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what is polysubstance abuse

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

Most people associate addiction with only one specific drug, such as alcohol or cocaine. However, it is also possible for people to develop a multi-drug dependence, or polysubstance abuse. When this occurs, it can significantly increase the risk of an overdose, and may require specific treatment approaches to address the effects of simultaneously using more than one addictive substance. 

How Do People Develop Polysubstance Abuse?

People who rely on prescription drugs like benzodiazepines or opioids might not realize how addictive they can be. Even when you obtain these medications for a legitimate medical purpose and use them only as prescribed by your physician, there is still a risk of developing a dependence. 

People with these prescriptions may unintentionally combine substances – for example, having a glass of wine with dinner while you have opioids in your system, or taking two different medications without learning about any potentially dangerous interactions. Others intentionally use more than one kind of drug to magnify the effects, such as when people who have built a tolerance to opioids experiment with adding benzodiazepines to experience a different high.

The Dangers of Taking Multiple Drugs Simultaneously  

All drugs come with some risks of side effects, but as the University of Michigan warns, the effects of combining drugs can be especially unpredictable. Polysubstance abuse can be deadly, especially when people aren’t aware of how different substances react to each other in their bodies. 

For instance, someone who drinks alcohol daily might assume there’s no danger in taking prescription opioids under a doctor’s orders. However, the chemical interactions of these two drugs can dramatically enhance each other’s effects, with tragic consequences. Taking more than one drug at the same time is even more of a gamble because it is easy for people to misjudge how impaired they have become – thus significantly increasing their risk of accidental overdose.   

Other than developing an addiction, some hazards of combining substances include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • A sharp drop or spike in blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rate and rhythm
  • Dizziness or loss of coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Significantly slowed breathing
  • Coma

Recovering From Polysubstance Abuse

Because of the complexity and possible unpredictability of withdrawal from multiple substances, people with a multi-drug dependence are best off beginning their recovery process in an environment that offers medically managed detox. Here, experienced professionals will monitor you around the clock and administer soothing medications, as necessary, to manage your symptoms.

The holistic amenities available at Vista Taos support all facets of your physical, mental and spiritual health, while increasing the likelihood that you will succeed in your subsequent phases of recovery. 

If you are struggling with polysubstance abuse and are ready to break the cycle of addiction, please connect with us today. Our healing center offers detox and inpatient rehabilitation under the same roof to ease your transition and make you feel comfortable.

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