Drug abuse is becoming more and more common in America. It is also becoming common for drug users to use more than one substance. So what is polysubstance abuse? The short answer is using more than one drug to reach a state of euphoria considered to be “acceptable” to the user. There are individuals who intentionally use more than one drug, as well as those who unintentionally do so. Understanding polysubstance abuse can help the user to understand the dangers.

What is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is the use of more than one drug at a time. This can mean both prescription and illicit drugs. As previously stated, this can be intentional or unintentional. When it is intentional, users purposefully use more than one substance to either heighten the effects of one drug, or to lessen the effects. Unintentional polysubstance use happens when an individual uses drugs that have been mixed with other drugs without knowing this has happened. Whether intentional or unintentional, polysubstance abuse can be addictive and dangerous. 

Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse

All drugs, prescription and nonprescription, have side effects associated with them. When drugs are mixed for heightened or lowered effects, it can make room for severe consequences. Different combinations of drugs have varying results, however, there are some general results of polysubstance abuse. The risk of overdose increases when drugs are mixed. There is no way to tell how the drugs will affect a person or the body’s reaction to the drugs. There are also the risks of drug interactions, and increases in symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions. 

Types of Polysubstance Abuse

What is polysubstance abuse? The answer could be easily explained with examples of what polysubstance abuse looks like. This portion will give some insight into different substances that are often mixed together for the effects they produce.

  • Stimulants. Stimulants have effects such as elevated blood pressure and heart rate. Mixing stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines to exacerbate the effects could lead to devastating effects. Higher blood pressure and heart rate can cause the risk of stroke. Abusing these types of drugs together could also lead to other health concerns like brain damage, liver damage, heart attack and stroke. All of which cause a devastating impact on an individual’s life.
  • Depressants. Drugs like opioids and benzodiazepines are depressants. Mixing these drugs can have fatal consequences. Doing this can cause slowed breathing and heart rate, causing Hypoxia. When the brain or tissues do not receive enough oxygen, they cannot function properly and begin to shut down.
  • Stimulants and depressants. Commonly known as “speedballing”, combining drugs like cocaine with things like heroin calls for unpredictable results. Thought to “cancel” each other out, this combination can lead to overdose. Because the drugs have opposite effects, users can feel like they’re not affected. 
  • Alcohol and drugs. Being that alcohol is a depressant, mixing it with any drug can have fatal consequences.

All of these combinations contain the risk of becoming dependent. What is polysubstance abuse withdrawal like? It can be more complicated than withdrawal from a single drug. There are many symptoms and risks involved. It should happen under medical supervision to prevent serious complications.

Polysubstance Dependence

What is polysubstance abuse versus polysubstance dependence? The way to be able to know the difference is the word ‘dependence’. Polysubstance abuse can lead to polysubstance dependence. Abusing more than one drug at any given time can allow for the body to require any combination of these drugs in order to function properly. With abuse, it’s almost as though the individual can pick it up and put it down at will. Dependence is the opposite, and the user is addicted to the abused substances.

Types of Treatment for Polysubstance Dependence

Polysubstance dependence can be complicated. But as with any addiction, treatment options are available. Inpatient detox is highly recommended for this condition. Withdrawal from multiple substances isn’t an easy or direct process. The need to address the substances being used, and the withdrawal symptoms associated with each substance is vital to proper care. Removing the substances from the body is only the first step in treating the dependence.

Oftentimes, there are underlying causes of substance abuse, and this is the same in polysubstance abuse instances. Therapy can be a vital component of recovery from polysubstance abuse and dependence. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common form of treatment in cases of polysubstance dependence. Meanwhile, long-term recovery programs are generally individualized and based on the individual seeking help for this condition.

Begin Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse in Knoxville, TN

Recovery from polysubstance abuse can be a daunting and complicated task. Recovery can take time, both physically and mentally. However, the good news is, recovery is possible. At Discovery Place, we work to address all aspects of polysubstance abuse, making recovery from the disorder possible. We strive to provide the best care, and make this a safe and smooth beginning to your journey. If you or a loved one struggles with polysubstance abuse, contact us today and begin on the road to a better life.


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