Cocaine, Heroin and Overdose

Thursday, January 5, 2017

For an addict, there is such a thing as “more high.” Even if tolerance says otherwise. With some drugs, such as marijuana, a continued effort to increase one’s euphoria may not be that dangerous. But for drugs like prescription opioids or heroin, riding the line between intoxication and overdose is never in one’s best interest—but highly sought after. What is considered to be a good high, can quickly turn into a deadly overdose.

The death toll related to drug abuse is almost always focused on opioid narcotics these days. While such drugs do not need any help with regard to being dangerous, addicts will commonly mix opioids with other narcotics, sometimes “uppers” and sometimes with more “downers.” It is quite common for people who mix opioids with benzodiazepines to experience a fatal overdose. However, there is another trend that has the power to take one’s life, commonly referred to as “speedballing.” That is mixing opioids and cocaine together, to be injected simultaneously. You may be aware that a number of celebrities have lost their life to the admixture, including:

  • John Belushi
  • Chris Farley
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman

The general public almost never hears about cocaine anymore, being overshadowed by drugs like heroin and fentanyl. If you did hear about cocaine, it is likely that it was because somebody famous died using the drug recently. But make no mistake, cocaine abuse is still a very real problem affecting many Americans. And for those with an opioid use disorder, who are finding that their tolerance is making it difficult to experience euphoria, cocaine might be the solution they consider. Anyone who has ever done a speedball will tell you that there is no other high quite like it, or as dangerous.

While cocaine use rates have been down in recent years, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment has shown a significant increase in cocaine-related overdose deaths in recent years, according to the U.S. News & World Report. Cocaine can be deadly on its own; but when mixed with opioids the drug becomes exponentially more fatal.

“When there are no opioids involved in cocaine-overdose deaths you see an overall decline in recent years,” says Christopher M. Jones, an acting associate deputy assistant secretary with the Department of Health and Human Services. “But when you look at cocaine and opioids together, we see a more than doubling in the number of overdoses since 2010, with heroin and synthetic opioids increasingly involved in these deaths.”

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