What is a Speedball? Understanding the Risks

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What is a Speedball Understanding the Risks

Polysubstance abuse is a term that was created to describe the act of misusing more than one substance at once. For example, you are engaging in polydrug abuse if you drink alcohol and smoke weed at the same time. The term also works for other drug combinations, like benzodiazepines and opioids or alcohol and cocaine.

According to a study, over 11% of people suffering from addiction have co-occurring alcohol use disorder and a drug use disorder.[1]

One of the most popular forms of polysubstance abuse is referred to as “speedballing.” This involves combining a stimulant drug with an opioid to experience a different type of high. Examples of a speedball include meth and heroin, cocaine and fentanyl, or crack and hydrocodone.

The combination of stimulant and opioid drugs increases your risk of experiencing overdoses and other health risks like cardiovascular or respiratory effects. Additionally, combinations of heroin and cocaine or other drugs can be highly addictive.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What speedballing is
  • The effects of mixing stimulants and depressants
  • The health risks associated with this drug combination
  • Whether you can develop an addiction to stimulants and depressants at the same time

What is Speedballing?

Speedballing is a type of polydrug abuse that includes mixing stimulants with depressants like opioids. Individuals do this to experience the effects of both drugs at the same time. It can create a potent high that leads to addiction, heart attacks, overdoses, mental health risks, and even respiratory failure.

Some people might accidentally speedball in hopes of “canceling out the effects of one drug.” For example, someone who is too high on heroin might believe that snorting cocaine will “sober them up.” Unfortunately, this is not the case and will only lead to a risk of overdose and negative side effects.

Stimulant drugs that might be used to create a speedball include:[2]

  • Cocaine
  • Crack
  • Meth
  • Prescription stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin

Depressant substances that are used to create a speedball include:[2]

The Effects of Mixing Stimulants and Opioids

The exact effects of speedballing depend on which substances you are combining. While the term traditionally refers to a mixture of stimulants and opioids, some people might use other depressant drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines. However, mixing stimulants with depressants usually leads to similar side effects, no matter what specific drugs you are using.

For example, stimulants usually lead to increased energy, fast heart rate, lessened need for food and sleep, and anxiety or paranoia. On the other hand, depressants and opioids cause dizziness and drowsiness, euphoria, relaxation, and slowed breathing. When you mix them together, you will experience a strange and dangerous combination of those effects.

The side effects of speedballing include:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Dizziness and drowsiness
  • Coordination issues
  • Anxiety, irritability, and paranoia
  • Slowed breathing rate
  • Increased heart rate and high blood pressure
  • Feelings of euphoria

If you regularly engage in speedballing, you should seek help for substance abuse. Stimulants and opioids are a risky combination and often lead to the development of addiction.

What are the Risks of Mixing These Drugs?

Mixing stimulants with opioids or “speedballing” is never safe. When you combine a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant with a CNS depressant, your brain and body are essentially going in two different directions at once. This can lead to dangerous effects on your heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and breathing rate, as well as long-term health risks like cardiovascular damage.

The physical risks of speedball drugs include:[3]

  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory depression
  • Coma
  • Fatal overdoses

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine (NLM), “from 1999 to 2020, the number of overdose deaths caused by the combination of psychostimulants, primarily meth, and opioids increased from 187 to 14,777.”[3]

There are also mental health risks associated with mixing stimulants and opioids. You could experience:

  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Substance-induced psychosis
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts

Can You Get Addicted to Speedballing?

If you are abusing stimulants and opioids at the same time, you are likely to develop an addiction to the combination. If you are worried that you or a loved one suffers from a speedball addiction, knowing the signs can help you determine whether it’s time for professional treatment.

The main signs of a speedball addiction include:

  • Having a hard time quitting the combination of stimulants and opioids
  • Failing to meet responsibilities at home, school, or work
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Experiencing strong urges or cravings to abuse stimulants and opioids
  • Being unable to control the frequency or dose of speedballs
  • Continuing to abuse stimulants and depressants despite facing health complications
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are not speedballing

If you think you are suffering from a substance use disorder, it’s time to consider attending addiction treatment.

Find Help for Speedball Abuse and Addiction

Speedballing can be dangerous and often leads to addiction. Thankfully, Archstone Behavioral Health is here to help you recover. We offer evidence-based addiction treatment services like behavioral therapy, detox, and relapse prevention planning.

Contact us today for more information on our addiction treatment programs.


  1. Fronteirsin.org: One Is Not Enough: Understanding and Modeling Polysubstance Use
  2. Mncourts.gov: Speedballing: Mixing Stimulants and Opioids
  3. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Effect of Combined Methamphetamine and Oxycodone Use on the Synaptic Proteome in an In Vitro Model of Polysubstance Use