Heroin and cocaine make users feel different things when they are apart, but when these two drugs come together, they can be even more volatile. Read below to learn more about the drugs that make up a “speedball.”
Cocaine is an illicit drug that comes from the coca plant. Manufacturers take the coca leaves and produce coca paste, cocaine base, and cocaine hydrochloride.
In order to make coca paste, cocaine base and cocaine hydrochloride, producers must use several chemicals. When extracting cocaine paste from coca leaves, they use sodium bicarbonate, sulfuric acid, and kerosene. To make the cocaine base from the coca paste, they use ammonia hydroxide, permanganate, potassium, and sulfuric acid. To create cocaine hydrochloride, they use hydrochloric acid, acetone, and ethyl ether.
Cocaine is a stimulant, and the short-term effects begin right after the user ingests the substance. Effects can take up to an hour to disappear, but sometimes, they are gone in a couple of minutes. Small doses of cocaine cause users to become more talkative, euphoric, energetic, mentally alert, and hypersensitive to everything they see, hear and touch. They may not need to eat and sleep as much as they ordinarily do.
Cocaine also produces negative effects. For example, it can cause users to become hostile, and it makes them feel paranoid.
How Do People Use Cocaine?
People use cocaine by snorting it, eating it, or injecting it. Although cocaine produces euphoric effects, these effects can also be dangerous. For example, short-term use of the drug can lead to constricted blood vessels and dilated pupils. It also increases the user’s blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature.
If people ingest large amounts of cocaine, they can begin to act strange and even become violent. Several other effects include paranoia, anxiety, irritability and restlessness. Some people also experience muscle twitches, vertigo, and tremors.
Cocaine can also cause more serious effects, including heart attacks and differences in the heart’s rhythm. Some people have gone into comas, endured headaches, and experienced strokes and seizures. Other people report having nausea and abdominal pain.
It’s rare, but cocaine has been known to cause death the very first time the person tried it. In most cases, when people die from cocaine use, they die because of seizures or cardiac arrest.
Although cocaine is a dangerous drug, many people are using it in the United States. The negative effects can be even more pronounced when combined with another drug like heroin.
Heroin is also made from a plant: It comes from poppy seeds rather than leaves. Several types of opium plants grow throughout the world and provide their seeds for the production of heroin. After heroin has been produced, it can either be a white powder, a brown powder, or a substance known as “black tar heroin.”
Heroin use is described as an “epidemic” because of the many overdoses that occur in the United States. In 2019, approximately 50,000 people perished in overdoses where opiates were involved. This crisis began because pharmaceutical companies were less than honest in their depictions of opioid medications.
In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies assured medical doctors that their patients would be unable to become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. As a result, these medical professionals began to prescribe opioids at a greater rate. Then, people began to misuse them, and the medical community learned the truth that people can become addicted to opioids after all.
In 2017, 47,000 people died from opioid overdoses, and this included fentanyl, prescription opioids and heroin. That year, 1.7 million people developed a substance use disorder because of prescription opioids; 652,000 people were dealing with a heroin use disorder that year.
What Happens When People Use Heroin?
Heroin binds to the opioid receptors in the brain, and the user will begin to experience euphoria and feel deeply relaxed. Heroin use causes people to develop a dependence on this substance rather quickly because it causes the brain to increase its production of dopamine, which is a chemical that causes people to feel good. It also wreaks havoc with the brain’s reward circuit.
Heroin is already dangerous for people, but the most popular form of ingesting the drug is via syringe. This makes heroin even more dangerous because it increases the risk of contracting infections. People often share their needles when they are injecting heroin, so if someone in the group has the HIV virus, a hepatitis virus, or some other infection, the other people are at risk of contracting it.
The fact is that intravenous drug users are likely to contract hepatitis C. In 2014, 30,500 people were newly diagnosed with hepatitis C, and the majority of them were intravenous drug users. In 2014, medical personnel found that 25% of the people diagnosed with hepatitis B were also intravenous drug users.
If people want to stop using heroin for whatever reason, they find that it is not easy to do because they experience several withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include the following:
- Inability to control leg movements
- Cold flashes that cause goosebumps
- Pain in the muscles and bones
What Happens When You Mix Heroin and Cocaine?
