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Deadly Drug Combos: Speedballs

What are Speedballs?

The practice of speedballing among drug users dates back to the 1930s however, it got a lot of media and public attention in March of 1982 with the death of beloved actor and comedian John Belushi.

A speedball is the mixture of cocaine and heroin together or one being used right after the other most likely through IV use but it can also be insufflated, or snorted. People do speedballs because of the intense high it produces; often described as getting the best of both worlds, the user gets both the euphoric high of cocaine in addition to that of the heroin. I personally liked shooting the coke first and, as I started to come down from that, which would produce some anxiety, I would then shoot the heroin. That would ease the cocaine come down and replace it with that opiate high I was craving.

The term speedballing can also be applied to use of prescription painkillers, benzodiazepines or barbiturates along with amphetamines.

What is the Attraction to doing Speedballs?

Research shows that most people who do speedballs are typically heroin users who decide to indulge adding cocaine to drug ritual as a bonus when they had the funds for it and who are looking for a new, more intense high.

People who do speedballs are seeking the flash, or high, from cocaine followed by the mellowing effect of heroin.

Speedballs are Crazy Dangerous

Heroin is a depressant that affects the brain’s pleasure systems and interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain. Being a depressant, it slows down Central Nervous System functions like heart rate, pulse and breathing.

On the other hand, you have cocaine, a stimulant. It has the opposite effect on your body. This causes complications in the usually well-oiled machine of a healthy body that works in harmony with all its parts. By introducing both a powerful stimulant and a powerful depressant, the brain can become confused, causing the signals to go haywire.

Another reason that speedballing can end tragically is because the stimulant effects of cocaine wear off far more quickly than the depressant effects of heroin. So because of the countering effect of the cocaine, a fatally high dose of heroin is accidentally administered without immediate incapacitation, thus providing a false sense of tolerance until it is too late. This is known as a delayed opioid overdose and is believed to be the most common way that speedball overdoses and death occur.

Additionally, because the two drugs counter the effects of each other, the user often doesn’t realize that they are doing a fatal dose of either or both the heroin and cocaine. They may have a false sense of increased tolerance to the drugs and therefore use a fatal amount, leading to oversdose.


Notable Deaths from Speedballing

Jean-Michel Basquiat, American graffiti artist

John Belushi, comedian, actor, and musician

Ken Caminiti, third baseman

Chris Farley, comedian and actor

Pete Farndon, English bassist from the band the Pretenders

Mitch Hedberg stand-up comedian

Chris Kelly, from rap duo Kriss Kross

Brent Mydland, keyboardist from the Grateful Dead

River Phoenix, actor

Eric Show, pitcher for the Major Leagues

Hillel Slovak, original guitarist and founding member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Layne Staley, lead singer and co-songwriter of the band Alice in Chains

King George V of the United Kingdom, king of England


If your loved one is in need of treatment for heroin or cocaine addiction, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.




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