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.
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:
Opioids commonly used in speedball include:
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.
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:
Effects of speedball:
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.”
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.
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.