Substance abuse is a concerning phenomenon in Kansas City, Missouri, like many other parts of the United States. Many people use drugs or alcohol to fit in amongst their peers, to unwind after a long day or week, or to cope with heavy and debilitating emotional stress. At times, individuals will use multiple substances at once. The act of abusing multiple substances is referred to as “polysubstance abuse.”
The prefix—a word or letter placed before another—poly comes from the Greek word polýs, which means many. Placed in front of the word “substance abuse,” it changes the meaning of “abusing drugs” to mean “abusing multiple drugs at once.” This is highly concerning, as using multiple drugs at once is dangerous and can produce damaging or even fatal interactions.
At Sana Lake Recovery Center, we want you to be empowered with knowledge of polysubstance abuse and its dangers so that you can protect your loved ones and yourself. Keep reading to learn more about polysubstance abuse and the different ways it can present itself.
What is Polysubstance Use?
Polysubstance use is the use of more than one substance at a time. Therefore, it makes sense that a polysubstance use disorder occurs when an individual uses multiple substances simultaneously or sequentially in a way that is harmful to themselves or others. This can include drugs, alcohol, and even certain prescription medications.
There are many reasons why people engage in polysubstance abuse. For some, it is completely unintentional. They may have been prescribed a medication that interacts badly with alcohol or another substance, or they may not be aware that the substances they are using are dangerous when used together.
In other cases, people turn to polysubstance abuse intentionally in an attempt to self-medicate or enhance the effects of a particular substance. Certain drugs will increase the effects of other drugs. For example, this is seen with alcohol and opiates. The combination of the two substances can result in a more intense high than either one would produce on its own.
Dangers Associated with Polysubstance Abuse
Polysubstance abuse is incredibly dangerous as it magnifies the potential risks and dangers of each drug being abused. For example, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant while cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant. When used together, they can cancel each other out, leading to erratic and potentially dangerous behavior.
Polysubstance abuse also increases the risk of overdose as it becomes more difficult to predict how the body will react to the combination of drugs. Further, polysubstance abuse can lead to impaired judgment, which can lead to risky behavior and accidents. Other serious results of polysubstance abuse include the following:
Severe Side Effects
All substances will have their own set of effects that the user will experience. When engaging in polysubstance abuse, a person will feel heightened effects. The side effects of polysubstance abuse can be so severe that they cause the following effects:
- Brain damage
- Organ damage
- Cognitive impairments
- Mental health problems
- Social problems
In some cases, polysubstance abuse can lead to the rapid development of physical dependence on the substances. A person who abuses multiple substances is also at a greater risk of developing an addiction to one or more of those substances.
Acute Health Issues
Polysubstance abuse often leads to severe health consequences. The most common polysubstance overdoses involve opioids and stimulants. This combination can lead to serious health problems, including:
- Cardiac arrest
- High blood pressure
- Mental health problems
Mental Health Complications
Polysubstance abuse also puts a person at risk of developing mental health problems. Some of the most common mental health problems associated with polysubstance abuse include:
In people who already struggle with mental health issues, polysubstance abuse can make symptoms worse. Polysubstance abuse can also trigger the onset of mental health problems in otherwise healthy people. Polysubstance abuse is also linked to an increased risk of suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with polysubstance abuse, it is important to get polysubstance abuse treatment with a reputable treatment center.
Polysubstance Abuse and Overdose
An overdose occurs when a person takes too much of a drug or combination of drugs and their body can’t process it. This can lead to serious health problems, including organ failure, coma, and death. Though some substances are easier to overdose on, with any substance, overdose is possible. In regards to polysubstance abuse, the risk of overdose may be greater.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), polysubstance abuse may increase the risk of overdose because:
- The user may not know the strength or purity of the substances they’re taking.
- The user may not know how their body will react to the combination of substances.
- The user may have built up a tolerance to one substance, but not the other, making them more sensitive to the effects of the second substance.
Polysubstance abuse may also lead to overdose because users are unaware of the dangers associated with taking multiple substances at once. Overdose is a serious medical emergency that can lead to coma and death. If you or someone you know is struggling with polysubstance abuse, please seek help from a healthcare professional or addiction treatment center like Sana Lake Recovery Center.
Polysubstance Abuse and Overdose in Missouri
In the state of Missouri, state officials say the leading cause of death among Missouri adults ages 18-44 is by drug overdose, with more than 70% of the deaths involving opioids such as heroin and fentanyl. Now, Missouri has launched another public dashboard to track the increasing number of drug overdose deaths.
Overall, Missouri suffers one of America’s worst drug problems, but one of its private universities developed technology to flag illicit opioid transactions. The software is being used by the federal government and has the potential to help curb the state’s drug problem.
Common Substance Combinations
In most cases, people combine alcohol with other drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or prescription pills. The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that polysubstance abuse is more dangerous than using just one substance because the effects of each drug can amplify the others. Some of the most common combinations include the following:
This common combination is highly concerning. When a person drinks alcohol and takes cocaine, the cocaine in the body is increased. This happens when the liver breaks down the alcohol first, which then allows more cocaine to stay in the bloodstream and reach the brain.
The effects of this combination can be very dangerous and even deadly. Some of the dangers associated with alcohol and cocaine include:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Increased body temperature
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart attack
Another common polysubstance combination is opioids and cocaine, which is also highly dangerous. Cocaine increases the risk of overdose when taken with opioids because it speeds up the respiratory system. This can cause a person to stop breathing, leading to brain damage and death.
Benzodiazepines are a type of tranquilizer that is often prescribed for anxiety or sleep disorders. However, they are also commonly abused. When taken with opioids, the risk of overdose is increased because both substances can slow down the respiratory system.
While polysubstance abuse can refer to the abuse of any combination of drugs, some combinations are more common than others. Prescription drugs are often abused with other substances, such as illicit drugs.
This is because people may mistakenly believe that prescription drugs are safe to use in large quantities or combined with other substances. However, this is not the case. Prescription drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit drugs, and polysubstance abuse involving prescription drugs is a growing problem in the United States.
Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse
Polysubstance abuse is a serious problem that can have dangerous consequences. If you or someone you know is struggling with polysubstance abuse, there is help available. Treatment for polysubstance abuse often includes counseling and therapy, as well as medication.
Treatment for polysubstance abuse will often start with medical detox. During medical detox, the person struggling with polysubstance abuse will be closely monitored by a team of medical professionals. This is to ensure that the person is safe and comfortable during withdrawal.
Withdrawal from polysubstance abuse can be difficult and uncomfortable. For this reason, it is important to have professional medical help during detox.
Inpatient Addiction Treatment
Polysubstance abuse treatment requires intensive treatment and care. For this reason, inpatient addiction treatment is often the best option for those struggling with polysubstance abuse.
Inpatient addiction treatment provides around-the-clock care and supervision. This can help prevent relapse and keep the person safe during early recovery.
Inpatient treatment also offers a variety of therapies and other services that can help the person recover from polysubstance abuse. These services can include:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Holistic therapies
After completing inpatient treatment, it is important to continue with some form of care. This could include outpatient treatment, a partial hospitalization program, or an intensive outpatient addiction treatment program.
Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse at Sana Lake Recovery
Sana Lake Recovery Center specializes in treating polysubstance abuse and other co-occurring disorders. We offer a variety of treatment options to meet the needs of each individual. When you receive treatment at Sana Lake, we will create a custom treatment plan that is specifically tailored to your unique situation. To learn what we can do for you, please contact us today.