Understanding Polydrug Use
Although we may think of addiction in terms of a single drug or substance like opioids, cocaine, or alcohol, many addicts have what is known as polysubstance dependence. Polydrug use refers to the use of multiple drugs at a time. Especially common among younger populations, taking more than one drug at a time often produces stronger psychoactive effects. People mix many different kinds of drugs and may experiment with different combinations to achieve different effects.
Sometimes, people use multiple drugs at once to combat negative side effects. Many polysubstance users will take one drug as their foundational drug, then another one to combat the “coming down” effects. When taking more than one drug at a time, people are able to try to feel exactly how they want. However, polydrug users are likely to build dependence and addiction, may find themselves experiencing overdoses and reactions, and have to deal with withdrawals from multiple drugs rather than just one.
There are many drugs people use together, and many individuals will experiment or just take what they can get. However, many people deliberately choose the drugs they are going to use together to fit their desires. There are really two main reasons people use multiple substances at the same time: they either want to enhance the desired effect, or they wish to combat some negative side effects such as overactivity, sleepiness, nausea, or anxiety. Here are a few drugs often used together:
Producing Stronger Effects:
- Opioids and benzodiazepines
- Sleeping pills and alcohol
- Cocaine and Ecstasy
- LSD and Ecstasy
- Alcohol and painkillers
- Marijuana and alcohol
Combating Negative Effects:
- Opioids and stimulants
- Cocaine and alcohol
- Benzodiazepines and stimulants
- Alcohol and ADHD medication
- Ecstasy and benzodiazepines
- Sleeping pills and stimulants
The Dangers of Polydrug Abuse
There are many reason that polysubstance use is dangerous. First, polydrug use puts the user at higher risk of overdose and/or adverse reactions. Although we may have taken a drug before and know how it interacts with our bodies, we may be surprised at the reaction when we add another drug into the mix. This often ends up being a bad thing, and the body responds poorly. Many overdoses are attributed to polydrug abuse, such as when individuals mix benzodiazepines and opioids, alcohol and benzodiazepines, or sleeping pills with alcohol.
Even when individuals do not overdose, the interactions between multiple drugs can cause adverse reactions. From a decrease in heart rate to heightened anxiety or paranoia, the combining of drugs can cause effects and symptoms with which you may not be familiar. The other major danger is that withdrawals when using multiple drugs can be severely uncomfortable and even dangerous. It’s important to receive proper help for the detox process in order to keep yourself safe.
Who Gets Addicted?
There are many factors to addiction, and using multiple drugs greatly increases the risk of addiction developing. Although many people experiment with drugs for fun or casually, addiction can take hold of us and sneak in slowly. Risk factors of developing a polysubstance addiction include:
- Family history of addiction or mental health disorders
- Using drugs or alcohol in adolescent years
- Using substances for long periods of time
- Experiencing adverse life experiences like stress or trauma
- Dysfunction or abuse in the family or household
- Presence of a mental health disorder
Polydrug Use Treatment
Like treatment for addiction to individual drugs, polydrug abuse often consists of multiple levels of care. Starting with a professional detox, individuals begin to get the drugs out of their bodies. This process can be difficult, painful, and sometimes dangerous. It’s important to seek the help of trained professionals before withdrawing from the drugs you’re using, as you don’t know for certain how the detox process will impact your mind and body.
To remain clean from drugs, residential treatment centers and IOPs offer a level of care where you can address your addiction, learn to live clean and sober, and build a new life for yourself. There are many different types of treatment centers out there, from holistic treatment centers to more twelve-step based residential facilities. Here at Changing Tides, we always strive to meet our clients exactly where they are and build a program that fits their needs. From cognitive behavioral therapy to yoga and meditation, the treatment program offers many ways to investigate your addiction and cultivate the sober life you want!