Substance abuse is a common mental health disorder that affects millions of Americans every year. In fact, 40 million Americans had a substance use disorder (SUD) in 2020. Substance abuse can often lead to addiction and dependence and various health consequences.
Dependence and addiction can not only include one substance but multiple substances. Mixing multiple substances can be dangerous and affect relationships and physical or mental health.
Polysubstance abuse, also known as polysubstance dependence or polydrug abuse, refers to the dependency on consuming and abusing multiple substances. Polysubstance abuse occurs when there is a developing habit of using more than three drugs.
Abuse occurs when substances are used without a prescription. Abuse can occur with a particular substance or drug, even just one time. Several substances can be abused simultaneously, also called polysubstance abuse.
The use of multiple substances can derive from a concern with the euphoric feeling of this habit. The primary concern can be getting high and consuming drugs of all kinds to achieve this effect.
Polysubstance abuse can occur with a mixture of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or painkillers with alcohol. Combining these drugs can amplify each of the drugs’ individual effects and can lead to addiction.
In other forms of a substance-use disorder, addiction may occur to only alcohol or cocaine. But, polydrug abuse consists of a dependence on various illicit substances to feel high.
Most commonly abused substances include:
- Amphetamines and methamphetamines
- Synthetic drug formulations, such as Spice/K2, bath salts, gravel
- Opioid painkillers, including Oxycodone, Vicodin, and oxycontin
- Psychedelics like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms
- Benzodiazepines, such as Ativan and Xanax
- Ecstasy or molly
Frequent cases of polysubstance dependence include combining illegal drugs and alcohol. The use and abuse of prescription medication are possible with other medications or alcohol. A medical professional may prescribe these medications to combat an emotional or physical problem. Using certain prescription medications may result in addiction and abuse.
Signs of Polysubstance Use Disorder
Polysubstance use disorder is a medical condition that can affect the brain and the way behaviors present. It is characterized by addiction, dependence, and the inability to control the use of polysubstance.
Signs of polysubstance use disorder include:
- Inability to keep up with relationships, schoolwork, or job responsibilities.
- Notable changes in behavior
- Activities, friends, looks, or hobbies stop being of interest
- Developing the need for privacy
- Visible intoxication (disorganized, slurred speech, fast speech, dilated pupils, etc.)
- Mood swings
- Sudden requests for money or stealing money
- Disappearing from the house without proper explanation
- Committing a crime
- Seeking prescriptions from doctors often
- Increased health issues
Recognizing drug addiction in the early stages can be difficult because signs may differ based on the drugs used and the combination used. Combining drugs can produce different symptoms and signs than if the drug was used independently.
Reasons Why People Use Multiple Drugs
There is no one reason for using multiple drugs to lead to a polysubstance use disorder. Several factors may come together to influence the use of numerous drugs.
Common risk factors may include:
- Historical use of polysubstance by family
- Mental health problems such as trauma, stress, or depression
- Peer pressure
- Biological factors
- Chronic pain condition
Other possible reasons for polysubstance use include:
- High tolerance: Habitual intake of the drug may cause the body to develop some tolerance. Once a high tolerance for a specific drug increases, switching or adding other substances may bypass the present tolerance level.
- Unique high: Feeling a different high may cause multiple drug use. Dependence on drugs may create a need to experience a new feeling and effect.
- Effects: Taking multiple drug doses gives a more intense result. Achieving this effect may serve as a driving factor.
Why Is Polysubstance Use Dangerous?
Taking multiple doses of drugs at a time affects mental and physical health in a harmful way. Drug interactions can lead to an overdose of substances and lead to long-term consequences. Overdose may even sometimes lead to death.
2. Mental Health Problems
The use of multiple drugs may be used as a form of self-medication in an attempt to treat mental health disorders. Polysubstance abuse may occur when trying to treat symptoms of depression or anxiety, but this can make mental health conditions worse.
3. Health Complications
Prolonged use of multiple substances may result in serious health complications. Organs that may be affected include the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, and brain.
4. Medical Emergencies
Doctors may find it difficult to treat symptoms of multiple drug users in cases of an emergency, leading to death. Mixing substances can lead to adverse and unforeseen conditions making medical problems difficult to treat.
The use of multiple drugs can lead to dependence and an inability to function without drugs. Addiction is commonly associated with an inability to stop use and an increase in dosage to receive desired effects. Symptoms of addiction may lead to withdrawal from friends, colleagues, and family. If medical attention is not given, physical, emotional, and mental health consequences may occur.
Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse
A customized treatment plan can be established based on abused substances and individual needs. Treatment can commonly include therapy, medication, or a combination of both.
Treatments used to treat polysubstance use disorder include:
- Detox: medical detoxification from drugs that have been abused can be provided in a rehab center. This helps to avoid or reduce withdrawal symptoms and avoid dangerous reactions to the stop of use.
- Residential treatment: this includes therapy and medication management when needed in a facility that provides 24/7 care in a controlled environment
- Psychotherapy: individual, family, or group talk therapy that can include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and other evidence-based therapies to help reduce triggers and risk of relapse.
- Self-help groups: belonging to a self-help group can reduce the shame and isolation that often leads to relapse.
Get Help for Polysubstance Abuse
Addiction of any kind can be challenging and affect personal relationships, mental health, and physical health. Polysubstance use disorder, the addiction to multiple substances, can bring about additional risks and dangers. Combining numerous drugs can lead to unforeseen drug interactions and overdose.
If you or a loved one are struggling with polysubstance abuse, reach out to Inland Detox today. Our team can answer any questions you may have and give you a better understanding of our residential and detox program.