By all accounts, California native Ken Caminiti was a determined, generous guy, a skilled third baseman, and major home run hitter. During his 15 years as a pro baseball player, Caminiti played with the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, and Atlanta Braves. He was a National League MVP in 1996 and participated in All-Star games in 1994 1996 and 1997.

A life cut short

Ken Caminiti died too early, a result of an overdose that occurred after years of struggle with alcohol and drug abuse. Ken Caminiti was only 41.

Caminiti admitted that he started drinking in his teen years. He attempted rehab several times, beginning with inpatient treatment for alcohol and painkillers in 1993. Success, unfortunately, was short-lived. He wasn’t the only baseball player with a problem during those years, as it was typical for many athletes to take amphetamines for a boost of energy, followed by drinking to relax.

Addiction intensified for Caminiti, and he became more and more removed from friends and teammates. He was arrested for possession of cocaine for the first time in 2001, and was ordered to serve probation, but tested positive for cocaine before the end of the term. He served a stint in prison in 2003, but after he tested positive again in 2004, he admitted to the Court that he had violated probation a total of four times. He was sentenced to 180 days in prison but was given credit for time served and subsequently released.

Just five days later, on October 10, 2004, Caminiti went into cardiac arrest and died as a result of speedballing heroin and cocaine. An autopsy showed Caminiti had an enlarged heart and coronary artery disease caused by years of drug abuse. Both were major contributors to his death.

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What is a speedball and why is it so dangerous?

A speedball is a potentially fatal cocktail consisting of a stimulant and a depressant. In Caminiti’s case, the combination was cocaine and heroin, but a speedball may also consist of, for example, crack and alcohol, or meth and Valium. Most people combine the two drugs in the same syringe, although some use a separate syringe for each drug – sometimes one syringe for each arm. The drugs can also be snorted.

The combination of the two potent drugs results in an intense rush from the cocaine, followed by the calming properties of heroin. The heroine helps prevent anxiety and palpitations from the cocaine, while the cocaine prevents extreme drowsiness and “nodding” caused by heroin. In other words, users think a speedball is a way to enjoy the best of both substances.

Because users don’t experience the extreme results of either drug, speedballs present a larger potential for overdose than using one drug alone. Cocaine ramps up the heart rate and heroin quickly slow it down. This rapid change is extremely taxing to the heart.

Speedballs also killed San Diego Padres pitcher Eric Show, who died in rehab in 1984. Speedballs have also claimed the lives of a number of celebrities, including John Belushi, River Phoenix, and Chris Farley.

Seek treatment as soon as possible

Treatment requires medically monitored detox in a safe environment, followed by continuing addiction counseling and therapy. If somebody you care about is using speedballs, it’s critical to seek help as soon as possible, as the combination is extremely deadly. Give us a call at (866) 491-8009 and we can answer your questions about our therapies and explain how we can help you or a friend or family member. We offer a number of proven, evidence-based therapies.