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The Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse

polysubstance abuse

Substance abuse is a growing problem worldwide. Whether it’s alcohol, opioids, or other drugs, more and more people are struggling with addiction daily. In the United States alone, an estimated 20.6 million Americans aged 12 and up were classified as having a substance use disorder in 2019.

Unfortunately, the misuse of one drug can easily lead to a pattern of behavior known as polysubstance abuse. Compounding the effect of misusing a single substance, polysubstance abuse carries some unique dangers that can be even more detrimental than the already risky effects of using just one drug alone.

Drug use should never be taken lightly, but polysubstance abuse raises the stakes and may make recovery exponentially more difficult. That's why it's important to address this condition as early as possible. In this article, we will discuss what polysubstance abuse is and why it's so dangerous — plus, how you can get yourself or a loved one help for this kind of addiction.

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is often referred to as “multi-drug use” or “polydrug use.” It is defined as the concurrent misuse of two or more drugs at the same time. This could mean simultaneously taking multiple types of illicit drugs, combining drugs with other mind-altering substances, or even taking higher doses of multiple prescription drugs. Whatever the case, polysubstance abuse can have devastating consequences.

What Makes Polysubstance Abuse So Dangerous?

One of the primary risks of polysubstance abuse is an unintentional overdose, as using multiple substances at once increases the chances of an overdose dramatically. The effects of each individual drug will be multiplied by all other substances in the body, making it difficult to judge how much of each substance should be taken.

Potentially harmful drug interactions and excessive dosages often go hand-in-hand with polysubstance abuse and can lead to serious consequences, such as respiratory depression, heart attack, or stroke. Additionally, polysubstance abuse can also lead to long-term health complications and even death.

Long-Term Health Risks of Polysubstance Abuse

In addition to the risk of overdose, polysubstance abuse can also increase the likelihood of developing physical and mental health problems. Substance misuse in general can cause serious damage to the brain and body, but using multiple substances at once amplifies this risk even further. Long-term polysubstance abuse can lead to serious medical conditions such as liver damage, kidney disease, and heart problems.

Polysubstance abuse can also take its toll on your mental health, leading to an increased risk of conditions such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

What Substances Are Commonly Abused Together?

Cases of polysubstance abuse tend to include the same drugs that are popular for individual use, such as opioids (such as heroin), stimulants (such as speed), and hallucinogens (like LSD or mushrooms). Alcohol, in particular, is a cornerstone of most polysubstance abuse. Many people may develop a habit of casually imbibing alcohol before venturing into other drug use, making it seem like a safe, familiar, and manageable habit. So when they do branch out, they don't think twice about consuming alcoholic beverages at the same time as using other substances.

The most-abused combination of drugs is alcohol and opioids. Unfortunately, this deadly combination is becoming increasingly common due to the nationwide opioid epidemic, which has made opiate drugs easier to acquire. Even patients with legitimate opioid prescriptions can become addicted, then fall into polysubstance abuse by following their normal consumption of alcohol while misusing their pain pills.

However, the pairing of alcohol and opioids is far from the only pattern of polysubstance abuse. Other popular combinations include alcohol and cocaine, as well as alcohol and benzodiazepines (such as Xanax or Valium). Any combination of substance misuse can be dangerous, so it's important to take extra precautions when using any type of drug.

Finding Help for Polysubstance Abuse

If you or someone you know is struggling with polysubstance addiction, there are options available. The first step is to seek professional help from a qualified addiction specialist, such as a substance abuse counselor or therapist. They can provide personalized advice and treatment plans to help you overcome your polysubstance abuse problem.

In addition to counseling and therapy, there are also medication-assisted treatments (MATs) available which may be an appropriate form of care depending on the specifics of your condition. MATs use certain FDA-approved medications that are tailored to individual patient needs in order to reduce cravings, prevent withdrawal symptoms, and treat any underlying mental health conditions associated with polysubstance abuse.

Resources for Drug Rehabilitation

If you need help finding a qualified addiction treatment center, there are several resources available. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a comprehensive list of drug rehabilitation programs across the United States. You can also check out online reviews and ratings from previous patients to get a sense of which rehab centers may be right for you.

Get Answers with Countrywide Testing

If you suspect that someone close to you is using multiple drugs at once, it's important to get them help as soon as possible. Polysubstance abuse carries a high risk of severe health consequences, so time is of the essence.

If you think that certain drugs or medications may be part of their multi-substance habit, Countrywide Testing can provide the answers you need. We offer discreet, at-home drug testing kits that will help you confirm a loved one's substance use and help get them started on the road to recovery. Test for specific substances with specialized screening kits, or get a broad view of their polysubstance abuse with multi-panel drug tests.

Countrywide offers an array of drug testing products for workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, law enforcement purposes, and individuals trying to stay clean after rehab.

Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured your test results are handled in accordance with the highest industry standards.

Want more information on how Countrywide can support drug and medication safety? Just contact our team today.