If you or someone you love has struggled with drug abuse, you may have heard the term polysubstance abuse. This term gets thrown around a lot, but not everyone is sure what polysubstance abuse means. Simply put, polysubstance abuse is using at least three drugs at the same time.
This drug abuse can occur with prescribed and illicit drugs alike. For example, combining heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy would constitute polysubstance abuse, but so would mixing alcohol, benzos, and opioids.
Mixing medications, alcohol, or street drugs is highly dangerous during and after the effects. Close monitoring at an inpatient detox center is necessary to safely pass through the withdrawal stages.
What Is Polysubstance Abuse?
The term polysubstance abuse refers to when someone takes three or more substances simultaneously without preferring any particular one. Usually, the user is more addicted to the feelings they get from mixing drugs rather than the drugs themselves. It is also often called polysubstance dependence or polydrug use
Part of the reason polysubstance abuse causes so many addiction problems is that many drugs interact with each other. For example, alcohol and opioids don’t mix well. Alcohol can often “unlock” opioids and cause them to release all their dosage at once rather than over a long period. This phenomenon is known as dose dumping.
Opioids often make users feel high and euphoric. However, prescribed opioids are designed to release such feelings in small amounts over time to prevent addiction and dependency. Adding alcohol allows users to experience the uninhibited effects of opioids all at once.
This combination can also lead to comas, respiratory problems, brain damage, overdosing, heart attacks, and death.
Similarly, mixing alcohol and benzos such as Xanax can cause organ damage, respiratory problems, addiction, and overdosage.
Combining two drugs is dangerous enough, but adding a third or fourth to the mix can be even deadlier. Prescription drugs are incredibly complicated and are built to restrain adverse side effects. Polysubstance abuse often enhances those negative side effects, much to the detriment of its user.
Why Is Polysubstance Dependence Dangerous?
Adverse side effects are the main reason polysubstance dependence is so deadly. These effects depend on the drugs used, but some common side effects include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Breathing problems
Overdosing is another significant risk. As mentioned earlier, dose dumping is incredibly likely to anyone who takes too many substances at once. However, some drugs will mask the effects of other drugs, and users will consume more to compensate. For example, cocaine often reduces the impact of alcohol, so users who take both might feel sober and drink more alcohol to make up for it.
Lastly, polysubstance abuse often causes addiction. The brain builds a tolerance to drugs, so users get progressively less high each time they abuse drugs. Since each new session is less effective than the last, many users overcompensate by consuming more drugs than usual. Always chasing this high is what leads to addiction.
Avoid the dangers of polysubstance abuse by attending a medical detox program. The medical care and compassionate staff will help remove any drugs or alcohol in the body.
What Are the Symptoms of Polysubstance Abuse?
Polysubstance abuse is often hard to diagnose because each drug often carries different side effects. However, professionals can spot abuse if someone exhibits at least three of the following signs for twelve months:
- Increased tolerance: The user can’t get as high as before.
- Loss of control: The user uses drugs more often than planned.
- Self-harm: The person keeps using drugs despite apparent self-harm.
- Unable to stop using: They can’t stop using drugs no matter how hard they try.
- Withdrawal: They show emotional signs when not using.
- Interference with activities: The person doesn’t engage in hobbies, school, or job as much due to drug addiction.
- Time: They spent much more time using or obtaining drugs.
Recover from Drug Addiction Today
If you find yourself checking the boxes for polysubstance abuse in yourself or a loved one then we are here to help. Don’t let drugs ruin your life or the life of your loved ones. You can help fight drug addiction when you contact us today by calling 866.341.0638.