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What Is Polysubstance Abuse? 

What is Polysubstance Abuse?

Many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are using several substances, either at the same time or one after the other. 

While some addicts have a drug or substance of choice, other individuals opt for using a dangerous cocktail of many drugs or substances. Why they do this depends on the unique experiences of each individual, but the threat remains regardless. Banyan Stuart explores the very real dangers of polysubstance abuse, the risks of mixing specific substances, and the addiction treatment offered to combat this unhealthy phenomenon. 

The Definition of Polysubstance Abuse  

As the name would suggest, it is a type of abuse in which the individual ingests several substances, often simultaneously or back-to-back. They may drink, use prescription medications, or take illegal drugs. A polysubstance addict is addicted to the feeling of being high, and they don't care where that high comes from. They don’t care about the type of high as long as they get high. This is different from other addictions, like heroin addiction or alcoholism, where users are addicted to specific substances. Polysubstance addicts can be addicted to a variety of drugs.  

It is, in fact, possible for people to do this unintentionally. This occurs when someone takes drugs that have been laced or cut with other substances without their knowledge. An example of how deadly this practice is can be illustrated in the ever-growing fentanyl-related deaths across the country today. As dealers mix fentanyl with drugs like heroin, likely with the intention of heightening the buyer's addiction and dependence, it greatly increases the likelihood of an accidental overdose.   

Signs and Symptoms of Polysubstance Abuse 

The symptoms of polysubstance abuse are similar to other symptoms of drug abuse or alcoholism. Common signs of polysubstance abuse and addiction include: 

  • Finding drug paraphernalia like pipes, spoons, or needles 
  • Behavioral changes 
  • Sudden weight changes such as weight gain or loss 
  • Intoxicated appearance, including sleepiness or increased energy 
  • Personality changes 
  • Increased aggression 
  • Stealing, lying, or getting in legal trouble, typically revolving around obtaining more drugs 

For those in the midst of such an addiction, our Stuart, FL, rehab is equipped with an excellent array of detox programs. These treatments are designed to aid our patients in safely proceeding through the withdrawal process. For someone coming down from a cocktail of substances, these already risky withdrawals become ever more dangerous. This is especially the case if the person doesn’t remember what they have recently ingested, a common theme with this kind of abuse.  

Contributing Factors  

There are a number of reasons why a person ends up with this form of addiction. Polysubstance abuse often begins genetically, with a family member that could be struggling with their own chemical dependency. This can have a drastic effect on the people around that person, especially if it is someone younger than them.  

Social factors should also be taken into account. For instance, teenagers and young adults could be given multiple substances at parties or among friends. If they enjoy those often intense experiences, it is likely to influence their internalized desire to recreate them. As many users know, it will likely take more of the same substances each time of use to produce the same effect. 

Finally, mental health disorders can play quite a large role. If someone is suffering from severe depression or anxiety on a daily basis, then self-medicating could become a habit. Many will enjoy the feeling of being “healthy” or really having any kind of relief from what they struggle with on a daily basis. They basically continue to rely on any kind of substance in order to prolong that feeling. Many of these individuals, however, may not immediately understand the risks involved and end up farther down the addiction rabbit hole than they ever intended. 

The Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse   

Addiction has many risks involved, and drug overdose can be especially likely for people abusing multiple substances. Many drugs have dangerous and even deadly interactions, which can mean that mixing the substances puts the user at an increased risk of ingesting one of these lethal drug combinations without even realizing the very present risks.  

Mixing drugs and the reactions it will lead to is pretty unpredictable, but there are some indicators to keep in mind: 

Stimulants: Examples of “uppers” range from cocaine to amphetamines to ecstasy (MDMA). They can heighten a user's blood pressure and speed up their heart rate. Combining them increases the user’s risk of liver damage, heart attack, stroke, and other brain injuries. 

Depressants: Also known as “downers,” examples of depressants include benzodiazepines (benzos) and opioids. They slow down breathing, and a combination of these drugs can result in brain damage, overdose, and death.  

Mixing stimulants and depressants: Contrary to what some may believe, mixing these two drug classes will not cancel one another out. Rather, the results are even more unpredictable. The effects may feel masked or otherwise modified, which can trick people into thinking the drugs aren’t working and can easily result in an overdose. 

Drinking and taking drugs: It is dangerous to combine alcohol and other drugs because it increases the risk of brain damage, injury to organs, and overdose. Alcohol itself is a downer, and drinking it while on other drugs adds to the unpredictability of the situation. 

Even mixing prescription medications presents the possibility of adverse reactions. This is why doctors often gauge the currently prescribed drugs you are taking. They are worth considering, and your physician should be able to rule out potentially dangerous combinations because of this. 

Additionally, you should never take pills that aren’t prescribed to you or that did not come from a reputable source, such as a pharmacy or doctor’s office. These habits are just as dangerous, if not even more so, than drug and alcohol addiction. 

If you are abusing multiple substances or if you have a loved one who is struggling with polysubstance use, the safest road is sobriety. At Banyan Detox Stuart, we offer drug and alcohol addiction detox and treatment for those who are ready to get and stay sober. We offer detox for drug users, alcoholics, and polysubstance abusers who are ready to work toward their recovery. 

Call 888-280-4763 to learn more about our treatment programs and detox services at our Stuart, Florida, drug rehab. 


Related Readings: 

Polydrug Use in the United States 

The Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
What Is Polysubstance Abuse? 
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