The Dangers of Using Heroin with Crack Cocaine

The Dangers of Using Heroin with Crack Cocaine

Heroin and crack cocaine are both highly addictive drugs that claim the lives of tens of thousands per year. Cocaine was responsible for over 7,000 deaths in 2014, and about 5,000 of those deaths involved an opioid like heroin. Mixing depressants and stimulants like heroin and crack are dangerous and can have unpredictable results. Also known as “speedballing,” when the highs from these drugs are mixed, it can be even more dangerous. Addictions to heroin and crack can be difficult to kick with willpower alone. Oftentimes an extended stay in an addiction treatment facility will be necessary for a successful recovery.

Back in the late 1800s, heroin was used as a potentially less addictive substitute for Morphine—it could be purchased at a local pharmacy, and the most likely people to be addicted to heroin were middle-aged women. Since then the drug has been illegalized, but is still widely used and manufactured around the globe. Cocaine was also used as a medicine in the late 1800s; it could also be found in wine and soft drinks (like Coca-Cola).

Crack cocaine first hit the scene in the 1980s and swept the nation with a new way to get high. As the drug world has developed, users have found new ways to seek euphoria, and it’s pretty common for a person to use a number of drugs at one time. People with drug addictions can be pretty crafty when it comes to new ways of getting high, and with drug use constantly evolving; people are finding new ways to better their buzz.

What Is Speedballing?

A lot of the time, people with addictions will shift from one drug to another and sometimes experiment with a mixture of different drugs. Some of the popular slang terms for drug mixtures are candy flipping, cannonballing, cheese, cocktailing, and speedballing. Speedballing started out as mixing cocaine and heroin to snort or inject for a dual drug euphoria, or sometimes people would use heroin to help with the withdrawals from cocaine.

A little more recently, people have adapted a smokeable method of speedballing by mixing crack with heroin. This mixture was popularized in places like New York City in the late 80s—(more detail in a New York Times article).

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Why Do People Mix Drugs?

There are a lot of reasons why people mix drugs like heroin and crack cocaine—To achieve greater euphoric effects, to save money, or to stay high for longer (just to name a few). Another reason might be to counteract the withdrawals from one drug by using another. Here are a few suggested reasons from the Australian Government Department of Health as to why people mix drugs:

  • In an attempt to increase the effect of another drug or to ‘bring on’ its desired effects. For example, sometimes people smoke cigarettes to enhance their experience on ecstasy or drink alcohol when they’re also under the influence of cocaine.
  • In an attempt to reduce the negative effects of a drug, usually when ‘coming down’ from that drug. For instance, some people use cannabis or take a sleeping pill after they have used ecstasy.
  • To substitute for the drug they were really looking for, ‘the next best thing’
  • It seemed like a ‘good idea at the time’. Sometimes people will mix drugs when they are already intoxicated, aren’t thinking straight or if people around them are mixing drugs.

How Are Crack And Heroin Made?

Though heroin and crack are both manufactured drugs, there are still plenty of differences. First of all, heroin is taken from Morphine, which is a natural substance from the seed pod of the Asian opium plant. Once the Morphine has been extracted from the opium plant, it then goes through further steps before heroin is made.

Crack isn’t much different, in that it comes from another substance—the coca plant is native to South America, and it’s the raw form of cocaine. Like heroin, cocaine must be ‘synthetically’ created to get the final product. After that, cocaine can be mixed with baking soda to get the final product of crack rock. Freebasing cocaine is another way to get the desired result of crack…

What’s The Biggest Difference Between Crack And Heroin?

At face value, heroin is an opioid depressant and crack cocaine is a stimulant. Heroin causes a person to feel tired and seem depressed; crack cocaine can make a person hyper and seem manic. Each type of drug can have a serious crash period when a person is coming down off of them. Whether depressant or stimulant, both can be responsible for replacing serotonin (which makes a person feel happy) in the brain; using a drug enough can hinder a person’s ability to feel happy on their own.

What Happens When You Speedball Crack And Heroin?

Speedballing is also known as polydrug use, or “the mixing of different drugs, or taking one drug while under the influence (or experiencing the after-effects) of another drug” (Australian Government Department of Health).

Speedballing is highly dangerous, and mixing depressants with suppressants can have unwanted or accidental results. Mixing depressants with suppressants can actually send contradicting messages to the brain and body. This is because stimulant drugs increase activity in the central nervous system, whereas depressant drugs decrease it; mixing the two can have fatal results.

Heroin And Crack—Overdose Statistics

More than 20,000 people died from an overdose of heroin and other non-methadone synthetic drugs in 2015—which was about four times more than the number of people who died from the same drugs in 2002. There were also approximately 7,000 people in the United States who died of a cocaine overdose in 2015; about 5,000 of those deaths involved an opioid (National Institute on Drug Abuse).

Heroin And Crack—User Statistics

“Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences” (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Heroin and crack are both highly addictive, but most people don’t start off using “hard core” drugs.

For instance, someone with a heroin addiction probably didn’t start off chasing the dragon, and may have actually gotten a taste by using another opioid. From the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) “nearly 80 percent of people who use heroin report having first misused prescription opioids.”

In 2012, there were somewhere around 669,000 people (NIDA) who admitted to using heroin in the past year. Although statistics for crack use were unavailable, in 2014, there were 1.5 million people (NIDA) who were currently using powder cocaine. Though an interesting fact from a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information was that, “crack users were at higher risk than powder cocaine users for reporting a lifetime arrest or multiple recent arrests.”

How To Tell If Someone Is Addicted To Drugs

Though addiction can be tricky to wrap your head around, it’s important to remember that even though people might behave differently because of an addiction, it is not necessarily a result of a moral failing. Addictions can be a direct result of biological, environmental, and developmental precursors in a person’s life. A person suffering from addiction might behave differently than they used to, and here are some of the things they might do:

  • spend a lot of time alone
  • lose interest in their favorite things
  • get messy—for instance, not bathe, change clothes, or brush their teeth
  • exhaustion and sad
  • be very energetic, talk fast, or say things that don’t make sense
  • be nervous or cranky (in a bad mood)
  • quickly change between feeling bad and feeling good
  • sleep at strange hours
  • miss important appointments
  • have problems at work
  • eat a lot more or a lot less than usual
    (National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Australian Government Department of Health - https://comorbidity.edu.au/sites/default/files/Polydrug%20Use.pdf

National Center for Biotechnology Information - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4533860/

National Institute on Drug Abuse - https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

National Institute on Drug Abuse - https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction

New York Times - https://www.nytimes.com/1989/07/13/nyregion/potent-crack-blend-on-the-streets-lures-a-new-generation-to-heroin.html

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