Speedball (drug)

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Cocaine powder
Heroin asian.jpg
Heroin powder

Speedball (or powerball) is a mixture of cocaine (a stimulant) with heroin or morphine (a depressant), taken intravenously or by insufflation. [1] Speedball is a dangerous mixture, often more potent than the sum of the parts due to drug synergy. The original speedball used cocaine hydrochloride mixed with morphine sulfate, as opposed to heroin. [2] Speedball may also use pharmaceutical opioids, benzodiazepines, or barbiturates along with stimulants. However, since opioids and sedative-hypnotics have different objective and subjective effects, stimulant-depressant mixtures are known by the slang term "set up". [3] A cocktail of drugs containing an opioid can cause a strong physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms.

Cocaine chemical compound

Cocaine, also known as coke, is a strong stimulant mostly used as a recreational drug. It is commonly snorted, inhaled as smoke, or dissolved and injected into a vein. Mental effects may include loss of contact with reality, an intense feeling of happiness, or agitation. Physical symptoms may include a fast heart rate, sweating, and large pupils. High doses can result in very high blood pressure or body temperature. Effects begin within seconds to minutes of use and last between five and ninety minutes. Cocaine has a small number of accepted medical uses such as numbing and decreasing bleeding during nasal surgery.

Stimulant type of psychoactive drug

Stimulants is an overarching term that covers many drugs including those that increase activity of the central nervous system and the body, drugs that are pleasurable and invigorating, or drugs that have sympathomimetic effects. Stimulants are widely used throughout the world as prescription medicines as well as without a prescription as performance-enhancing or recreational drugs. The most frequently prescribed stimulants as of 2013 were lisdexamfetamine, methylphenidate, and amphetamine. It is estimated that the percentage of the population that has abused amphetamine-type stimulants and cocaine combined is between 0.8% and 2.1%.

Heroin chemical compound

Heroin, also known as diamorphine among other names, is an opioid most commonly used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects. Medically it is used in several countries to relieve pain or in opioid replacement therapy. Heroin is typically injected, usually into a vein; however, it can also be smoked, snorted or inhaled. The onset of effects is usually rapid and lasts for a few hours.


Physiological response

Cocaine acts as a stimulant, whereas heroin/morphine acts as a depressant. Co-administration is meant to provide an intense rush of euphoria with a high that is supposed to combine the effects of both drugs, while hoping to reduce the negative effects, such as anxiety, hypertension, palpitations and other common side effects of stimulants and sedation/drowsiness from the depressant. While this is somewhat effective, as one drug (the CNS stimulant) triggers the sympathetic nervous system and the other (the CNS depressant) triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, the two systems that regulate the fight-or-flight and rest-and-digest responses, respectively, and simultaneous activity of the two pathways is what normally keeps one's body in natural homeostasis, there is an imperfect overlap in the effects of stimulants and depressants. Additionally, by suppressing the typical negative side-effects of the two drugs, the user may falsely believe they have a higher tolerance, or that they are less intoxicated than they actually are. This can cause users to misjudge the intake of one or both of the drugs, sometimes fatally.

A depressant, or central depressant, is a drug that lowers neurotransmission levels, which is to depress or reduce arousal or stimulation, in various areas of the brain. Depressants are also occasionally referred to as "downers" as they lower the level of arousal when taken. Stimulants or "uppers" increase mental and/or physical function, hence the opposite drug class of depressants is stimulants, not antidepressants.

Rush (psychology)

In psychology, a rush is an acute transcendent state of euphoria. Psychoactive drugs which enhance dopaminergic neurotransmission in the central nervous system (CNS) are commonly capable of such an event.

Euphoria mental and emotional condition in which a person experiences intense feelings of well-being, elation, happiness and excitement

Euphoria is the experience of pleasure or excitement and intense feelings of well-being and happiness. Certain natural rewards and social activities, such as aerobic exercise, laughter, listening to or making music, and dancing, can induce a state of euphoria. Euphoria is also a symptom of certain neurological or neuropsychiatric disorders, such as mania. Romantic love and components of the human sexual response cycle are also associated with the induction of euphoria. Certain drugs, many of which are addictive, can cause euphoria, which at least partially motivates their recreational use.

Because the stimulant effects of cocaine wear off far more quickly than the depressant effects of heroin or morphine, fatal respiratory depression often occurs when the full effects of a heroin or morphine overdosage are felt in isolation. Due to the countering effect of the cocaine, a fatally high opioid dose can be unwittingly administered without immediate incapacitation, thus providing a false sense of tolerance until it is too late. This form of delayed opioid overdose is believed to be the most common mechanism of death in speedball overdoses.

