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What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

You may have heard of the term “polysubstance abuse,” but unsure of exactly what it means. The answer to what polysubstance abuse is simple: it is the abuse of more than one substance at one time. 

Using more than one substance intensifies the effects of the drugs or alcohol which you are using. Polysubstance abuse can also occur as an attempt to combat side effects from another substance. For example, you might take ecstasy and cocaine together to intensify the effects of both drugs. You also might use alcohol with cocaine to reduce the anxiety and paranoia felt by cocaine. 

The combination of two or more substances together is significantly more dangerous than the use of just one. It is important to take a closer look into why these combinations are so dangerous and what you can do to get help if you are currently struggling with polysubstance abuse. 

Prescription drugs next to alcohol.

Common Substances Used Together 

While there are many dangerous combinations of substances, some of the most common mixtures of substances include: 

  • Cocaine and heroin: Also known as a “speedball,” this combination involves the use of cocaine and heroin at the same time, often in the same syringe. This is an incredibly dangerous mixture of drugs that kills a significant number of people every year. 
  • Alcohol and Xanax: This combination involves two “downers,” alcohol and Xanax. The drugs are typically used to increase the effects of one another but can cause a fatal overdose. Alcohol is frequently a factor in polysubstance abuse due to its easy availability. 
  • Cocaine and ecstasy: These two drugs are stimulants and are typically taken together to create a stronger high. The result for those who mix cocaine and ecstasy can lead to a fatal heart attack as the heart struggles to keep up. The combination of these two drugs is also neurotoxic, and even if a fatal heart attack does not occur, it can cause damage to the cardiovascular system. 

Risk of Overdose 

The risk of overdose is far higher for those struggling with polysubstance abuse. Combining different stimulants can cause high blood pressure, palpitations, or heart attacks.  

Further, using “uppers” and “downers” together could result in unpredictable effects, as substances wear off at different times.  

Combining two downers is equally as dangerous. As the heart rate slows down, motor skills become dulled, and death can occur. Taking two downers can cause asphyxiation. 

Mental Health Problems 

Many people may use multiple substances to self-medicate to aid their mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, over time using drugs for mental health problems can cause these problems to worsen.  

If you use substances to self-medicate or cope with complicated feelings, you also risk developing a dependency and tolerance to certain substances. Therefore, you might have to increase the amount you take to feel the same effects. 

If you become addicted to drugs and have mental health problems that need to be addressed, this is referred to as a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders can complicate treatment as it is crucial that you get help for both your addiction and mental health disorder for treatment to be successful.  

To find the proper treatment for co-occurring disorders, it is best to seek out the help of a medical professional. A mental health professional can provide you with an accurate diagnosis. It is also imperative that you are honest about your current and past health history during the screening process before treatment.  

Health Issues: What Can Go Wrong? 

When you use substances, you place your body under a great deal of stress. Taking more than one substance simultaneously will further complicate matters and put even more strain on organs, including the brain, liver, and kidneys. Due to this strain, you could create or perpetuate any underlying health problems. 

Cognitive Impairment 

If you use more than one substance frequently, you could develop cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment can result in reduced learning ability and cause problems with memory, reasoning, and decision making.   

Fortunately, over time you can regain much of your cognitive functioning back. For cognition to make a solid recovery, it is essential that you remain abstinent and live a healthy lifestyle. Connection with others, good nutrition, and exercise can all help the healing process. 

Polysubstance abuse.

Seeking Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse 

If you use more than one substance at once, treatment can pose a challenge because it requires a thorough screening process and diagnosis. The first step in treating polysubstance abuse is detox. The process of detox can involve severe withdrawal symptoms, which will make the treatment experience uncomfortable.  

It is crucial that the treatment center you attend has a history of treating people with problems involving multiple substances. Attend a facility that has 24/7 medical surveillance is essential as well; therefore, you can be assured that you will have care at any point during the detox stage. connects you with healthcare professionals that will help you if you’re struggling with addictions to one or more substances. We strive to deliver quality and convenience at an affordable cost. Our goal is to help those struggling to realize their opportunities and help themselves. 

If you or your loved one is trying to cease an addiction to more than one substance, let us help you find the best options for detox treatment. Get help today by visiting our Detox Directory website.

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