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Polysubstance Abuse

Man thinking about his polysubstance abuse

Polysubstance abuse, or abusing multiple drugs simultaneously, is a common behavior that can be addressed by an addiction treatment program. Combining recreational drugs can put people at increased risk of several harmful side effects, including addiction, overdose, and negative health symptoms.

The best way to stop polysubstance misuse is to reach out to professionals who have the necessary tools to stop addiction in its tracks. Reach out to Vertava Health Ohio by calling 850.374.5331 to learn more about our extensive treatment options.

What Is Polysubstance Abuse Disorder?

In the current edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there is no formal diagnosis of polysubstance abuse disorder.

Polysubstance abuse disorder was a formal diagnosis in the fourth edition but was removed from the fifth edition. The DSM 5 directs clinicians to diagnose people who abuse multiple substances with several drug-specific disorders.

Polysubstance abuse refers to people who struggle to control their use of multiple drugs. They may take several drugs in combination, either all at once or at different times. Some common combinations of substances include:

  • Alcohol and benzodiazepines
  • Cocaine and heroin
  • Heroin and methamphetamines
  • Ecstasy and hallucinogens
  • Marijuana and alcohol

Anybody who meets the criteria for multiple substance use disorders is likely engaging in polysubstance use and could benefit from addiction treatment.

How Common Is Polysubstance Misuse?

Polysubstance misuse is frighteningly common. More than half of the people admitted to substance use treatment use more than one drug, and many use several different drugs simultaneously.

Why Do People Abuse Multiple Substances?

There is a multitude of reasons people struggling with substance use disorders use more than one substance. People will often combine different substances to enhance their effects, reduce the negative symptoms of one drug by taking another, or help cope with the effects of drug withdrawal.

But while these strategies may work in the short term, polysubstance misuse leads to a much greater risk of addiction, worsening health effects, and an increased likelihood of drug overdose.

Dangers of Polysubstance Misuse

The dangers of polysubstance use are much higher than they are for those using a single drug alone. Combining certain drugs can be lethal, and few people have a clear understanding of how different psychoactive drugs interact with each other.

Combining alcohol and cocaine, for instance, creates a new chemical compound within the body known as cocaethylene. Cocaethylene is an incredibly toxic chemical that carries a much higher risk of overdose than cocaine or alcohol alone.

Some studies have estimated that cocaethylene increases the risk of sudden death by overdose by a factor of 18-25, as compared to cocaine alone.

Combining central nervous system depressants is similarly dangerous. People who combine drugs such as opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, and barbiturates are at extremely high risk for life-threatening respiratory depression. Combining these drugs multiplies their negative health effects, leading to severe consequences.

Worse still, there are countless recreational drugs with unknown interactions. The possibilities of the harmful effects of combining drugs are nearly endless.

Get Help for Polysubstance Abuse at Vertava Health Ohio

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, it may be difficult to stop without help. Reaching out to the professionals at Vertava Health Ohio by calling 850.374.5331 can get you in touch with addiction experts who are committed to helping you achieve recovery.

Our comprehensive drug and alcohol treatment programs are designed to help people who engage in polysubstance misuse reach sobriety and build healthy, long-lasting lives in recovery. Don’t delay seeking treatment any longer. You can recover from substance use disorders, and Vertava Health Ohio can help you build a better life.