Opioid overdose acute condition due to excessive opioids

An opioid overdose is toxicity due to excessive opioids. Examples of opioids include morphine, heroin, fentanyl, tramadol, and methadone. Symptoms include insufficient breathing, small pupils, and unconsciousness. Onset of symptoms depends in part on the route opioids are taken. Among those who initially survive, complications can include rhabdomyolysis, pulmonary edema, compartment syndrome, and permanent brain damage.

Notable deaths attributed to speedball use

Jean-Michel Basquiat American Artist

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent. Basquiat first achieved fame as part of SAMO, an informal graffiti duo who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s, where hip hop, punk, and street art cultures coalesced. By the 1980s, his neo-expressionist paintings were being exhibited in galleries and museums internationally. The Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his art in 1992.

John Belushi American comedian, actor, and musician

John Adam Belushi was an American comedian, actor, and singer. Belushi is best known for his "intense energy and raucous attitude" which he displayed as one of the seven original cast members of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL). Throughout his career, Belushi had a close personal and artistic partnership with his fellow SNL star Dan Aykroyd, whom he met while they were both working at Chicago's The Second City comedy club.

Ken Caminiti American baseball player

Kenneth Gene Caminiti was an American third baseman who spent fifteen seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres (1995–1998), Texas Rangers (2001) and Atlanta Braves (2001). He was named the National League (NL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) with San Diego in 1996, and is a member of the Padres Hall of Fame. He died of a cocaine and heroin drug overdose on October 10, 2004.

Other notable users

Other notable users of the speedball drug combination have included:

Harry Kendall Thaw American playboy

Harry Kendall Thaw was the son of Pittsburgh coal and railroad baron William Thaw Sr. Heir to a multimillion-dollar mine and railroad fortune, Thaw had a history of severe mental instability and led a profligate life. He is most notable for shooting and killing the renowned architect Stanford White on June 25, 1906, on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden in front of hundreds of witnesses. Thaw had become obsessed with his hatred of White. He thought White had blocked his access to the social elite of New York, and White had also had a previous relationship with Thaw's wife, the model/chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit. White and Nesbit had a sexual relationship in 1901–1902, when she was 16–17 years old, and their relationship had allegedly begun with White plying Nesbit with alcohol and assaulting her while she was unconscious. In Thaw's mind, the relationship had "ruined" her. Thaw's trial for murder was heavily publicized in the press, to the extent that it was called the "trial of the century". After one hung jury, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Cream (band) 1960s British rock supergroup

Cream were a British rock power trio formed in 1966 consisting of drummer Ginger Baker, guitarist/singer Eric Clapton and lead singer/bassist Jack Bruce. The group's third album, Wheels of Fire (1968), is the world's first platinum-selling double album. The band is widely regarded as the world's first successful supergroup. In their career, they sold more than 15 million records worldwide. Their music included songs based on traditional blues such as "Crossroads" and "Spoonful", and modern blues such as "Born Under a Bad Sign", as well as more current material such as "Strange Brew", "Tales of Brave Ulysses" and "Toad".

Jack Bruce Scottish musician, bassist of Cream

John Symon Asher Bruce was a Scottish musician, singer and songwriter known primarily for his contributions to the British supergroup Cream, which also included the guitarist-singer Eric Clapton and the drummer Ginger Baker. In March 2011 Rolling Stone readers selected him as the eighth greatest bass guitarist of all time. "Most musicians would have a very hard time distinguishing themselves if they wound up in a band with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker," the magazine said at the time, "but Jack Bruce was so gifted on the bass that he did it with ease."

See also

Combined drug intoxication (CDI), also known as multiple drug intake (MDI) or lethal intoxication, is an unnatural cause of human death. CDI is often confused with drug overdose, but it is a different phenomenon. It is distinct because it is due to the simultaneous use of multiple drugs, whether the drugs are prescription, over-the-counter, recreational, or some other combination. Alcohol can exacerbate the symptoms and may directly contribute to increased severity of symptoms. The reasons for toxicity vary depending on the mixture of drugs. Usually, most victims die after using two or more drugs in combination that suppress breathing, and the low blood oxygen level causes brain death.

Poly drug use refers to the use of two or more psychoactive drugs in combination to achieve a particular effect. In many cases one drug is used as a base or primary drug, with additional drugs to leaven or compensate for the side effects of the primary drug and make the experience more enjoyable with drug synergy effects, or to supplement for primary drug when supply is low.


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