California’s Crisis: The Deadly Risks of Mixing Cocaine and Heroin

Discover the deadly risks of mixing cocaine and heroin with We Level Up California. Understand the scope of the problem in the state and read about the available addiction treatment options.

California shows a higher percentage of illicit drug users, including so-called hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. The National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) warns that both heroin and cocaine are widely available and inexpensive and often bought together for combination use, known as speedballs

Using heroin and cocaine independently is already dangerous, but mixing them increases the risk of negative health impacts and addiction. We at We Level Up California would like to address this issue, inform you of the consequences of mixing cocaine and heroin, and share with you treatment options in California.

The Lure and Danger of Cocaine and Heroin Mix 

The cocaine and heroin mix is known as speedballing. Speedballing actually refers to the practice of combining one stimulant drug with one depressant drug. Although the most typical combination is one of cocaine and heroin, other substances like methamphetamine, prescription opioids, or alcohol can be involved as well

Risks of mixing cocaine and heroin banner

According to those who tried speedballing, this mixture of heroin and cocaine provides a specific, more potent type of high, both in terms of intensity and duration, than either heroin or cocaine on their own. Speedballing typically involves both substances being injected into the bloodstream, but sometimes, they can also be snorted nasally. 

When speedballing, the stimulant component creates euphoria, heightened energy, and increased alertness, while the depressant component brings feelings of relaxation, calm, and sedation. When these drugs are combined, they create a push-pull effect for the body, primarily the brain, and the side effects are unpredictable.

The heroin and cocaine mixture is a highly addictive combination and can lead to physical and psychological harm. The speedball may sometimes lead to fatal consequences as well, not only due to the substances themselves but also due to the mixture hindering the side effects of cocaine and heroin separately and leading to risky behavior. 

A perosn is buying drugs in order to mix cocaine and heroin.
Combining cocaine and heroin is a growing trend in California.

The Difference Between Cocaine and Heroin

To understand the implications of mixing heroin and cocaine, we should first discuss the differences between them.

The cocaine vs. heroin analysis starts by highlighting that these drugs belong to two different categories: stimulants and depressant drugs

Stimulants are a class of drugs that enhance brain activity by speeding up messages traveling between the brain and the body. Consuming stimulants can make people more awake, alert, confident, and energetic. They lead to euphoria but can also result in anxiety, panic attacks, seizures, and aggression. Some stimulants are legal, like Adderall when prescribed for ADHD, while others, like cocaine and methamphetamine, are illicit drugs. 

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Depressants, on the other hand, calm down and relax your nervous system through arousal and stimulation. In contrast to stimulants, they slow down the speed of sending messages between the brain and the body. This makes a person feel relaxed, but it also slows down their ability to respond in certain situations and can even make them feel drowsy. They do share some effects with stimulants, so a person can feel euphoria and a confidence boost. Heroin is a representative of depressants. 

All in all, according to research, people tend to underestimate the potency of cocaine and overestimate the potency of heroin.

The main difference between cocaine and heroin is the way they impact your central nervous system. This difference will have implications for speedballing.

Health Implications of Cocaine vs Heroin Use 

As mentioned, speedballing has an impact on the entire body and can cause long-term problems, accidents and casualties, and, of course, addiction problems. Other than having numerous side effects, like incoherence, drowsiness, paranoia, stupor, or mental impairment due to lack of sleep, the cocaine/heroin combination creates a higher risk of death

It is often assumed that stimulant and depressant drugs will balance one another, but the truth is that they rather heighten the effects of each other. Cocaine use requires more oxygen, while heroin slows down breathing and makes it more difficult for the body to receive the amount of oxygen needed to balance out the effects of cocaine. The cocaine and heroin combo, therefore, puts a strain on the lungs, heart, and brain

As for long-term consequences, speedballing impacts major organs of the body, including the heart, lungs, and liver. Some users have also reported experiencing manic episodes, paranoia, or depression after speedballing. Speedballing also increases the risks of strokes, heart attacks, aneurysms, and respiratory failure.

