The Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse and Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction can cause severe harm to every aspect of a person’s life. Most people living with a substance use disorder require comprehensive treatment and continuing support to maintain their sobriety for life.

People who abuse multiple substances–often called polysubstance abuse– have higher risks for serious, sometimes life-threatening complications. Polysubstance abuse can be more difficult to treat, and even finding the right treatment can be more challenging.

While treating polysubstance abuse may be a more complex process, people who get the help and support they need can recover and learn to embrace a healthy, sober lifestyle. Understanding your treatment options and how to find the help you need can help you make the best choices about your care.

This article will detail the dangers of polysubstance abuse, how to recognize it, and where to find high-quality treatment. Reach out to the team at Arise Treatment Center now to learn about our comprehensive treatment programs or to schedule an intake appointment.

Understanding Polysubstance Abuse

Mixing intoxicating and addictive substances can lead to significant short and long-term complications. Understanding the dangers of polysubstance abuse can help people prevent severe harm to their mental and physical health.

People may combine substances for different reasons. There is a difference between accidentally combining drugs and polysubstance abuse. Accidentally mixing substances can occur if people ingest two substances–for example, prescription medications and alcohol–without realizing the potential danger of combining them.

Polysubstance abuse is different in that it is intentional. People who engage in polysubstance abuse typically take one substance and then use others to enhance or counteract its effects.

Here are some common substance combinations and their effects.

Cocaine and opioids

People who use cocaine may take opioids to minimize cocaine’s powerful stimulant effects. Cocaine users may rely on opioids to “come down” or sleep after a period of heavy use. Because these drugs have opposing effects, users may take higher doses of both drugs, putting them at increased risk for an overdose.

Cocaine and alcohol

Many people consider cocaine to be a party drug, and people often use it in situations where alcohol is also available. Combining cocaine and alcohol can be very dangerous. When people drink while using cocaine, the concentration of cocaine in the body can increase by as much as 30%. The stimulant effects of cocaine counteract alcohol’s sedative effects, and people may drink more than they planned to, which increases their risk for alcohol poisoning. The combination of alcohol and cocaine also produces a toxic byproduct called cocaethylene, which raises the risk of overdose.

Opioids and benzodiazepines

Opioid abuse is a significant problem in the United States, with millions of people abusing both prescription and illicit opioids like heroin and oxycodone. Benzodiazepine drugs like Valium and Xanax are also popular drugs of abuse because of their sedative, calming effects. Mixing opioids and benzodiazepines is dangerous because both substances slow activity in the central nervous system (CNS). When people use both, it can lead to dangerously depressed breathing, coma, and death.

Illicit and prescription drugs

Many prescription drugs’ effects are very similar to the effects of illicit drugs. When people combine illicit and prescription drugs with the same effects, they are at increased risk for severe, sometimes life-threatening complications, including a lethal overdose.

Polysubstance abuse can be dangerous and can lead to serious complications like overdose and addiction. It’s crucial to understand the dangers of polysubstance abuse and seek treatment as quickly as possible.

The Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance abuse can alter how your body responds to and metabolizes drugs and alcohol. Changes in how your body processes these substances can cause increased concentrations of drugs and alcohol in the bloodstream, which increases the risk of a life-threatening overdose.

Some of the other significant dangers of polysubstance abuse include:

  • Increased risk of Hepatitis C: People who combine alcohol and injectable drugs like heroin face a significantly higher risk for Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a severe medical problem that causes life-threatening liver damage.
  • Myocardial infarction: Polysubstance abuse can cause long-term, sometimes deadly damage to your cardiovascular system. People who use cocaine and also smoke cigarettes have a higher risk for heart attacks than those who do not.
  • Mental illness: Combining drugs can worsen the symptoms of an existing mental illness or cause new symptoms, including anxiety and depression. People with untreated mental health conditions may also be more likely to use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, which can result in a cycle of mental illness and substance abuse.

If you or someone in your life struggles with polysubstance abuse, don’t wait to get help. The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you can regain control over your health and future.

Find Polysubstance Abuse Treatment

People who live with polysubstance abuse require comprehensive treatment that will address the underlying physical, psychological, and behavioral aspects of their substance use. At the Arise Treatment Center, we understand the complexity of polysubstance abuse and offer holistic, high-quality treatment programs to help people overcome it.

Reach out to our team now to learn more about our polysubstance abuse treatment programs or to find support during any stage of your recovery from addiction.


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