What is Polysubstance Abuse? How Do I Know If I Have a Problem?

by | Jan 7, 2020 | Addiction | 0 comments

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Using illicit substances is a dangerous game to play. Substance abuse is no joke, and it impacts a vast amount of individuals throughout the world. What’s even worse and more frightening is that some of those who abuse illicit drugs or alcohol are abusing multiple illicit drugs.

What is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is a term used to describe when someone uses two or more drugs at the same time; it is not exclusive to illicit drugs either. In fact, any combination of drugs (illicit or not) and alcohol is considered polysubstance abuse. For example, some people take prescription medication provided by their doctor and then end up abusing alcohol while they’re on the drugs prescribed by their doctor. 

There are a vast array of substances that can be used simultaneously and fall under the category of polysubstance abuse. Because of the fact that polysubstance abuse is not limited to illegal drugs, it is even easier to fall into this dangerous habit. Some of the drugs used could even be ones that treat common illnesses such as depression or anxiety. 

How Dangerous is Polysubstance Abuse?

Depending on the individual and the substances being used, the impact of polysubstance abuse will vary from person to person. This is due to the varying substances that can be used in a seemingly endless amount of combinations with one another. Some more general combinations include the following:

  • Benzos and alcohol
  • Heroin and cocaine
  • Depressants and stimulants
  • Steroids and cocaine
  • Benzos and opioids  
  • Alcohol and Xanax

Benzos and Alcohol

When it comes to using Benzos and alcohol at the same time, things can get pretty dangerous. The two of them are depressants, and as such, induce a tremendous amount of stress on the respiratory system. This can cause major damage or failure in the respiratory area. The two substances, when used together, have been known to be fatal.

The primary function of Benzos is to stimulate the brain to feel a sense of euphoria. Pleasant feelings like these are the reason that Benzos are sought out. They have a lot to do with increasing the amount of dopamine that triggers the pleasure centers of the brain, leading to a particularly strong high.

That being said, Benzos are very much addictive substances. The most frightening part concerning substances like these is the susceptibility of becoming more tolerable to the effects of a particular drug. Tolerance leads to addiction due in large part to the fact that when a drug is being used, the pleasure center of the brain is compromised. Because of this, the person abusing the drugs is more likely to have a difficult time achieving a high; there is no high that will ever be as strong as the first. When this happens, dependency ensues, and a user becomes an abuser.

When abused, Benzos compromise one’s judgment and compromise one’s motor skills. As a result, similarly to alcohol, speech is slurred, and reactivity suffers significantly. Not only this, but mood changes, drowsiness, delusions, memory loss, and confusion also become more present in the abuse of Benzos. 

Alcohol and Xanax

Using Xanax and alcohol at the same time, will intensify the following:

  • Sedation
  • Decreased motor function
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety reduction

When done together, Xanax and alcohol give users a feeling of mild euphoria while simultaneously acting as a sedative, and since the two separate substances are being used together, the resulting “high”, of sorts, intensifies. This happens because Xanax helps increase the amount of dopamine in the central nervous system.

When it comes to alcohol in itself, the effects will differ not only from person to person but also volume. These effects could range from invigoration at a low dosage, all the way to sedation at a high dosage. Similar to any other kind of substance, alcohol, if abused, can compromise the brain’s pleasure center, greatly impacting the way it receives and responds to circumstances that trigger that region of the brain.

It is significant to note that the effects of Xanax and alcohol together will vary greatly depending on the ratio of alcohol to Xanax or Xanax to alcohol. For example, those who use more alcohol than Xanax at the time where they are using both simultaneously will be more likely to pass out. 

Heroin and Cocaine

There is no denying that both Heroin and Cocaine can do a world of damage and impact someone’s well being in a negative way. They both have the power to destroy people’s lives, ambitions, and relationships; together, they’re even worse. The two being used together is often referred to as ‘Speedballing,’ and some studies show that it’s become more common than ever before.

Cocaine is a stimulant, hence the term ‘Speed.’ It blocks the dopamine receptors; therefore, the reward center stays stimulated for a longer amount of time. This is what enhances the high, and that, combined with the use of Heroin, makes this form of polysubstance abuse even more dangerous. 

Depressants and Stimulants

When someone is using a stimulant, they may start to abuse depressants because they realize that the more of the stimulant they use, the more of the depressant they can use because the stimulants will water down the impact of the depressant. The body then has to fight off many toxins at once, which has the potential to result in alcohol poisoning or a heart attack.

How Do I Know If I’m Addicted?

Some symptoms of addiction include the following:

  • Lack of self-care
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Restlessness 
  • Secrecy

Addiction is a tough path to wander, and more times than not it is hazardous to the well-being of many individuals. If you or a loved one have displayed any of the above symptoms, substance abuse may be a reality. If this is the case, it is imperative that you seek help immediately.

Polysubstance Abuse Treatment Options

Polysubstance abuse treatment is more complicated than regular inpatient or outpatient treatment. Just as each patient is different and requires unique treatment, different types of addictions require different treatment as well. This is due to different chemical dependencies that the brain develops in the midst of substance abuse. 

Treating polysubstance abuse is very difficult because often, due to the nature of the beast, there is no definitive approach to recovery due to the vast amount of combinations. Sometimes one addiction needs to be cared for before the other, and other times this needs to be done separately. This makes it very sensitive to treat and should be done so with the utmost attention and care. 

Polysubstance and Dual Diagnosis

Treating polysubstance and mental illness can be a triple threat, which makes recovery that much more difficult. Dealing with mental illness and being addicted to multiple substances means that one has even more recovery to undergo. Naturally, rehab becomes much more challenging the more that illnesses or addictions to certain drugs pile on top of each other. 

Developing a treatment plan for individuals that suffer from both polysubstance abuse and mental illness requires careful attention to detail; treatment centers need to be able to recognize which came first and whether or not one is influencing the other. Sometimes treating a chemical addiction can worsen a patient’s coping mechanisms for their mental illnesses.

Amethyst Wants to Help You

Life journeys involving substance abuse are immensely confusing and can be even more confusing when polysubstance abuse is thrown into the mix. That is precisely why Amethyst’s goal is to do as much as we can within the context of each individual’s state of being. If you or a loved one are suffering from polysubstance abuse, you can contact us here or call us at (855) 500-3609.

 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746553/

https://ce4less.com/Tests/Materials/E145Materials.pdf

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/seeking-drug-abuse-treatment/2-does-program-tailor-treatment-to-needs-each-patient

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/over-counter-medicines

http://www.acbhcs.org/providers/qa/docs/training/DSM-IV_DSM-5_SUD_DX.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24852056

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