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Finally, combining cocaine and heroin also increases the risk of addiction. Cocaine wears off more quickly than heroin, so users tend to inject more frequently than those using solely cocaine or heroin. This behavior also increases the risk of overdosing.

A person consuming cocaine and heroin via needle.
The difference between cocaine and heroin makes speedballing very dangerous.

The Scope of the Heroin vs Cocaine Problem in California 

Official data on speedballing is missing, as it is seen as a type of polydrug use and is usually not investigated as a separate phenomenon. Still, the data that we have showcases how California is doing in terms of drug use compared to other US countries.

California ranks the second-highest tier in the United States for drug users who are 12 or older. For those aged 12 to 17, it ranks in the highest tier, meaning the percentage of illicit drug users is between 3.69 and 4.55. The most avid users in California are those aged 18-25, followed by the 26-35 age group.

However, California falls in the middle tier of addiction rates for this age group in the US, with 6.95-7.38% of Californians of this age meeting the criteria for drug disorders. As for adults aged 26 and more, California ranked in the second-highest tier, with 2.14-2.36% of people meeting the criteria for drug abuse. 

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Some assessments can be made about cocaine use based on treatment admissions that range from 4% to 14% for this drug. The prevalence among ages 18 to 25 is 7.2%, and in the age range of 26 and above, it´s 1.8%. These numbers are especially worrisome when we compare them with the US average in the past several years, which even showed a tendency to decrease. 

As for heroin, 0.4% of Californians are struggling with it, and this number is still higher than the US average.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and their report from 2021, almost 660.000 Californians aged 18 or more were estimated to use cocaine, and nearly 25.000 in the same age group were estimated to use heroin. 

The drug crisis in California is a threat to public health infrastructure and communities. Despite the great efforts of healthcare professionals, policymakers, and local leaders, substance abuse remains a growing problem in California. 

Treatment Options for Heroin and Cocaine Addiction in California

Whether you are experiencing the negative effects of speedballing or you´re struggling with either cocaine or heroin, looking for professional help is a key component to getting back on track and restoring control over your life. 

Detoxification is the first step to take, and We Level Up California can ensure you do it the right way. Our heroin detox in California and our cocaine detox center in California offer evidence-based and well-established programs aiming to decrease the discomfort that accompanies detoxification processes. When it comes to cocaine detox, it can be done on an outpatient basis.

Still, medical detox in California is advised, especially in cases where there were relapses with previous withdrawal attempts. Medications may help individuals work through withdrawal symptoms and overcome addiction more easily. 

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However, detox is only the first step, and the comprehensive treatment that follows is equally important. Individual and group psychotherapy and behavioral interventions such as contingency management and cognitive-behavioral therapy are available based on your individual conditions and needs. 

Our heroin and cocaine addiction treatment program in California is committed to supporting your recovery and ensuring you become the best version of yourself. 

A doctor and a patient talking about heroin vs cocaine impacts on the organism.
Heroin and cocaine addictions are serious problems, but professional treatments can help you overcome them.

What to Remember About Speedballing

Cocaine and heroin use are serious problems in California, and the numbers concerning usage are quite steady. However, authorities are warning about a growing trend of polydrug use – mixing substances that typically have the opposite effect on the human body. 

Speedballing is a popular expression to describe this mixed use of stimulant and depressant drugs, most frequently cocaine and heroin. It is a widespread misconception that these drugs will annul the effect of each other, while in reality, they impose a bigger threat when used together rather than on their own. This imposes great stress on the body, bringing a higher risk of fatal outcomes. 

Cocaine and heroin addictions are, luckily, treatable. With different detox programs, various therapies, and attentive staff, We Level Up California can support your recovery journey and help you regain control over your own life. Reach out and get the help and support you deserve.

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“Cocaine – California – Northern and Eastern Districts Drug Threat Assessment.”,

Dahm, Georges, et al. “Consumer Expectations, Drug Effects, Price and Purity of Heroin and Cocaine Purchased at Drug Consumption Rooms.” Harm Reduction Journal, vol. 20, no. 1, 4 Aug. 2023, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

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