According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses claim about 250 lives every day in the United States. Nearly half of these deaths, the CDC reports, involve polysubstance abuse. Understanding the risks of polysubstance abuse can help you protect yourself and those you care about.
What is Polysubstance Abuse?
Here’s a simple polysubstance abuse definition: This behavior involves the intentional misuse of multiple mind-altering substances. Polysubstance abuse can include using two or more drugs at the same time, or in close proximity.
Some people may abuse a second substance in order to enhance the effects of the first drug they took, while others may use one drug to counteract the impact of another. A third possible reason for polysubstance abuse is the belief that combining certain drugs in certain ways can produce an effect that neither drug, on its own, could cause.
Abusing any two drugs qualifies as polysubstance abuse, but some substances are abused together more frequently than others are. Since alcohol is such an easily accessible, socially acceptable substance, it is perhaps not surprising that this drug is involved in many cases of polysubstance abuse. Here are four examples of polysubstance abuse:
- Drinking a beer and smoking marijuana
- Having a mixed drink while taking a prescription painkiller
- Abusing stimulants so you can stay up all night, then using a sedative to get to sleep
- Injecting (or snorting) a combination of heroin and cocaine, which is referred to as a “speedball”
Of these four examples, some people may mistakenly believe that the first one (alcohol and marijuana) is relatively harmless. This is not true. Any type of polysubstance abuse can put a person at risk for considerable harm, including addiction, overdose, and death.
Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse
Any form of substance abuse can be dangerous. When a person combines substances, the likelihood that they will experience negative effects is magnified.
Of course, the nature and severity of the damage a person incurs as a result of polysubstance abuse can vary depending on several factors. The types of drugs the person has been using, how long they have been using these drugs, and how much they have been taking are important factors. Other influences can include the person’s age and gender as well as if they have any mental health concerns.
With these qualifiers in mind, here are a few examples of the many dangers of polysubstance abuse:
- Physical injuries due to slips, falls, automobile accidents, and other impaired behaviors
- Medical problems due to poor self-care
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Nausea and vomiting
- Racing heart rate
- Chest pain
- Heart attack
- Damage to the liver and kidneys
- Cognitive impairments
- Confusion and disorientation
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Agitation, anxiety, and paranoia
- Destroyed relationships with family and friends
- Poor performance at work, job loss, and long-term unemployment
- Financial difficulties
- Being arrested, fined, jailed, or incarcerated
- Social withdrawal and isolation
Clearly, the dangers of polysubstance abuse are substantial. But they can be avoided. When you seek professional treatment from a reputable provider, you can end this dangerous behavior and start living a healthier and more hopeful life. You don’t have to wait until you have “hit bottom” to get the help you need. The moment you enter treatment, you minimize your risk for future harm, and you can begin to heal from any damage that you have already incurred from your past polysubstance abuse.
How is Polysubstance Abuse Treated?
The specific elements of a person’s polysubstance abuse treatment plan will depend on many factors, including which substances they have been abusing, how long they have been abusing these substances, and if their substance abuse problems are accompanied by any co-occurring mental health concerns.
In general, though, treatment for polysubstance abuse may involve elements such as the following:
- Detoxification: Detox can be an essential first step for many people who have been engaging in polysubstance abuse. Detox professionals can provide both medical and therapeutic support, so that people can get through withdrawal safely and with minimal discomfort.
- Medication: During and after a person’s time in detox, certain prescription medications may help them manage cravings and remain in recovery. For example, if a person’s polysubstance abuse has involved opioids, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can be extremely helpful.
- Therapy: Therapy sessions are supportive forums where people can learn about the disease of addiction, develop effective relapse-prevention skills, and share support with others who are working toward similar goals. Individual, group, and family therapy can all be beneficial for someone who has been struggling with polysubstance abuse.
Also, many people who abuse and become addicted to multiple substances have a history of untreated trauma. In such cases, it is vital for the patient or client to receive appropriate services to address their history of trauma. Attempting to treat polysubstance abuse without acknowledging the impact of untreated trauma is unlikely to prepare a person for successful, long-term recovery.
Begin Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse at Los Angeles Detox
If you are ready to begin treatment for polysubstance abuse, the LA Detox team is here for you. Our center in Los Angeles, California, offers personalized treatment and comprehensive support for adults whose lives have been disrupted by multiple forms of substance abuse and addiction. When you get the care you need, you can start living the healthier life you deserve. Contact us today to learn how we can help.