Understanding Polydrug Use
Different types of drugs express themselves in a uniquely in different individuals. Polydrug use– taking more than one drug at a time — is particularly dangerous because when drugs like heroin and cocaine are used together their negative effects can be amplified. Polydrug use is most common among those suffering from some form of addiction.
Heroin and cocaine both have highly addictive properties on their own and take many lives each year due to abuse and overdose. Originally, a less addictive option to morphine, heroin was a commonly used medicine in the 1800’s. As was cocaine, which could also be found in soft drinks like coca-cola and some wines.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a highly addictive opioid and is classified as a Schedule I drug in the US. It is among the most abused opiate and is extremely potent. It is derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance found in the opium harvested from the poppy plant.
The purest heroin is bitter-tasting white powder that is difficult to find on the streets. Most of the time it comes in powder form and can range in color from white to a dark brown. This color difference is due to the impurities that can occur during the manufacturing process.
One of its more significant side effects is addiction. When someone falls into a pattern of using the drug everyday it can cost them upwards of $200 USD per day to maintain their addiction. And withdrawal symptoms can occur within a few hours of the last dose of heroin taken, making it very easy to develop a tolerance to.
Overdosing on heroin alone is far more likely than most people understand. A 2001 study done in Australia found that 54% of people who used the drug regularly reported at least one non-fatal overdose in their lifetime.
What Is Cocaine?
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant drug and is classified as a Schedule II drug in the US. The most commonly used form of this drug is a white powder made from the leaves of the Erythroxylon Coca plant.
Abuse of cocaine spiked in the 1960’s which lead congress to classify it as a Schedule II drug in the 1970’s. Later in the 1980’s a new form of cocaine, crack cocaine, gained popularity. Though when used in conjunction with other drugs it is more likely to see the powder form because it is water soluble and more easily mixed.
Becoming addicted to cocaine is not had to do, with regular use a tolerance is built and when someone suddenly stops taking the drug the withdrawal symptoms set in quickly. These include: depression, irritability, extreme fatigue, anxiety, and intense craving for cocaine.
What Is Speedballing?
“Speedballing” is the name given to the combination of a psychomotor stimulant (cocaine) and an opiate (heroin). Speedballing is most commonly done intravenously by combining liquid forms of cocaine and heroin and injecting it into the bloodstream via needle.
People take these drugs in combination to experience an even more intense high than that produced by taking one drug alone. It has also been noted that this drug combination can potentially limit the side effects and withdrawal symptoms of each drug when taken together.
People have a lot of reasons for mixing drugs. Some include: saving money, creating a longer lasting high effect, and to substitute to the drug they were actually looking to take.
Why Heroin And Cocaine Are More Likely To Cause Overdose
It is particularly dangerous to mix heroin and cocaine, because heroin is a depressant and cocaine is a stimulant. This causes a push-pull reaction that can be extremely volatile. As heroin acts upon the body’s system to suppress the respiratory and circulatory systems, cocaine acts as a stimulant speeding up those same systems.
This combination is much more likely to result in fatal overdose because cocaines chemical reaction requires the body to use more oxygen than normal. While heroin acts to suppress the respiratory system, making it more difficult for the body to obtain the amount of oxygen needed to balance out the effects of cocaine. This results in respiratory failure.
Some signs and symptoms of speedball use include:
- General state of confusion
- Blurred vision
- Mentally impaired due to insomnia (lack of sleep)
- Uncoordinated motor skills
- High risk of death from stroke, heart attack, aneurysm, or respiratory failure
Side Effects Of Heroin And Cocaine Use
There are many factors that go into determining the effects drugs will have when mixed. Everyone can be affected differently, the same person can use the same amount of the same drug(s) on different occasions and have different effects each time. This variation depends on:
- The drug itself (purity, amount used, frequency of prior use,m how it is taken, whether it has been cut or mixed with another drug)
- The person taking the drug (their mood, personality, and individual biology characteristics)
- The setting (who the person is with and where they are physically)
In the case of combining heroin and cocaine, it is a potent cocktail of an downer and an upper. And can really have unpredictable side effects. There are also long-term health effects of speedballing with heroin and cocaine as they both act on major organs in the body, such as the lungs, liver, and heart.
Though the effect of speedballing might be pleasant at first, this is not always the case. Many persons who have reported taking these drugs together also say they can have manic episodes of paranoia or depression if there is too much of either drug in the mix.
Get Help For A Heroin and Cocaine Addiction Today
If you would like to learn more about heroin, cocaine, or their potential side-effects when used together, contact us at AddictionResource.net. We will help you find the information you need and assist you with figuring out what treatment would work best for your situation.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- American Society of Addiction Medicine
- Center for Substance Abuse Research
- Government of South Australia
- National Center for Biotechnology Information
- National Institutes for Health. Drugs & Health Blog