The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord. When someone ingests heroin, the drug depresses these organs. Cocaine has the effect of speeding up the communication between the brain and spinal cord and the other parts of the body. People combine these two drugs because the cocaine will prevent the heroin from making them sleepy.
When these two drugs are mixed, it increases the potency of both, so it is much easier to overdose on the combination.
What Is a Speedball?
Heroin and cocaine tend to produce opposite effects on the nervous system, so when you combine the two, interesting things happen in the body. When you mix heroin with cocaine, this is known as a “speedball.”
People expect heroin to eliminate the negative effects of cocaine, and cocaine is expected to reduce the negative effects of heroin. Cocaine makes people feel agitated, but heroin is there to combat that feeling. Heroin makes people sleepy, but cocaine makes them feel more alert.
Users claim that ingesting a speedball means that they will have a more enjoyable high, and it will be easier to come down. Some people say that the rush they get from a speedball is better than ingesting heroin or cocaine on their own, but people are not in agreement that it’s easier to come down from the high. Others don’t like the fact that the drugs are canceling out anything that the other drug is offering.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Yes, and they can be extremely troubling. Stimulants cause the following side effects:
- A higher body temperature
- A racing or irregular heartbeat
- Agitation and anxiety
Depressants cause the following side effects:
- Mental fog
- A slower heart rate
- Slower breathing
A speedball will cause the above side effects to be even more intense. In addition to those side effects, a speedball can also cause the following:
- Blurry vision
- Excessive sleepiness
Why Are Speedballs Particularly Dangerous?
You are more likely to overdose on drugs when you take more than one at a time. Two of the top 10 drugs that are the most involved in overdose deaths are heroin and cocaine, according to a 2018 National Vital Statistic Report. Part of this is due to the fact that people don’t necessarily feel the full effects of either drug when they are taking both at the same time. Because they don’t believe that they are too high, some people will take more of the drugs and end up overdosing.
There is also a risk of respiratory failure when you ingest a speedball. Your body is using an increased amount of oxygen when you are ingesting cocaine, but the heroin is working to slow your breathing down. When these two things are happening at the same time, there is an increased risk of respiratory failure or respiratory depression.
What Is Respiratory Failure?
Respiratory failure means that there isn’t enough oxygen in your blood. It can also mean that there is too much carbon dioxide in your blood. When this occurs, your organs are not receiving enough oxygen, and it causes shortness of breath. It also has the effect of turning your fingernails, lips, and skin a bluish color.
When your carbon dioxide level is too high, you begin to breathe very quickly, and you may begin to feel confused.
What Is Respiratory Depression?
Respiratory depression is when your breathing isn’t having the desired effect that it should have, and it occurs when your breathing is very slow. At this time, your body isn’t doing a good enough job of removing the carbon dioxide. Your lungs can begin to work inefficiently when this is happening.
When respiratory depression results from a drug overdose, it can cause the person’s breathing to stop entirely. This leads to death.
The Fentanyl Connection
Heroin and cocaine often contain fentanyl, another powerful substance. This opioid is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Drug dealers add fentanyl to other drugs so that they can give their customers a product that will get them high quickly. The bonus for the drug dealers is that this combination reduces their costs.
Dealers have been adding fentanyl into opioids and other drugs more than ever. However, they don’t always inform their customers that they are doing this. In 2019, the CDC reported that several people overdosed on fentanyl when they believed that they were only ingesting cocaine.
Most of the deaths that are due to heroin are because of respiratory depression. When cocaine is the reason for the death, it is usually due to damage to the heart. If you are worried about a loved one’s health due to drug use, the answer is to ask your loved one to check into a drug treatment center. Sometimes, it is hard for people to admit that they need help, but it is necessary to prevent a future disaster.
At Granite Recovery Centers, we offer a detox program where your loved one can receive medication-assisted treatment. In this program, our physicians will give your loved one medicines that will ease the withdrawal symptoms that appear when someone suddenly stops ingesting heroin or cocaine. Your loved one may experience the heroin withdrawal symptoms listed above, but there are also several withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine, including the following:
- A slowdown of activity
- Increased hunger
- Feelings of discomfort
- Depressive symptoms
Once your loved one finishes the detoxification program, our trained therapists will address your loved one’s psychological addiction with individual and group therapy. A drug treatment program is the best thing for your loved one at this time.
Contact us today so that we can arrange to place your loved one in our treatment program. Your intervention could help save their life.