What is a Speedball?

By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: February 25, 2021

A speedball takes two dangerous drugs and mixes them into a type of cocktail drug. Those who do speedballs may need treatment at an addiction treatment center such as Lakeview Health. Before asking “are speedballs dangerous,” though it’s important to understand what they are and why their use has become more common.

What is a Speedball?

A speedball is commonly a mix of a stimulant like cocaine and an opioid such as heroin or morphine, but can be used to describe the combination of any stimulant and sedative.1 Speedballs are typically taken as an injection or snorted. The combination of the two, stimulant and depressant, is sometimes called a push-pull.2
Opioid use can come with adverse side effects like depressed breathing and sleepiness. Stimulants like cocaine, on the other hand, can create anxiety and raise your heart rate. A speedball is intended to counter the negative effects of each drug. However, speedballs are one of the most dangerous drug combinations around.

When asking if speedballs are dangerous, you only need to look at the news. They are associated with the deaths of well-known celebrities such as:

  • Comedians John Belushi and Chris Farley
  • Actors River Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman
  • UK artist Sebastian Horsely
  • Major League Baseball player Eric Snow3

What Makes a Speedball So Dangerous?

It’s not enough to understand what a speedball is, you also need to have an understanding of why they are so dangerous. It has to do with attempting to balance the two drugs. If the depressant is metabolized before the stimulant, you take the risk of having a heart attack. Your heart rate may suddenly jump, shocking the cardiac system. Your blood pressure may become very high, putting you at risk of a stroke. The risk of this grows if you have another condition such as heart disease, a weak blood vessel, or high blood pressure. These are medical problems people don’t always know they have, so when they do the speedball, their risk is already drastically increased.

The reverse is true, too. If the stimulant is metabolized before the depressant, you can stop breathing. Opioids such as heroin slow down (depress) your breathing. If the stimulant effect ends suddenly, you may stop breathing altogether. With the increase of street fentanyl, overdoses from speedballs are unfortunately becoming more common.4

How People Become Addicted

The substances used to create a speedball are both very addictive. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it is important to seek help. Lakeview Health in Florida has a comprehensive addiction program that includes treatment for opioids like heroin. They also offer a dual diagnosis program that treats both addiction and mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety.

At Lakeview Health, you’ll find:

  • Medical detox
  • Residential treatment
  • Impatient services
  • Partial hospitalization
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Aftercare services

If you or someone you love is doing speedballs, it’s essential to get treatment quickly. Give us a call today at 866.374.0561 to talk to one of our addiction specialists. We can help.

  1. https://emcrit.org/toxhound/goofball/
  2. https://archives.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/real-teens-ask-about-speedballs
  3. https://www.cnn.com/2016/06/03/health/gallery/celebrities-who-died-from-opiods/index.html
  4. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/21/decline-in-opioid-deaths-masks-new-danger-from-designer-drug-overdoses.html