric and energizing response that comes from combining the two.
A common theory is that the stimulant’s energizing effects will neutralize the unwanted aspects of the depressant. At the same time, the depressant can decrease some of the undesirable physical symptoms of the stimulant. The reality, unfortunately, isn’t quite that simple.
Many celebrities have died of overdoses related to depressant-stimulant combinations, including actors Chris Farley, John Belushi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and River Phoenix.
Push-Pull & The Misconception about Speedballing
A speedball is a mixture of cocaine and heroin. Heroin acts as a depressant, and cocaine acts as a stimulant, so using them together creates a sort of “push-pull” reaction in the body and brain.
Individuals use heroin and cocaine at the same time to get an extreme rush with a high that is supposed to mix the effects of both drugs while hoping to reduce the adverse effects. However, the combination of heroin and cocaine can have life-threatening consequences. The negative effects of stimulants include high blood pressure, anxiety, and irregular and strong heartbeat, while the negative effects of depressants include suppression of breathing and drowsiness.
Taking stimulants with depressants can produce harmful side effects typically linked with the abuse of either one individually, such as a state of general confusion, blurred vision, incoherence, stupor, drowsiness, paranoia, and mental impairment because of lack of sleep. The combination can also result in uncoordinated and uncontrolled motor skills and the risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, or respiratory failure.
Respiratory failure is particularly likely with speedballs because the effects of cocaine wear off far more quickly than the effects of heroin. Fatal slowing of breathing can happen when the stimulating cocaine wears off and the full effects of the heroin are felt on their own.
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Side Effects Of Speedballing
The side effects commonly associated with cocaine are:
- Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
- High blood pressure
- Abdominal cramps
- Irregular or strong heartbeat
Opioids like heroin are often linked to:
- slowed breathing rate.
When combined, the side effects of speedballing primarily negatively impact the brain.
Mixing cocaine and heroin is a powerful cocktail with a very high risk of unpredictable side effects.
Common side effects of speedballing include:
- Confusion or incoherence
- Blurred vision
- Mental impairment due to lack of sleep
- Uncontrollable movements
What Are The Long-Term Effects Of Using Speedballs?
A primary concern for those who continuously inject speedballs is the increased risk of overdose. But, other long-term potential consequences of injecting cocaine and heroin include, but are not limited to:
- Cellulitis (tissue necrosis from injection use)
- Contracting HIV or other bloodborne diseases through injection use
- Vascular inflammation and clogging of the blood vessels from injected substance
- Heart attack
- Problems with impulsivity
- Ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke
- Other ischemic organ damage
- Ulcerations in the GI tract
- Liver and kidney injury
- Heart muscle inflammation
- Aortic ruptures
- Long-lasting cognitive impairments
- Increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease
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Fentanyl & Cocaine Speedball Combo
Speedballs of any kind is incredibly risky and dangerous, but the influx of fentanyl speedballs has hugely increased the drug cocktail’s life-threatening effect. Fentanyl in speedballs is often used to increase strength and potency while keeping costs down, and many dealers don’t inform their customers that they’re using a drug 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Unintentionally consuming a speedball of cocaine mixed fentanyl can be deadly, and sadly, the rate of such overdoses is on the rise as the use of fentanyl spreads.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)  reports that the mixture of cocaine with fentanyl and other synthetic opioids remains a significant threat throughout the United States. The high availability of both cocaine and fentanyl drives the dangerous trend into new markets, particularly in the Midwest and Great Plains regions.
Fentanyl & Meth Speedball Combo
Since 2015, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)  and other law enforcement agencies have confiscated meth mixed with fentanyl. Although fentanyl is typically either sold or mixed with heroin, forensic laboratories have analyzed exhibits containing meth and fentanyl or FRS since 2015. Methamphetamine has historically been mixed with heroin to create a “speedball,” although such combinations have been rare.
Mixtures of methamphetamine with fentanyl are also a rare occurrence but may be used to achieve the same effect as traditional speedballs. Many of these mixtures have methamphetamine as the primary substance, with fentanyl or FRS as a secondary or tertiary substance in the sample.
Speedball Related Overdoses
The spread of illicitly manufactured Fentanyl (a Synthetic Opioid up to 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than Heroin), caused a sharp increase in overdose deaths. Some purposely took Fentanyl because they knew of its deadly, potent properties. However, many people were not aware of the presence of Fentanyl in counterfeit pills (like Oxycodone) and heroin. Overdose deaths increased as a result .
The combination of cocaine (currently at an all-time purity high) and Fentanyl (potentially deadly at only 2 milligrams or the weight of 6 grains of salt) was present in 1,542 deaths in 2015. Many researchers believe the real number of deaths is actually higher due to the way counties report drug deaths.
Symptoms Of Speedball Overdose
The symptoms of a speedball overdose can vary depending on the composition of the drug, but the main cause of overdose deaths are:
- Heart attack
- Respiratory failure
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Speedballs & Mental Illness
About half the people with mental illness will abuse drugs to battle the devastating symptoms of mental illness. Unfortunately, this is only a short relief from their distress. Using speedballs covers up the true problem and creates more issues, such as further mental health deterioration and dangerous physical health problems. Speedball abuse and recovery are important to identify and get help for.
If you know that you have a preexisting mental condition or illness, staying away from drugs is the safest thing to do. However, any psychoactive substance comes with its risks, especially in those with mental illness, who are more susceptible to adverse effects.
Speedballs can worsen depression, mania, delusions, anxiety, auditory and visual hallucinations, insomnia, psychosis, and cognitive problems. If you have a speedball abuse and dependency problem, you must know that help is available.
Treatment for Speedball Abuse & Dependency
Speedball dependency and addiction will take their toll and make you feel trapped. But you must understand that there is a way out, and help is available for you. You are not alone in this.
Admitting that speedball dependency and addiction have caused many problems in your life and hinder your ability to live life is the first step to successfully recovering. It is a major step, and it is the best thing you can do to start to reclaim your life. This is a difficult time in your life, but that does not mean that it is over. Instead, you can seek the help you need.
Every addiction treatment is personalized to your needs because we place people first in our treatment center. It is best to receive inpatient care so that our competent staff may facilitate safe medically assisted detox. Inpatient detox is the first thing we will focus on, so we can ensure your body is cleansed from substances and toxins.
Medical detox may not be a pleasant experience because of withdrawal symptoms, but our caring staff makes it a top priority that you are as safe and comfortable as possible.
Once the drug is removed from your system, our treatment will focus on medication-assisted treatment (MAT), group and individual therapy, social integration skills, life-skills-building exercises, holistic therapy, support systems, and relapse prevention.
Finding the Right Treatment for Speedball Abuse at We Level Up
We level Up NJ is offering exceptional evidence-based recovery treatment programs. The combinations of therapies applied for each client are tailored to their individualized needs in treating speedball dependency and addiction. We provide cutting-edge full-service rehabilitation care, including residential inpatient, medically assisted detox to drugs, alcohol addiction, and co-occurring mental health therapy. Treatment services vary by facility. Call to learn more.
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 NCBI– https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9618415/
 NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
  DEA – https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/2019-NDTA-final-01-14-2020_Low_Web-DIR-007-20_2019.pdf
 NIDA – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/fentanyl