Speedballs, commonly containing cocaine and heroin, cause an intense high. Combining these highly addictive substances increases their potency and can have devastating health consequences.
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Speedball is a drug cocktail containing stimulants and drugs that act as depressants, such as heroin or morphine. Also known as “dynamite” and “whizbang,” the concoction is believed to enhance the effects of each drug in the mixture.

The most common speedball comprises cocaine and heroin. Many people self-administer a concoction of cocaine and heroin to enhance the effects of both drugs and in hopes that they decrease the negative side effects of each other.

But speedballing can exacerbate the dangerous effects of these drugs, leading to physical, psychological and behavioral problems and even death. Speedballing can also result in an increased risk for contracting HIV, the development of heroin addiction or cocaine addiction, and a lower chance of completing treatment.

Drugs Used for ‘Speedballing’

A speedball is composed of two classes of drugs with contradicting effects. Stimulants make you feel energetic. Opioids such as heroin make you feel drowsy and confused.

Stimulants often used in speedball include:

  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine

Opioids commonly used in speedball include:

  • Heroin
  • Morphine

While cocaine is the most common stimulant in speedball drugs, the popularity and availability of methamphetamine and other stimulants has increased in recent years. As a result, speedball combinations that include stimulants other than cocaine could become more common.

Different types of heroin can be used to speedball. Black tar heroin, white heroin or brown heroin can be combined with cocaine or other stimulants and abused in various ways.

Effects of Speedball

Heroin overdoses have gained national attention, but both heroin and cocaine use can lead to addiction, overdose and death. While each drug is dangerous, combining heroin and cocaine can worsen their effects and increase the risk of overdose and other health problems.

Effects of cocaine:

  • Irritability
  • Dilated pupils
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Severe itching
  • Nausea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Depression

Effects of speedball:

  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Paranoia
  • Incoherence
  • Mental impairment caused by lack of sleep
  • Heart attack

Speedballing can also result in uncoordinated motor skills, stroke, aneurysm and psychiatric disorders. Because the effects of cocaine subside more quickly than the effects of heroin, speedball use can result in heroin-induced slowed breathing that can lead to respiratory depression.

Speedball can also alter behaviors. According to a 2011 study published in the journal Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, a speedball comprising methamphetamine and morphine can produce strong behavioral interactions greater than those caused by either drug alone.

“Heroin and cocaine – a speedball – can kill you.”

Thom Browne, President and CEO of Rubicon Global Enterprises, Honorary President of International Society of Substance Use Professionals

A 2017 report by the Drug Enforcement Administration indicated that speedball cocktails have been increasingly laced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid about 50 to 100 times more toxic than morphine. Fentanyl use can result in seizures, overdose and death.

Speedball use has led to the deaths of numerous celebrities, including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John Belushi, Chris Farley and River Phoenix.

Treatment for Speedball Abuse

Treating speedball abuse can be difficult. Heroin affects the brain differently from way cocaine does, and not much is known about how these two drugs interact. Methadone, a medication used to treat opioid addiction, has only proved moderately effective in reducing speedball abuse.

However, a 2002 study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that a combination of the drugs indatraline and buprenorphine reduced the self-administration of speedball by monkeys. This could suggest that combining medications that target the effects of heroin or cocaine may reduce speedball abuse in humans.

Buprenorphine produces some heroin-like effects, while indatraline causes effects similar to those of cocaine. Buprenorphine and indatraline minimize and prevent cocaine and heroin withdrawal symptoms, have a long duration of action and have a lower potential for abuse when compared with heroin or cocaine.

Nonpharmacological treatments for speedball abuse may also exist. A 2014 study published in the journal Life Sciences showed that exercise decreased speedball administration in animals. Researchers found that overall physical activity, not a specific exercise, reduced drug self-administration by rodents.

People experiencing heroin or cocaine addiction can receive evidence-based treatment . At cocaine and heroin treatment, counseling and therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy can help individuals understand the underlying cause of their addiction, overcome substance abuse and live healthier lives.

Medical Disclaimer: DrugRehab.com aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.

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