What is Polysubstance Abuse?

The short answer to the question, “What is polysubstance abuse?” is it’s the simultaneous abuse of more than one drug. However, a more detailed response to this question will note that polysubstance abuse can refer to a variety of behaviors involving alcohol and a range of additional substances.

What is Polysubstance Abuse? 

The term polysubstance abuse can encompass behaviors that meet several criteria, including:

  • Intentional and unintentional actions
  • One-time events and ongoing behavior patterns
  • The use of legal and illicit substances

One of the most important things to know about polysubstance abuse is that it is a dangerous practice. Abusing alcohol or any other drug can put you at risk for several damaging effects, including overdose and death. When you abuse multiple substances at the same time, the likelihood that you’ll be harmed increases dramatically.

Common Polysubstance Abuse Combinations

The misuse of any two drugs can be correctly described as polysubstance abuse. However, certain drug combinations are more common than others. Mixing alcohol and cocaine, opioids and benzos, and heroin and cocaine are three common types of polysubstance abuse.

Alcohol and Cocaine 

Alcohol is a depressant. Initially, alcohol use can improve mood and diminish inhibitions. But alcohol’s interaction with the central nervous system eventually results in slowed breathing, the diminished ability to feel pain, and loss of consciousness.

Unfortunately, some people try to counteract the depressant effects of alcohol by abusing cocaine. As a stimulant, cocaine provides a temporary boost in energy, mood, and cognition. 

Using alcohol and cocaine at the same time for any reason is extremely dangerous. The potential negative effects of this type of abuse include addiction, overdose, and death.

Opioids and Benzos 

Common opioids include heroin, morphine, and many prescription painkillers. Examples of benzodiazepines include Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin.

Whether they are prescribed for a legitimate medical reason or abused for recreational purposes, opioids and benzodiazepines can be dangerous. Using these drugs at the same time is a recipe for disaster. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), combining opioids and benzos is associated with an increased numbers of emergency department visits, hospital admissions, and overdose deaths. 

Cocaine and Heroin 

Heroin is clearly very different than alcohol. It is much more powerful and potentially more dangerous. Also, heroin use can lead to addiction much quicker than alcohol can.

But alcohol and heroin share certain characteristics. They can both cause slow or shallow breathing, impaired thinking, and loss of consciousness. 

As is the case with alcohol and cocaine, some people may abuse heroin and cocaine at the same time in an attempt to counteract certain effects of the two drugs.

It is no exaggeration to note that combining heroin and cocaine is extremely dangerous. On their own, both heroin and cocaine can be life-threatening. When a person abuses both of these drugs at the same time, the danger grows significantly.

Signs and Symptoms of Polysubstance Abuse

The signs and symptoms of polysubstance abuse can vary depending on what drugs a person has been abusing and how often and for how long they abuse these substances. In general, the following are signs of polysubstance abuse:

  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Blurred vision
  • Poor coordination
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Significant changes in mood and energy levels
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Doctor shopping (visiting many physicians in an attempt to get multiple prescriptions)
  • Trying to buy, borrow, or steal drugs that were prescribed to someone else
  • Withdrawing from family and friends

People who demonstrate the signs and symptoms of polysubstance abuse may be in considerable danger. If you suspect that someone you care about has been combining illicit drugs, encourage them to enter a treatment program or at least consult with a professional.

Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse

The possible negative effects of untreated polysubstance abuse include the following:

  • Damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs
  • Brain damage
  • Physical injuries due to reckless behaviors while under the influence of drugs
  • Legal problems such as being arrested, fined, and jailed
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Depression and other mental health disorders
  • Overdose
  • Death

When a person receives the help they need, they can avoid these outcomes. But if they don’t seek treatment, they remain at risk for considerable harm.

Detoxing From Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance abuse can quickly lead to a substance use disorder. When a person becomes addicted to alcohol, opioids, or certain other substances, they may develop severe withdrawal symptoms when they try to end their substance use. In some cases, withdrawal can be dangerous as well as painful.

Detoxification, also known as detox, can help a person end their polysubstance abuse. Detox programs typically feature round-the-clock supervision to protect participants’ health. During detox, patients can also receive services to minimize the discomfort of withdrawal. These services include Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).

Completing detox at a reputable treatment facility can be an important step toward a drug-free future.

Get Polysubstance Abuse Treatment in Philadelphia

If you or someone that you care about needs addiction treatment in Philadelphia, WAVE Treatment Centers may have the solutions you’ve been seeking. Our facility is a trusted source of quality personalized care. Contact us today to learn how we can help you find the path to recovery from polysubstance abuse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Blog Posts

One Step Can Change Your Life

Start your path of mental health recovery today.

    Copyright © 2021 Wave Treatment Centers · Privacy Policy

    Philadelphia Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment