It’s likely no surprise to anyone that people who struggle with substance use disorder sometimes or even often use and abuse more than one addictive substance at a time.

Many of the influences that lead to the development of a substance use disorder can result in a person using whatever substances are most easily available to him or her at any given time.

Addiction is often far less about a specific drug or alcohol in particular as it is about escape. For many people, the substance itself and its specific effects are not as important as using a substance of any kind to avoid pain and other intense feelings.

This behavior can soon result in multiple simultaneous addictions; exposure to and use of a number of substances at the same time can soon lead to dependencies on all of them.

When an individual seeks help in breaking free from these addictions, the addictions can be treated together, but depending on what they are, how long they have been using, and other factors, each substance may require separate, individualized, directed interventions as well.

If an individual uses numerous substances together or in succession, this is known as polysubstance abuse. Polysubstance abuse can be challenging to treat, but breaking free from addiction is never impossible, even if an individual is addicted to several different substances at once.

Read on to learn more about polysubstance abuse, its many dangers, and ways that it can be treated successfully.

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

The definition of polysubstance abuse is quite simple; it simply means that an individual is using and abusing more than one substance at a time. However, this can manifest itself in several different ways.

Some people are addicted or dependent on multiple substances at one time. Others may use whatever is most easily available to them at any given moment, even if they do have one “drug of choice” that they most prefer. Still others may use two types of drugs with opposite effects to counteract one another.

However, all of the above types of substance abuse come with risks. Many drugs become more dangerous when mixed with alcohol or with one another. Their physical and psychological effects can become amplified when combined. When using drugs with effects that counteract each other, one’s body may not be able to handle the rapid changes internal changes that they cause.

Furthermore, people who use and abuse multiple drugs at the same time tend to quickly gain tolerances for both or all of them. As a result, they are at a much higher risk of overdose than people who use only one drug and who are familiar with the effects of that one substance alone.

Common Combinations of Substances for Polysubstance Abusers

Although people who struggle with issues with polysubstance abuse may combine any two or more substance, some combinations of substances are more common – and dangerous – than others.

Cocaine and Alcohol

One very common combination of substances for polysubstance abusers is cocaine and alcohol. Both of these substances are socially acceptable in some circles and it’s not uncommon to find people using them together in a bar or party environment.

However, the fact that cocaine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant makes this combination extremely dangerous. The heart speeds up when someone uses cocaine, and slows down as that person drinks alcohol. This can cause the blood pressure and heart rate to fluctuate in a way that can cause cardiovascular issues. They may end up drinking more alcohol than safe, as well, due to the fact that the cocaine may mask the effects of the alcohol.

If an individual combines these substances on a regular basis, they may not only find that they become dependent on both substances, but that they also have done irreparable damage to their heart and brain as well. It’s crucial that anyone dependent on one or both of these substances seeks help right away.

Opioids and Benzodiazepines

Many people who use opioids also use benzodiazepines. The reason for this is simple; although they are very different drugs, their effects are somewhat similar. Some people begin by being addicted to one and turn to the other when they are unable to find their drug of choice easily.

Both of these drugs are depressants to the central nervous system. They both slow down one’s breathing and can quickly put the user into respiratory distress. When they are combined, the chances of this are especially high, but even when used independently, a user may overdose as they chase a specific feeling that cannot be achieved with one or the other.

Often, overdoses of opioids or benzodiazepines can be fatal. If someone is using one or both of these substances, they must break free of their addictions – before it’s too late.

Prescription Medication and Illegal Drugs

Whether someone intentionally abuses prescription medication or if he or she follows a doctor’s instructions, the combination of prescription drugs and illegal drugs can be very dangerous as well. Many people believe that it’s okay to take extra prescription medication as needed without consulting a doctor. This is not the case, and further, if an individual goes on to use illegal street drugs after taking an extra dose of his or her prescribed medication, they may end up putting their health at risk without even knowing it.

It’s difficult to know the contraindications of combining any illegal drug with any street drug because there are millions of combinations to consider. However, the bottom line is that it’s likely dangerous and unwise to combine any two substances when their combined effect is unknown. Side effects of drug combinations such as these can include respiratory distress, cardiovascular issues, problems with motor skills, sedation, hallucinations, poor judgment, or worse.

Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse

Clearly, addiction treatment for individuals struggling with polysubstance abuse issues can be complicated and challenging. However, it’s possible for anyone suffering from a substance use disorder to break free with the proper guidance and support.

Withdrawing from multiple drugs at once is painful and medically risky, so it’s crucial that people in this situation seek help and support when trying to break free. After detox, the real work begins. Through working with a therapist and addiction counselors, individuals can get to the root of the causes of their addiction and can learn how to avoid returning to their old habits.

Ibogaine therapy is a great way to accomplish discoveries about the causes of addiction. A supervised ibogaine experience will give an addicted individual the opportunity to go inside himself or herself to learn about the factors that contributed to their substance abuse. The results of an ibogaine experience are life-changing and have helped many people to begin walking on a clean and sober path for the rest of their lives.

Are you or is someone you love struggling with addiction? At Clear Sky Recovery, we want to help you or your loved one to take the first steps on your recovery journey.  Our ibogaine detox treatment is ancient yet innovative and has helped countless individuals make a new start.  Our staff is experienced and effective, our facility is beautiful and tropical, and we are standing by to answer your questions.  Please contact us today.

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7751289/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3550388/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/benzodiazepines-opioids

https://maps.org/research/ibogaine-therapy