When users mix heroin and crack they are playing with fire.
August 15, 2017
(press release: summitbehavioralhealth) // New Jersey // Maria Ulmer MA, LMFT, CAADC | Chief Clinical Officer
Heroin and crack cocaine are risky enough when used individually, but they are even more dangerous when they are combined. Mixing the two, one a depressant and one a stimulant, can have very unpredictable results. When the two are combined and used at the same time, it’s known as “speedballing,” which can be even more dangerous. If a person develops an addiction to heroin and crack, it can be very difficult to stop using without help. Usually, it takes inpatient treatment at a rehab facility in order to begin recovery.
Why Do People Mix Heroin and Crack Cocaine?
People who abuse drugs will often move from one drug to another or experiment with different combinations of drugs. When they become addicted to two or more drugs at the same time, it’s called polydrug addiction. Users started using heroin and crack together by injecting or smoking in order to achieve a dual drug euphoria, or they would use one of the drugs to help with the withdrawals from the other.
There are many reasons that users find mixing heroin and crack cocaine appealing besides avoiding withdrawals – they want to find a greater high, it’s cheaper, or they want to stay high for longer. Additionally, users may mix drugs for the following reasons:
In an attempt to heighten the effects of another drug. For example, someone may use alcohol to enhance the experience of cocaine.
In an attempt to decrease the negative effects of the other drug, typically when they are coming down from the other drug. For example, some people will smoke marijuana to lessen the effects of ecstasy.
In an attempt to substitute for the drug they were looking for – using the next best thing.
Sometimes people will combine drugs because they are already intoxicated and are not thinking straight.
What Happens to the Body When Heroin and Crack are Mixed?
When users mix heroin and crack, they are playing with fire. Not only are both drugs highly addictive, mixing them can lead to death. Heroin is a depressant, while crack is a stimulant. Both drugs have an effect on the central nervous system and when taken together they send contradicting messages to the brain, sometimes causing both respiratory and cardiac arrest simultaneously.
Some of the other effects of mixing heroin and crack cocaine include the following:
Impaired thinking and judgment
Erratic behavior, sometimes violence
Delusions and hallucinations
Shaking or tremors
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
Change in heart rate
Chest pain and arrhythmia
Heart attack or stroke
There are additional long-term effects when the mixture of heroin and crack are injected as the route of administration. Doing so increases the risks of:
Hepatitis C and HIV
Injection site abscesses
Infection in the lining of the heart
When heroin and crack are snorted, the user runs the risks of:
Uncontrollable nose bleeds
Perforated nasal septum
The effects of mixing heroin and crack can be short or long-term and can have devastating results, up to and including death. It’s important that users of either or both of these drugs seek help from a drug treatment facility for their addiction before it’s too late.
Recognizing Polydrug Addiction
Signs and symptoms of polydrug addiction are much the same as those of a person addicted to only one drug. They may be more intense though because the risks of overdose and more serious complications are greatly increased when more than one substance is used. Some of the warning signs that someone you love may be abusing drugs are:
No longer caring about activities that used to be enjoyable
Reduced level of personal hygiene and appearance
Increased secrecy and isolation
Has much less money with no explanation why
Mood swings and erratic behavior
Cannot focus, has memory loss, or is easily confused
Has problems at work or school
The signs that someone has overdosed while taking multiple drugs may be more pronounced, but they can easily be confused with other medical problems if you don’t know that a person is using drugs.
Treatment for Polydrug Addiction
Many times, the treatment of polydrug addiction is much more complicated and difficult than the treatment of a single drug addiction. This is due to the following factors:
People who abuse multiple drugs, like heroin and crack, are typically more ensnared in addiction. Generally, by the time a person tries multiple drugs or combinations of drugs, he or she has been using drugs for a significant amount of time, and the drug abuse has had time to recalibrate brain function. People in this situation are highly addicted and harder to treat.
Drugs used together to play off one another causing heightened reactions, as well as more physical and psychological dependency. Mixing drugs often make quitting any of them more challenging.
The withdrawal symptoms of people who use multiple drugs are compounded. The more drugs they use, the more severe withdrawal symptoms can be.
Polydrug abusers and addicts are more resistant to accepting help. Higher levels of addiction create more resistant addicts. Unfortunately, many of these types of addicts die before they seek help.
For people who are addicted to more than one drug, the best option for treatment is an inpatient rehab facility. While outpatient treatment may work for some addicts, they are often not as effective for addicts with such severe addictions. Attending an inpatient drug rehab will give patients a higher level of around-the-clock care and will provide:
Supervised medical detox to ensure safety during the withdrawal phase of recovery
Individual and group therapy that gets to the underlying causes of patients’ addictions
Psychiatric treatment, if needed
Addiction education, relapse prevention techniques, and coping skills
If you or a loved one is suffering from drug abuse or addiction, know that there is help available no matter how severe the addiction is. Seek help now and begin your recovery before it’s too late.
Our programs are personalized and medically supervised. Call our behavioral health professionals today to speak to a substance abuse expert about your treatment options.