Speedball is an illegal drug cocktail that has two components: a stimulant and a depressant. Common combinations of drugs for speedball include:
- Cocaine and heroin (the most popular combination)
- Benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax) and meth
- Opioids (e.g. morphine) and benzodiazepines
- Alcohol and cocaine
- Cocaine and marijuana
Speedball is often taken intravenously to produce an intense high, which some users say are more pleasurable than what they get from just one of the drugs alone. They say the opposing effects of a stimulant and a depressant cancel out the negative effects of each other. However, the truth is the adverse side effects become intensified as well.
If not addressed early, the effects can even be fatal. Speedball has already taken the lives of a number of celebrities, including River Phoenix, John Belushi, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
It is easier to develop addiction to speedball because it involves taking two drugs at the same time, which is also known as polysubstance use. For these cases, treatment is more complicated, and the risk of relapse is also higher.
Read on to find out how you can avoid relapsing when going through speedball addiction treatment.
What does a speedball high feel like?
A stimulant and a depressant have diametrically opposite effects on your brain and body. The belief of many speedball users is the two components will produce an intense high while negating their ill effects.
Suppose you were taking a speedball containing heroin and cocaine. In theory, this is what is supposed to happen. Heroin, as a depressant, should cancel out the jitters and agitation that cocaine brings. At the same time, cocaine, as a stimulant, should keep you alert and balance out the drowsing effect of heroin.
But the fact is in most cases, the negative side effects do not get canceled out. You may still experience the side effects of both cocaine and heroin. The side effects of cocaine include:
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Higher body temperature
For heroin, these are its side effects:
- Slow breathing
- Slow heartbeat
- Impaired brain functions
If you take a speedball, these side effects can feel worse. In addition, you may experience these symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Stupor (being almost unconscious)
What are the dangers of using speedball?
Using more than one drug at a time (polysubstance use) carries increased risks. Here are some of the dangers associated with speedball.
Heroin is an opioid drug, and opioids are known to trigger respiratory depression. In other words, heroin can cause your breathing to slow down. On the other hand, cocaine’s stimulating effects cause your body’s oxygen demand to go up. But with slower breathing, your lungs cannot keep up with this increased demand for oxygen.
Thus, the push-pull effects of heroin and cocaine together send confusing messages to your body. With that, you are at a much greater risk of developing respiratory failure.
The risk of overdose is always higher when you take more than one addictive substance at a time, such as when taking speedball. In fact, according to statistics from 2018, heroin and cocaine are among the top 10 drugs that have caused overdose-related deaths in the United States.
Moreover, when you take speedball, the opposing effects of each drug component might make you think you’re not getting high as much as you want to. With that, the temptation to take more speedball is greater. In turn, you increase your chances of a potentially fatal overdose.
Contamination with other drugs
Street versions of heroin and cocaine are not always pure. Some of them are mixed with other drugs, like fentanyl, to save costs. Some formulations of cocaine contain fentanyl, so taking speedball with these variants of cocaine may lead you into an unintentional fentanyl overdose.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found out in 2019 that there were lots of people who overdosed on fentanyl thinking they were just snorting cocaine.
Cocaine, in particular, can adversely affect the heart and other parts of your cardiovascular system. Thus, taking speedball can put you at a greater risk of a heart attack.
What are some ways to avoid relapsing when going through speedball addiction treatment?
Relapse is always a real threat to recovery. Anyone who is going through drug rehab can experience relapse when precautions are not taken. This is common when drug triggers are in your everyday environments, for example at home, in school, or at work.
To effectively avoid those drug triggers, enrolling in an inpatient rehab program helps a lot. When you are living in a rehab facility, there are no temptations to use. Also, your daily activities will be focused on helping you build healthy habits and therapies that will remove the desire to take drugs little by little.
Joining a support group is also effective. 12-step groups like Narcotics Anonymous are popular, and many recovering users have reported how helpful these groups are in their recovery journey. However, if you are not into the philosophy of 12-step groups, there are other support groups you can join. Ask your nearest mental health professional to help you find an appropriate support group.
If you are not confident that you can live sober on your own after treatment, it may help to enroll in an aftercare program. Your speedball addiction treatment program may already include it, but if it does not, find an aftercare provider. They will help you with supportive therapies that will reinforce the skills you have learned in rehab. That way, you can get help in avoiding drug triggers and maintaining healthy habits that veer you away from drug use.
Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep are indispensable habits that help maintain sobriety. Taking good care of your physical health will prevent you from relapsing because it keeps stress and illness away from your body.