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Speedballing: Why Crack Cocaine and Heroin are Mixed

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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This post is part of a collaborative narrative series composed of my writing and Chris Arnade’s photos exploring issues of addiction, poverty and prostitution in Hunts Point, Bronx. For more on the series, look here.

Shooting up: Hunts Point, Bronx
Shooting up, Hunts Point, Bronx. Courtesy of Chris Arnade.

Measure out a hit of heroin. That’s to kill the withdrawal. To stop the shakes and the nausea you feel every day. So you can move again. So your head loses its hammers. The opiate’s absence is enough to make you cry and move from corner to corner with $10 worth of $1 bills and small change, even with police out. Take to the powder with metal and a flame.

Parcel out the same amount of crack. Cut with citrus. No lumps. Lumps are a vein’s enemy, the heart’s too. Mix with what you cooked. Tremble in anticipation. Don’t miss a vein. Find a good juicy one high up the body, one that hasn’t folded away. Don’t you dare waste by missing. What if they’re crap drugs? Inject.

Doctor your formula over time. Keep life in balance.

Think back to the days when heroin brought pleasure, when it wasn’t your shackle. To feel, combine it with the upper. Tell your brain to rocket up and down at the same time. Tell your heart.

Aim for three minutes of tethered bliss, all you can make happen. Forget your scars for a moment, concepts of family and rent and sexuality and religion.

Feel the loss of the crack. Un-spin. Mourn.

Wait for a few hours, for the heroin to wear off and for immobility and rabid need to creep back again. Think how to game your system. Sleep to stave it off.

—- For Millie, Michael, Egypt, Takeesha, those seeking to feel

Leri, Franceso, Stewart, Jane, and Bruneau, Julie. “Understanding polydrug use: review of heroin and cocaine co-use.” Addiction. 98 (2003): 7-22.

More Hunts Point Addiction Writing
Writing Beyond Addiction in Hunts Point
Chris Arnade’s Photos and his Facebook feed

Cassie Rodenberg About the Author: I write on culture, poverty, addiction, and mental illness: I explore things we like to ignore. I also teach public school in New York City's South Bronx. Follow on Twitter @cassierodenberg.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. stevecastleman 1:01 pm 02/1/2013

    Addiction is a chronic, progressive brain disease of the Limbic “reward” system, which is not only involved in the experience of pleasure, but is also central to learning, decision-making and motivation. Addicts make terrible decisions because it is their brain’s decision-making apparatus that malfunctions. For a website that discusses the science of addiction in accessible English (what makes it a chronic, progressive disease; what parts of the brain malfunction; how that malfunction results in addict behaviors; how addicts’ decision-making is skewed by substance abuse; why some get addicted while others don’t; how treatment works; why relapse is common; what family and friends can do; etc.) please click on

    Link to this
  2. 2. citizenkirk 3:58 pm 02/1/2013

    Terrific sketch, Cassie. This series illustrates how utterly fruitless the efforts to keep illegal drugs out of the country are. Imagine a country where we treated all chemical dependency just like nicotine and weight loss — with supportive programs that provide counseling, medical care, housing, and hope. -Kirk

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  3. 3. MultiWoman 8:10 pm 02/1/2013

    Promising writing. No science here, but promising writing.

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