A Guide to Polysubstance Abuse

A Guide to Polysubstance Abuse

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

If someone is a polysubstance drug user, it means that they take more than one drug at once. Polysubstance abuse, however, can define a couple of things. While people mostly use the term to describe someone who uses multiple illicit drugs, polysubstance abuse can also occur when individuals misuse prescription medications. For someone to be diagnosed with polysubstance abuse, they must have experienced an increased tolerance, loss of control, withdrawal, or other signs of abuse and addiction.

Why People Combine Certain Substances

colorful pills and drugs

People may decide to combine substances for a variety of reasons. One reason someone might begin to use multiple substances is that they have a preexisting addiction or abuse disorder. If someone already abuses one substance, it’s more common that they will use another. Someone may also combine certain drugs to experience unique effects or get a more intense high.

But of course, with more intense effects come some severe potential health risks. People also combine different substances with their prescription medications. This could be somewhat accidental in some cases, such as when someone drinks alcohol while they’re on medication and doesn’t realize that adverse effects or abuse may occur.

Drugs that are commonly mixed include alcohol & cocaine, opioids & benzodiazepines, and different combinations of prescription & illicit substances,

Effects of Polysubstance Use & Abuse

Since many substances are not meant to be combined with one another, polysubstance abuse may cause serious side effects and put individuals at risk for a variety of mental and physical health conditions. Polysubstance abuse may result in side effects and health complications suck as: 

  • Increased severity of both drugs’ negative effects
  • Reduced or adjusted metabolism
  • Diseases such as hepatitis C
  • Co-occurring mental health issues
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Increased toxicity in substances

It is important to note that treating overdose from polysubstance abuse is more difficult than treating overdose from just one substance. If anyone you know experiences an overdose after using multiple substances, it is important to seek out emergency medical services. If someone is undergoing withdrawal from more than one substance, they should enroll in an inpatient detox program as soon as possible.

How To Treat Polysubstance Abuse

Obviously, it is best to catch polysubstance abuse before it begins. If you or a loved one is combining alcohol or any other drug with a different substance or with a prescription medication, you should talk to a doctor as soon as possible about the best next steps. If dependence has formed, it may be time to consider polysubstance abuse treatment. Treatment plans for polysubstance abuse vary depending on the client, their history with mental or physical disorders, and the substances they use. Some treatment options may include certain approved medications, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, group support, and more. Inpatient treatment will typically be required for polysubstance abuse. If someone you know has a dependence on multiple drugs or substances at once, that person may be suffering from polysubstance abuse. Treatment will typically begin with detoxing, then a specialist will work with the client to create an individualized treatment plan. To learn more about polysubstance abuse, its effects and if you need treatment, contact our team by calling 267.209.7313.


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