I’m Addicted to Multiple Substances, What Do I Do?

in Addiction
Published Nov 6, 2020
Psychiatric Drug Addiction

Addiction to multiple substances is also known as polysubstance abuse. Many people engage with multiple substances intentionally and polysubstance abuse usually occurs so an individual can feel more significant effects from several drugs. Some may have a preferred drug and use other substances to enhance the results. For example, someone may regularly use opioid drugs and engage with benzodiazepines to heighten sedation or relaxation feelings. Polysubstance abuse enhances the potential adverse effects of each drug. When mixing drugs, it can become impossible to predict the severity of negative consequences that can result.


What is polysubstance abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is defined as using two or three drugs at once. Typically, alcohol is the most common substance involved in polysubstance use. Other drugs used may include opiates, inhalants, marijuana, amphetamines, hallucinogens, benzodiazepines.


There are specific criteria used to diagnose polysubstance abuse. An individual must exhibit three or more of the following symptoms to meet diagnostic criteria:

  • Using more drugs than intended
  • Inability to stop or reduce the amount used
  • Development of tolerance
  • Experiencing withdrawal when drugs are stopped
  • Disengagement with interests
  • Spending an excessive amount of time seeking and using drugs


The Dangers of Using Multiple Substances

All substances have the potential to create harmful side effects. When multiple drugs are used together, the potential severity of these side effects is increased. Combining substances causes addictive effects that are more severe than the different effects of an individual substance. Side effects of polysubstance abuse may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Balance issues
  • Change in heart rate
  • Body pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory problems


Polysubstance abuse may also cause acute health problems. Drug interactions may reduce metabolism, which will increase blood concentrations of substances. Numerous diseases can result in a mixture of drugs.


The risk of overdose is heightened in polysubstance abuse. Specific drugs can mask the effects of other drugs, which causes a higher dose to be taken. Taking a large amount of a substance can lead to overdose, leading to long-term health effects and possibly death.


Common Substance Combinations

There are several combinations of drugs that are typically seen in those suffering from polysubstance abuse, including:

  • Cocaine and alcohol: Both alcohol and cocaine increase impulsive and risky behavior, decrease the ability to make judgments, and reduce cognitive function. When cocaine and alcohol are used together, the amount of cocaine in the system increases by 30%. This causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Opioids and benzodiazepines: Combining opioids and benzodiazepines may lead to respiratory depression that can lead to overdose and death. There is a 55% increase in overdose risk when combining these two drugs compared to using benzodiazepines by themselves.
  • Prescription drugs and alcohol: The combination of prescription drugs and alcohol can result in blackouts, respiratory depression, alcohol poisoning, and death.


Overdose Rates When Using Multiple Substances

In 2010, it was estimated that of the 438,718 emergency room visits in the United States involving opioids, 18.5% involved alcohol. Of the 408,021 emergency room visits, 27.2% of benzodiazepine overdoses involved alcohol. Opioid-related overdoses involving alcohol were highest among persons aged 30-44 years (20.6%) and 45-54 years (20%). Benzodiazepine-related overdoses involving alcohol were highest among persons aged 45-54 years (31.1%). Both opioid and benzodiazepine overdoses involving alcohol had higher rates among men than women.


Of the 3,833 opioid-related deaths, 22.1% involved alcohol. 26.1% of the 1.512 benzodiazepine deaths involved alcohol. Opioid-related deaths involving alcohol were most common in those aged 40-49 years (25.2%) and 50-59 years (25.1%). Benzodiazepine deaths were highest among those aged 60 and older (27.7%).


Detoxing From Multiple Substances

The detox process for polysubstance abuse is more complicated than the process of detoxing from one drug. Medical professionals should always monitor withdrawal from multiple substances. Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on what substances were used. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we offer treatment for polysubstance abuse.


The process of withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and frightening. Many medical detox centers use outdated practices and oral medications within the confines of a psychiatric facility. This method of detox may leave individuals feeling dehumanized while they stay in a cold, sterile environment. Gallus Medical Detox provides the comfort of a residential facility, but with clinical expertise, that is far superior to most other detox facilities. We named our method of treatment The Gallus Method, which includes IV therapy, individual treatment plans, 24/7 medical supervision, video technology, and more. Our detox centers use proprietary, evidence-based medical protocols to prioritize our patients’ comfort and safety to guide them through the detox process smoothly.


Polysubstance abuse is defined as using two to three drugs at once. Some may use multiple substances to heighten the effects of other drugs. All drugs create harmful side effects, but the severity of these side effects is increased when numerous substances are used. Polysubstance abuse may also cause acute health problems and an increased risk of overdose. The detox process of polysubstance abuse is more complicated than that of a single drug due to a combination of different withdrawal symptoms from different substances. Detoxifying from addictive substances has several potentially fatal medical risks, psychological challenges, and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we use proprietary, evidence-based medical protocols that prioritize our patients’ comfort and safety to guide them through the detox process. Our personalized treatment is delivered in a safe and peaceful environment. We have implemented The Gallus Method to ensure a safe and comfortable detox while avoiding cross-addiction dangers. If you or a loved one struggles with using multiple substances, call Gallus Medical Detox Centers at (866) 296-5242.