Polysubstance Abuse Explained

While there are many reasons for addiction, it’s often because a person is trying to escape the trials of their lives. Day after day, the desire gets stronger until using one substance is not enough.  Users often turn to polysubstance abuse – the mixing of substances – as tolerance in long-term users grows.  While common, polysubstance abuse is a dangerous practice.

Polysubstance abuse follows the same general rules of singular drug use, but the risk of adverse health effects is much greater.  Such effects, such as acute toxicity, occur shortly after consuming several substances together.  This practice can wreak havoc on your body just like any other addiction but to a greater extreme.  The dangers of this crippling habit can turn fatal quickly.

Being a poly addict complicates every aspect of addiction, including co-occurring disorders. While there are complications in treating poly-addicts, it is possible. A Better Today Recovery Services has the resources.  Please, don’t hesitate to call us at 1-888-902-0952 to get started. 

What is Polysubstance Abuse All About? 

Polysubstance abuse can be unpredictable because the addict is mixing multiple substances. There is a reason we fear the unknown, after all. Mixing substances has become commonplace and has claimed the lives of people who still had a lot to live for. The ramifications of the effects are wildly unpredictable and extremely dangerous for overall health. Mixing substances is frightening because it heightens the effects of all substances used while simultaneously creating new ones.  As you might expect, this can lead to disastrous consequences.

People under the age of 25 are especially prone to polysubstance abuse. However, addiction does not age discriminate against anyone – it can come at any stage of a person’s life. While younger people experience it more often, older users are more likely to suffer severe consequences.

One of the main components of polysubstance dependence is intense alcohol consumption. Men and women that suffer from alcohol abuse are very likely to acknowledge their addiction to prescription drugs than nondrinkers. There are also other combinations that poly-addicts utilize that include mixing benzodiazepines and heroin.

An example of polysubstance abuse is the mixing of cocaine and alcohol.  A person could drink far longer with cocaine than they could without it. With a poly-dependence, your tolerance increases, and the risks grow worse. People that use prescription medications recreational assume they are safe because they are familiar – you see them in your medicine cabinet every day.  Mixing prescriptions – especially opioids or benzos – with alcohol is hazardous, however, and easily turns fatal.

 

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The Health Risks of Being a Poly Addict

When a person is simultaneously using drugs and alcohol, they are putting their bodies at risk. Some issues affect every part of a person’s life, including relationships and their jobs. People young and older suffer from poly-dependence daily. There are many risks associated with this practice, such as: 

  • Alcohol poisoning  
  • Unconsciousness 
  • Respiratory depression 
  • Blackout 
  • Engage in drunk driving and bad decision making 
  • Legal issues 
  • Financial issues
  • Death

Mixing alcohol with any other substance is dangerous.  Studies conducted by Dr. McCabe of the University of Michigan emphasize that people who simultaneously drink and use prescription medications often have no idea of the danger they’re in.  He explains:

“Passing out is a protective mechanism that stops people from drinking when they are approaching dangerous blood alcohol concentrations.  But if you take stimulants when your drink, you can potentially override this mechanism, and this could lead to life-threatening consequences.”

Research has proved that the added effects of substance use considerably increases the risk of road accidents, even with relatively low levels of intoxication. Hospital emergency services report that polydrug intoxications, with alcohol playing a key role, represent a significant portion of medical emergencies. Cardiologists also report that cocaine users typically consume other toxic substances (including tobacco), resulting in greater diagnostic difficulties.  Polysubstance abuse is so widespread that it is suggested cocaine use be considered when young adults present with chest pain.

With the major health risks addressed, there is a way out to prevent the consequences of addiction, no matter how many you might suffer. But it starts with addressing the problem and getting help. After long periods of polysubstance abuse, detox is usually the first step in recovery.   

Detox for Polysubstance Dependence 

Detox is a process of purging the toxins of a substance from the body. Even though withdrawing from multiple drugs or alcohol can be complicated, it is a lifesaving measure.  There is a mistaken assumption by many addicts that they can quit “cold-turkey.”  Detox should always be performed under medical supervision, however, by round-the-clock staff.  

