Polysubstance Abuse Treatment In Los Angeles

Polysubstance Abuse Treatment In Los Angeles

Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance abuse means purposefully or accidentally mixing different substances, also known as combined drug intoxication or multiple drug intake. While this form of substance abuse is commonly associated with the misuse of multiple illegal drugs, like cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines, it also includes the misuse of prescription medications in nonmedical situations, like oxycodone, codeine, Adderall, or Xanax.

When multiple drugs are taken simultaneously, the effects of one substance can be masked by another and can cause or worsen physical and mental health issues. Launch Centers is proud to offer addiction treatment programs for young adults struggling with polysubstance abuse in Southern California.

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance use occurs when a person intentionally or unintentionally takes two or more drugs at the same time or in close succession.


Sometimes, individuals who are on prescription medication may unknowingly combine substances. For instance, they might have a few drinks without realizing that alcohol should not be mixed with their prescription medication. They might also be taking multiple prescriptions from different doctors without being aware of the negative interactions between these medications.


Some people deliberately mix substances to intensify their different effects. They may have a primary substance of misuse and combine it with other substances occasionally to enhance its effects. For instance, individuals who frequently misuse opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers, might sometimes take them with benzodiazepines to experience increased relaxation or sedation. Others may smoke marijuana or take a sedative to prevent a harsh comedown from the effects of cocaine or other stimulants.

Polysubstance Abuse in California

Almost half of all drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2019 were caused by the use of multiple drugs, mainly illicitly manufactured fentanyl (IMF), heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. In the same year, almost 30% of individuals who received addiction treatment in California were seeking help for polysubstance abuse. Unfortunately, the CDC reports that three out of five overdoses had at least one potential opportunity for prevention, which is why Launch Centers is dedicated to helping individuals in Southern California, including Orange and Los Angeles County.

Another study examining the frequency and trends of drug abuse found various factors that elevate the likelihood of experiencing polysubstance problems. These factors include age (as younger individuals face a higher risk), lower levels of education, unemployment, race (white Californians have the highest risk), disabilities, anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders, and excessive tobacco or alcohol consumption.

Most Common Combinations

Alcohol is the most common substance combined with prescription and illicit drugs, usually to achieve a “stronger” high or counteract the effects of another drug. The most common combinations include:

Alcohol and prescription drugs:

According to a study conducted at the University of Michigan, individuals dependent on alcohol were 18 times more likely to report misusing prescription opioids like Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin. It’s commonly mixed with stimulants such as Ritalin and sedatives or benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium. Many people also take sleeping medications together with alcohol in an attempt to fall asleep more rapidly.

Alcohol and cocaine:

When someone who uses cocaine also drinks alcohol, the level of cocaine in their body can rise by about 30 percent. This combination produces a psychoactive substance called cocaethylene, which remains in the blood for a longer period. Additionally, a person may end up consuming more alcohol because cocaine can make them less aware of the effects of alcohol.

Opioids and cocaine:

Opioids depress the central nervous system, while cocaine stimulates it. Users may try to combine these drugs to counteract negative effects, such as using opioids to calm the body after cocaine use. However, this masking effect increases the risk of overdose and complications.

Opioids and benzodiazepines

When these central nervous system depressants are combined, it can rapidly lead to respiratory depression, which has the potential for a fatal overdose. Insufficient oxygen flow to the brain can cause permanent damage, impairments, or even death. Additionally, older individuals who use benzodiazepines may experience slower metabolism of these drugs, increasing the risk of respiratory complications.

Prescription and illicit drugs: 

Polysubstance misuse encompasses the misuse of various prescription drugs, including cold and cough medicines. For example, high doses of the cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DXM) can cause hallucinations, while cough syrup containing promethazine-codeine has an antihistamine that induces sedation. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), these medications are often misused with alcohol or marijuana.

Signs & Symptoms of Polysubstance Abuse

Since polysubstance misuse involves multiple drugs, signs of abuse can reflect the effects and symptoms of different drugs.

  • Frequent mood swings
  • Noticeable changes in behavior
  • Episodes of intoxication
  • Falling behind or neglecting personal and professional responsibilities
  • Difficulties maintaining relationships
  • Engaging in drug-seeking behavior

On the other hand, individuals dealing with polysubstance use may experience the following symptoms:

  • Strong cravings and urges to use substances
  • Persistent thoughts about and planning for substance use
  • Difficulty controlling the use of substances
  • Developing tolerance or needing to mix substances or use larger amounts to achieve desired effects
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal after stopping substance use
  • Feeling anxious, depressed, or socially isolated

Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse

Mixing stimulants: 

Combining stimulants can significantly elevate heart rate and blood pressure, putting individuals at a higher risk of brain injury, liver damage, heart attack, and stroke. Signs of use or overdose when combining stimulants may include fast or troubled breathing, increased body temperature, nausea or vomiting, chest pain, and seizures or tremors.

Mixing depressants: 

Combining different depressants, such as opioids (heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl) and benzodiazepines, can be extremely hazardous as they can significantly slow down breathing and worsen and cause brain and organ damage, overdose, and even death. Signs of use or overdose when mixing depressants may include slow breathing, weak pulse, altered mental status or confusion, and loss of consciousness.

Mixing stimulants and depressants:

Combining stimulants and depressants doesn’t create a balancing or canceling effect. Instead, the outcome of mixing these drugs is unpredictable and can alter or even hide the effects of both substances. This can deceive individuals into believing the drugs are not impacting them, increasing the risk of accidental overdose.

Mixing alcohol with drugs 

Drinking alcohol while using other drugs isn’t safe. Alcohol is a depressant with similar effects to other downers. Mixing alcohol with other drugs can increase your risk of overdose and serious damage to the brain, heart, and other organs.

Polysubstance Addiction Treatment At Launch Centers

Launch Centers is dedicated to helping individuals struggling with polysubstance abuse overcome their substance use disorder through evidence-based and holistic health methods. We combine mental health-focused individual therapy methods with addiction treatment plans to help clients identify the underlying reasons behind drug addiction. This includes exploring traumatic experiences, emotions, and relationships that weigh on mental health and wellness. Call our treatment center today to learn about our different treatment options, including partial hospitalization and outpatient programs.

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Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • Conner H.

    Launch Centers Treatment was a major help to me. The therapists and staff genuinely cared about me and truly helped me to make a plan for my future. My personal therapists helped me to discover where some of my deeper issues came from. All of the staff worked tirelessly with me to talk through my issues, or just about life, and offered realistic solutions to my current problems and situation. All of the staff went above and beyond and advocated relentlessly for me.

  • Nicole Y.

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

  • Jenna S.

    Launch changed our lives. Our family had been battling for years to breakthrough to our brother. No amount of rehab or detox had made a difference. He was listless, lifeless and helpless. We feared for his life everyday. The spirit of, repetition in, core values, appreciation of life and dignity and respect that we found through Launch are unparalleled. I can say with full confidence that we never would have seen my “real” brother again if not for this truly magical combination. We were and still are especially grateful for his over-the-top therapist. Her commitment to his privacy and success coupled with her unwavering contact with any and all of us is what bridged our 3,000 mile separation from him.


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