The mixing of drugs to enhance the effects of each is, unfortunately, what most drug-addicted people end up doing. Mixing crack cocaine and heroin are considered a type of ‘speedball.’ The term speedball originally referenced combining powder cocaine and heroin for it to be injected. Many famous people such as John Belushi, River Phoenix, and more recently, young actor Jackson Odell from the show Modern Family, overdosed from heroin and cocaine. Two young rap musicians, Lil Peep and Juice World also died from drug overdoses in the last three years as a result of numerous substances in both of their systems.
Mixing Heroin and Crack
People who mix heroin and crack cocaine are trying to achieve a perfect high. Since heroin is an opioid depressant type of drug and cocaine is a stimulant, the objective when mixing the two is to minimize the adverse effects that each drug causes. For people who are addicted to heroin, they may want to achieve a less lethargic state and therefore use cocaine to feel awake and heighten their energy levels. The opposite happens for a person who is smoking crack. They want to suppress their nervous energy and relax. Crack cocaine users want to come down, and heroin users want to come up. For persons who are struggling with a substance use disorder, also known as addiction, it is widespread if not expected for these individuals to mix substances to achieve a more durable or more appealing high. The culture that surrounds addiction, in general, encourages using numerous substances at once to enhance the effects of both or several drugs. Addicts mix alcohol with cocaine, prescription pain killers with benzos, or marijuana with methamphetamine. The list of dangerous yet popular drug cocktails is extensive.
The Difference Between Heroin and Crack
The difference between crack and heroin use versus other trends of mixing drugs has to do with the drug-seeking behaviors of crack and heroin addiction. Since both heroin and crack are illegal, they are usually available in the same drug dealing neighborhoods. In many cases, a person may have become addicted to prescription pain killers, then graduated to using heroin because it is cheaper and may get offered crack by their same heroin dealer. Or observed others on heroin using crack and became willing to experiment. The trend of using both crack and heroin is not new. Crack cocaine and heroin are two of the most notorious drugs that cause life-gripping addiction and hold people hostage for years and even decades. The drug-seeking cultures of both substances may use one more than the other, but in time most crack addicts and heroin addicts will explain how they eventually used both. To gauge the numbers for these two addictions the results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that the percentages of the people addicted to heroin and crack in 2018 were the same. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:
An estimated 808,000 people aged 12 or older in 2018 used heroin, which corresponds to about 0.3 percent of the population and in 2018, an estimated 5.5 million people aged 12 or older were users of cocaine, about 2.0 percent of the population in 2018 used powder cocaine, and 0.3 percent used crack. (NSDUH)
The results from the report do not make the connection outright. Still, it can be assumed that the correspondence is correct because of where these drugs are sold and the fact that they are well known to help someone achieve a perfect high. Most crack users and heroin users will explain how they did both drugs to either wake up or to come down. The opposite effects that these two substances have on a person’s brain and body are precisely why using crack and heroin together are dangerous. The results of stimulants versus opioid depressants signal the brain to do two different things, and a person can quickly die because their brain is trying to do two opposite body functions at once.
Dangers of Polydrug Abuse
The most prominent cause of death from mixing crack and heroin is for someone to accidentally overdose on heroin before the life-threatening effects of too much crack occur. Heroin lasts much longer than crack and therefore if a person uses more and more heroin to try and balance out the effects of the crack- their body will expel the crack quicker than the heroin, so this person is left with a massive amount of heroin with a tiny amount of crack in their system, and they accidentally overdose on the heroin. Other dangers from mixing crack and heroin have to do with the confusing signals the brain and body endure from these drugs. The ‘push-pull effect’ is what the brain and body experience when someone mixes crack and heroin. Their body is being told to wake up and to calm down. The crossing of these signals can distort what the body thinks it should do and kill someone. Additionally, combining these substances is even more dangerous than using each one separately because the adverse effects that each drug causes are intensified when they are used together. When a depressant and a stimulant are mixed, the cocaine tells the body to breathe quicker to get more oxygen to supply the hyperactive and awake state. At the same time, the heroin tells the body to slow its breathing because it is experiencing a resting state. These opposite effects of slow breathing and rapid breathing put a strain on the lungs, heart, and brain. Essentially the body does not get the right amount of oxygen for it to survive because of the mixed signals that the crack and heroin cause.
Evidence-Based Rehab for Drug Addiction
The most common way people die from using crack and heroin together is through fatal respiratory depression as a result of the heroin overpowering the effects of the crack since its effects last longer. A stroke is also likely to happen because the heart is not getting enough oxygen to send to the brain. Similarly, an aneurysm also occurs frequently with crack and heroin use as a result of not enough oxygen. Finally, a heart attack can occur as a result of the mixture of stimulant and opioid depressant, yet another example of how dangerous it is to take substances that tell the brain and body to perform in opposite ways.