The side effects of detox can be unpredictable when a person is withdrawing from multiple substances. The “cold turkey” method that often comes up should not be an option and can lead to fatal consequences. This is because the body and vital organs may go into shock. Without a qualified medical staff, these extreme responses to detox can prove fatal. Medical staff can give patients withdrawal medications to manage some of the symptoms associated with the detox process. 

The common symptoms of detox include:  

  • Sweating  
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Upset stomach, vomiting  
  • Cravings 
  • Restlessness  

In some situations, long-term medications can be the answer for addicts that abuse oxycodone or other opioids. The staff can utilize methadone or buprenorphine to soften the harsh withdrawal symptoms.

While opioids are one of the most dangerous drugs to get clean from, others pose a risk, too.  Benzodiazepines such as Xanax are especially hazardous.  In general, cocaine withdrawal is closely monitored, too.  Even alcohol can be dangerous to detox from – there is a small risk of seizures and psychosis.

Detox should always be closely monitored, especially with poly-addicts.  Once detox is done, the next step is treatment for the addiction.  Having a strong network of family, friends, and peers reduces the likelihood of a relapse.  Treatment must be immediately pursued after detox to keep their momentum going. 

 

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How to Treat Polysubstance Abuse

Treatment is the sure and only way to manage addiction and reclaim your life. With a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, you can get your life back on track.

Treatment for polysubstance dependence is more challenging than singular substance addiction. The use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a weapon in treating polysubstance addiction. This approach works on the behavior and thought process of the addict. Its goal is to teach better coping mechanisms for the real world. This method has proven effective in changing the behavioral issues that were the underlying cause of addiction.

Other successful tactics in treating a poly addict are reducing polysubstance abuse through therapy and counseling. Continued breakthroughs, no matter how small, are a step in the right direction.  

The solution to poly addictions is that treatment is personalized. Particularly with polysubstance abuse disorders, it is essential to discover the root of the problem. Before a person begins a treatment program, they should go through an assessment to detect any co-occurring conditions.  If any are present, the treatment plan should account for them.

Treatment plans should also be flexible. If one thing doesn’t work, there is always room for change. With the help of the one-two punch of individual and group counseling, an addict can leave their addiction behind. There are also aftercare resources such as 12-step programs to help with sustaining abstinence after treatment.  

End Polysubstance Abuse

Addiction is not an easy demon to defeat. It takes hard work and making life changes. If the signs are there that addiction has taken over your life or someone you love, it’s time to address it. The good news is that there is always a chance for redemption and a fresh start in life, no matter how bad off you feel you are.  Even better, you do not have to fight this battle on your own. No matter your situationrehab treatment serves as the light of the end of the tunnel. With the right plan in place, addiction can be beaten. 

The first step towards beating an addiction is admitting you have one. No matter what you may have done during your addiction, you can make amends. Things are replaceable, relationships are repairable, but your life cannot be unlost. For a person dealing with multiple addictions, time is of the essence as tomorrow is not guaranteed. The relief of admitting to an addiction is like dumping a ton of bricks off your shoulders. With treatment, you will learn to live positively and constructively. Getting help is half of the battle and is available for those ready to take the next step in a better life. A Better Today Recovery Services can provide all the tools to help get an addict on their way. Make the call to 1-888-906-0952 today to get started. 

About the Author 

Justin Freemyer

Justin Freemyer was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and was raised in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area. Justin graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Mass Communications and Journalism in 2011. Justin has a passion for storytelling through writing and video editing. He has worked for local television stations, independent wrestling promotions, digital marketing firms, and wrote for Mesa Community College for their newspaper and media relations office. In 2021, Justin plans to launch his own YouTube traveling foodie show in 2021 called That’s Just Incredible.

Do you know someone who has multiple addictions? Call us today for help.