Polydrug abuse is when someone uses two or more addictive drugs at the same time, or right after each other. Although polydrug abuse is common, people often do not understand the serious risks that come with combining substances. Even unintentionally combining prescription drugs has serious risks. The most dangerous side effect of polydrug abuse is that it increases the chances of overdose. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that in 2019 nearly half of overdose deaths involved more than one drug.
What is Polydrug Abuse?
Polydrug abuse is using two or more addictive substances at the same time to intensify a high. Polydrug abuse is very common and especially popular among teenagers. Certain drugs will heighten the effects of another when taken together, whereas some drugs will counteract the effects of the other. For example, someone may take a stimulant and when they want to “come down” they will take a depressant. People can easily become addicted to two or more substances, especially when using them at the same time, and will crave one while high on another.
Unfortunately, people often unintentionally combine substances. This can happen when they take a drug that unbeknownst to them, has been laced or cut with another drug. This is most often the case with heroin. Heroin is very similar to fentanyl, but fentanyl is cheaper and easier to produce. Drug dealers will often cut heroin with fentanyl for their own profit and then sell it to people without disclosing what the drug is. This is extremely dangerous as fentanyl is much more potent than heroin and can cause an overdose with a much smaller amount.
People will also unintentionally combine substances when taking multiple prescriptions because they are unaware of the dangers. Some combinations of prescription medication can have deadly side effects when taken together, and almost all prescription drugs should not be taken while consuming alcohol. If you are unsure if the combinations of prescription medications are safe, consult your doctor.
Common Drug Combinations
There are many combinations of drugs that people commonly abuse. Alcohol is the most common substance combined with other substances.
Benzodiazepines and Alcohol
Benzodiazepines and alcohol are both depressants, which means they slow down the central nervous system and cause a calming, euphoric effect for the user. Mixing two depressants can cause death due to slowed heart and respiration rate.
Cocaine and Alcohol
Cocaine is a highly addictive stimulant and alcohol is a depressant. Coming down from a high on stimulants like cocaine can be extremely uncomfortable and many people will use alcohol to ease the discomfort. Mixing these two substances is very dangerous and can lead to a stroke, heart attack, or overdose.
Cocaine and Heroin
When people take both heroin and cocaine at the same time, they call it “speedballing.” Heroin and cocaine have opposite effects and produce a very euphoric high when mixed. The effects of cocaine wear off more quickly than heroin which leads those who are addicted to both to consume more than a person using just cocaine or heroin. This increases the chances of heart attacks, respiratory failure, and overdose.
Benzodiazepines and Opioids
The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that in 2019 sixteen percent of overdoses involved opioids mixed with benzodiazepines. Both drugs are depressants that slow the heart and respiratory rates, which can cause an overdose. Benzodiazepines and some opioids are prescription medications and unfortunately, people prescribed both can be unaware of the risks.
Cocaine and Ecstasy
Cocaine and ecstasy are both stimulants that speed up the central nervous system. By taking both, they increase the intensity and length of the high. Taking both will also increase the intensity of the “crash” when coming down from the high, which can cause depression. Other risks include psychosis, seizures, and overdose.
The Dangers of Polydrug Abuse
Different drugs have different effects on the brain and body. Combining the use of drugs can send mixed signals throughout the body resulting in life-threatening side effects. The exact side effects will differ depending on which drugs are being combined. However, most polydrug addictions can lead to overdose and death. Some risks of polydrug abuse include but are not limited to:
- Brain damage
- Heart attack
- Organ failure
- Fatal overdose
Recovery from Polydrug Addiction
Recovering from a polydrug addiction is more difficult than recovering from a single drug addiction. There are different addiction treatment options available to suit each individual’s needs. If someone is experiencing withdrawal symptoms, they should seek emergency care immediately.
Medical detox is strongly recommended for anyone who has formed a dependence on one or more substances. They will be able to detox in a clean and safe environment while being monitored by medical professionals. There are medications available to help ease withdrawal symptoms from certain drugs.
Attending an inpatient or outpatient treatment program will allow clients to begin their journey into recovery in a comfortable and safe environment, away from access to any substance. They will have access to different therapies that can assist them in identifying underlying causes for their addiction and learn to develop coping mechanisms and other tools that will be vital in their recovery. After attending treatment there are many support groups available to help grow their network of sober supports and maintain their sobriety once they return to daily life. People can also attend individual therapy sessions.
How Moving Mountains Recovery Can Help
At Moving Mountains Recovery, we understand how difficult recovery from a polydrug addiction can be. Our program was designed with one goal in mind, to help people recover. We offer multiple different therapies to make sure we meet each individual client’s needs. Our staff is full of compassionate and motivated professionals who are equipped to answer any questions about polydrug abuse. Please reach out to us today!