What is Polysubstance Abuse?

Jun 2019 What is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse sounds like a difficult problem to develop, but it is actually quite easy to find yourself in the middle of this type of substance abuse problem. It is simply using more than one substance at a time to get high or self-medicate. At its simplest, this type of substance abuse and addiction involves alcohol mixed with drugs like cocaine or marijuana.

If you suffer from this type of drug problem or another addiction, you will like need to detox before entering a drug rehab facility. In this blog, we will talk about what polysubstance abuse is as well as go over some options as far as treatment goes.

What is Polysubstance Abuse?

So, what is polysubstance abuse? This type of drug use involves dependency or addiction to multiple drugs at once. It can also involve the use of multiple drugs at the same time, possibly using one to counteract how another one may make you feel. With this type of abuse comes the potential for many health problems, including, but not limited to, death in some extreme cases.

Some multi-drug abuse involves two or more drugs bought on the street or through prescription. Alcohol is often very common when it comes to substance abuse, including polysubstance abuse. Unfortunately, people suffering from dependence or addiction to multiple drugs face extreme health and life risks. 

Treatment for something like polysubstance abuse is also more difficult than with an addiction for a single substance to do the way the body reacts to being dependant on multiple substances at the same time.

Why Do People Use More Than One Substance at a Time?

Abusing multiple drugs usually begins when you build up a tolerance to one drug and still want to feel high. After tolerance, you either increase your dose or frequency to keep feeling high from the same drug. Or, in the case with polysubstance abuse, another drug to add to the mix. 

Individuals suffering from substance use disorder like the more powerful effects that come with adding a second substance. In some cases, they might even use more than one substance because one counterbalances the impact of the other.

Those who might find themselves most at risk of developing a polysubstance drug issue are those with alcohol dependency. Alcohol is their first drug, with cocaine or another substance being their second. The same type of problem develops for people who drink alcohol with anxiety, pain, or depression medications.

Some social scenes can also lend themselves to higher rates of polydrug abuse. This is especially true in places like the rave or club scene, where ecstasy, cocaine, and other drugs are commonly found and are as easily accessible as alcohol. Cocaine and heroin also often go together in a dangerous drug cocktail called a speedball.

Regardless of how you find yourself suffering from polysubstance abuse, you need help from a quality Palm Springs treatment center. Through the right addiction treatment, you can stop abusing substances and learn how to stay sober in healthy recovery.

What Are Some Common Polysubstance Combinations?

While by dictionary definition, a polysubstance abuse occurs when any two drugs are regularly mixed, there are some combinations of drugs that are mixed together more frequently and are more popular than others. 

Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly mixed drugs. Let’s also discuss some of the ones that are considered the most dangerous.

Alcohol and Adderall

Due in large part to the fact that so many people in the United States are prescribed some form of ADD/ADHD medication, the combination of Adderall and alcohol is by far one of the most common. One of the major “appeals” of this combination is that the Adderall makes the body think that it is not nearly as drunk as it actually is. 

While this may seem appealing, in actuality, it can be very dangerous and lead to impaired decision making. Additionally, due to the fact that Adderall is stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, that can cause the following side effects:

  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Paranoid or psychotic reactions
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle twitching
  • Headaches

Alcohol and Painkillers

Another common combination that is abused is alcohol and pain killers. Because of how common prescription pain killers have become, it has become incredibly easy to obtain. Chances are if you don’t have a prescription for some type of pain killer, someone you know does. 

Common painkillers include Vicodin, Xanax, Oxycontin, Percocet. When mixed together, the person might feel intensified sedative effects and even respiratory depression. In addition, painkillers can lead to liver problems and disease when used recreationally. Mixing those with alcohol can just increase the likeliness that this happens.

Alcohol and Marijuana

While it might seem like mixing alcohol and weed is not a big deal, that is not the case. Mixing the two can lead to vomiting, spins, very strong paranoia, decreased motor control, and decreased mental concentration. 

In some cases, mixing the two can result in a suppression of the gag reflex. This can cause your body to not be able to throw up if it needs to form too much drinking.

Alcohol and Cocaine

The common misconception when it comes to the mixing of alcohol and cocaine is that they cancel each other out. This is very much NOT the case. Combining cocaine and alcohol produces a third unique substance called cocaethylene. 

A high amount of cocaethylene can increase the already harmful risk of cardiovascular toxicity. The risk of cardiovascular toxicity is greater with this combination than any other combination because of the cocaine. Cardiovascular toxicity causes pressure and stress on the heart. Cocaethylene can also cause:

  • An increase in blood pressure
  • Aggression
  • Violent thoughts
  • Poor judgment
  • Heart attack
  • Death of blood vessels and brain tissue
  • Intracranial hemorrhage
  • Heart disease
  • Cardiac arrhythmia

Alcohol and Antibiotics

Chances are when filling a prescription for antibiotics, you have noticed the disclaimer saying don’t drink alcohol while taking the antibiotic. That’s not written on there just for fun; there is a reason for it. 

Drinking alcohol while on an antibiotic and lead to a variety of negative side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Convulsions
  • Immense headache
  • Flushing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath

Additionally, since both alcohol and antibiotics are broken down through the liver, combining the two can increase the chances of liver damage. Ironically enough, drinking alcohol while on antibiotics can also diminish the effects of the antibiotic that you are taking. 

Alcohol and Sleeping Pills

The mixing of alcohol and sleeping pills enhances the sedative effects of the sleeping pill. While to the user that might seem like a good thing, that’s not quite the case. Sleepwalking injuries, coma, and in some cases, even death have all been found to be negative side effects that are the result of mixing alcohol and a sedative, such as a sleeping pill.

Heroin and Cocaine

Also known as a “speedball,” the mixing of heroin and cocaine is very popular within the party culture. People often combine heroin and cocaine in order to enhance the effects of each drug, while at the same time causing different sensations and experiences than using either drug alone. This, in turn, creates a brand new type of “high.” 

Since one is a depressant, and one is a stimulant, many people believe that combining the two will cancel out the negative effects. While this might be the case on paper, it also leads the user into a false sense of security in thinking that they are less intoxicated than they actually are. This false sense of sobriety can result in an overdose or even death.

Cocaine and Ecstasy

Cocaine and ecstasy are both stimulants. As a result of that, when combined, they produce an increase in the euphoric state that each substance produces individually. This can increase the user’s heart rate and risk of heart attack or stroke.

How Do I Put Polysubstance Abuse Behind Me?

Addiction is a disease that takes time, effort, energy, and resilience to overcome. But you can do it with the right therapies and treatment approaches. These approaches must include an individualized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. It also must include a mix of therapies, education, and support.

Therapies and treatments for your best chance of polysubstance recovery include:

Begin Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse Today

Getting clean and sober from an addiction to one substance can be hard enough. The more substances to add to the equation, the harder it can be. 

At Phoenix Rising, we understand this, which is why we offer treatment for a variety of different substances, including more than one at the same time. Contact us today to learn more about the treatment plans we offer and to get the help that you need so that drugs and alcohol don’t run your life for even another day.