A city gripped by the speedball craze

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The Independent Online

Neal, a factory worker from Tyneside, cannot remember how he got into the drug craze which goes by the name of speedballing.

"I just heard a few people talking about it," he recalls. "Sometimes you just want what you haven't got, don't you?" He dabbled for months with injecting the "cooked" mix of heroin and cocaine. He says he has been clear of it this year.

Neal is by no means alone in the North-east. Today's DrugScope survey reveals that speedballing - fuelled in Newcastle by some of the cheapest heroin in Britain, much of it bought at just £5 for 0.2 of a gram in Middlesbrough - is on the rise. Though the need to buy two drugs makes its relatively expensive, young men will club together for a gram of cocaine (£40) and a £10 bag of heroin for a hit they think surpasses that of cocaine or heroin.

Addicts include affluent city professionals, say drug workers, but the tragedies tend to emerge from poorer districts where work is harder to find. John Courtney, 21, was one. He died last year after an addiction which was costing him £90 a day.

Heroin and cocaine are only a part of the problem. Newcastle and Gateshead have also seen a rise in anabolic steroid abuse by young men who crave the ability to display a big body on a night out. Steroids, once the preserve of serious bodybuilders, are now permeating many ordinary gyms where users will pay £3 for a score.