Many people who struggle with addiction experiment with other drugs. Some are even addicted to more than one drug.
Using one drug is harmful, using two in combination, such as when methamphetamine (meth) is mixed with heroin, can make the risk of addiction, major health problems, and overdose soar.
Meth Vs Heroin
Meth and heroin are two highly addictive and potent drugs. Despite this, the way each drug affects the body and brain is very different, with each creating near opposite effects.
Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant (CNS) or upper. Due to this, taking meth can lead to an elevated body temperature and increased blood pressure, breathing, and heart rates.
Heroin, on the other hand, acts as a depressant or downer. When abused, it slows the CNS. This can cause dangerously slowed breathing and lowered blood pressure, heart, and temperature rates.
The Risks Of Using Meth And Heroin Together
Mixing drugs is a common practice in people who have a substance use disorder. Stimulants and depressants are often combined to increase the pleasurable effects or reduce the unpleasant side effects of one or both substances.
Historically, cocaine and heroin, a combination called a speedball, was favored by people seeking these effects. However, mixing crystal meth and heroin is growing in popularity. Sometimes referred to as a speedball as well, this mixture is also called a goofball.
Speedballs or goofballs are commonly injected, however, some people may snort or smoke the drugs together. One study found that 50 percent of participants who injected drugs injected meth and heroin in the year previous. Of this number, 28 percent used goofballs.
Meth and heroin may be mixed and injected together, injected one immediately after the other, or injected some time apart. Some people may inject one and smoke or snort the other just before or after. Black tar or powdered heroin may be injected with meth and some people may abuse prescription meth (Desoxyn).
Taking these drugs together or within a short period of time can increase the risk of certain dangers that each carries individually. It can also create new side effects and dangers.
According to the study, people who injected both drugs shot up more than once a day, or more frequently than those who abused only one drug. The more a drug is used, the greater the risk of addiction and adverse health effects, such as overdose.
The study also reported that individuals who injected these drugs were more prone to reuse and share syringes. Reusing syringes can increase the risk of skin and soft tissue infections. Sharing needles is a major risk factor for blood borne illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.
The Dangers Of Injecting Meth And Heroin
While using these drugs together in any form is dangerous, injection drug use carries even greater risks.
Repeated injections can damage the skin and veins, causing collapsed veins or scarring, otherwise known as track marks.
Harmful bacteria may enter the skin and tissues, and lead to potentially serious infections as well, such as abscesses, cellulitis, and necrotizing fasciitis (“the flesh eating disease”).
If the infection goes untreated and becomes severe, it could cause sepsis or travel to other areas of the body. Endocarditis happens when the infection makes its way to the heart. Without treatment, either of these conditions could be deadly.
One of the greatest threats of injection drug use is transmissible diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C, all of which can be life-threatening.
The Dangers Of Mixing Meth And Heroin
Combining uppers and downers, such as meth and heroin, place the cardiovascular, central nervous, and respiratory systems under a great deal of strain.
This is because the stimulating and depressant effects of the drugs send conflicting messages that tell the body and brain to act in opposite ways.
When used together, the negative side effects of either or both drugs may be minimized as well. Because of this, a person may believe their tolerance to either substance is higher than it actually is.
This dangerous misconception may lead a person to take higher or more frequent doses of one or both drugs, a behavior that could push them closer to addiction and overdose.
Overdose From Mixing Meth And Heroin
As such potent drugs, the risk of overdose is high when these substances are used separately. When mixed together, the likelihood of overdose can be much higher.
While any way of abusing these drugs can lead to overdose, injecting them does carry more risk that certain other methods.
The aforementioned study found that people who have a history of injecting both drugs had higher rates of overdose. In the year studied, 18.6 percent of individuals experienced one overdose, while 15.2 percent overdosed two times or more.
Combining these drugs can make it very hard for a person to tell when they’ve consumed too much of either substance. Even though a person may not yet be experiencing signs of overdose, either drug may have reached toxic levels in their body.
Speedball and goofball overdose symptoms may include signs of overdose from each individual drug. The amount a person uses can influence the severity of overdose. Severe overdoses can quickly turn fatal.
Effects Of Using Meth With Heroin
The more a person uses a drug, the greater the changes to their body and mind.
As two extremely addictive substances, use of either drug can quickly cause tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Dependent people may also experience discomfort or feel sick if they suddenly stop taking the drug, circumstances known as withdrawal.
Long-term use of either drug can cause insomnia. Abusing both could increase the likelihood that a person has trouble sleeping.
Both drugs can also cause mood swings and mental disorders, and chronic use can lead to extreme anxiety. While a person may feel euphoric on either or both substances, severe depression can accompany the use of either and may result when both are abused.
When a person abuses these drugs they will likely encounter side effects and health problems associated with both drugs.
Side Effects Of Meth
Meth has a longer effect than certain other stimulants, such as cocaine. When abused, the drug can cause appetite suppression, energy surges, euphoria or a rush, a sense of excitement, and talkativeness.
Uncomfortable and dangerous side effects can underlie the pleasurable effects people seek. This includes major changes to how a person thinks and behaves.
Short-term meth use can lead to irritability, paranoia, sleeplessness, and repetitive or unpredictable behavior. Long-term abuse may result in acts of violence, delusions, hallucinations, nervousness, psychotic behavior, and thoughts of homicide or suicide.
Side Effects Of Heroin
Heroin’s effects hit quickly, especially when the drug is injected. Along with a rush or euphoric state, a person may feel extremely relaxed, drowsy, and have decreased pain. This drug can also cloud a person’s thoughts.
Chronic use can lead to major health problems, including brain changes, liver and kidney disease, and serious lung problems, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Getting Treatment For Meth And Heroin Abuse And Addiction
Treatment for polydrug abuse or addiction can be more complicated, but fortunately, recovery from a meth and heroin use disorder is possible.
The most comprehensive treatment plans address both the physical and mental damage caused by addiction. For some, this could include a detoxification program.
Since withdrawal symptoms from meth and heroin vary, a medical detox program should work to identify and treat the effects of each drug.
While there aren’t currently any FDA-approved medications for meth dependence, certain medications may be used to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Heroin withdrawal can become intense, and for this reason, evidence-based medications are frequently used during detox.
Once a person’s body has cleansed and detoxed, the rehabilitation portion of treatment can begin. Rehab addresses the psychological addiction. Therapy, counseling, and alternative therapies are frequently used together to teach a person healthy habits that support long-term sobriety.
Contact Vertava Health now for info on meth and heroin abuse, addiction, and treatment.
US National Library of Medicine — Heroin and Methamphetamine Injection: An Emerging Drug Use Pattern