What is Polysubstance Abuse?

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Current trends have revealed polysubstance abuse among addicts is very common. This form of drug abuse involves using three or more substances regularly. Polysubstance abuse can be extremely dangerous, since drug interactions so often lead to overdose or death. Synthetic drug producers, meanwhile, often add unknown chemicals into their drugs that, when combined with other drugs, prove toxic to the user. Also, the monitoring, detox, and treatment of polysubstance abuse can be complicated, though an experienced medically monitored detox can be successful. That being said, let’s dive deeper into our exploration of the question, “What is polysubstance abuse?”

The Basics of Polysubstance Abuse

The definition of polysubstance abuse is not on the list of diagnoses in the fifth edition of the DSM-5. It refers to a person regularly using three or more substances. When diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder, users may ask, what is polysubstance abuse? Mental health professionals now refer to substance abuse disorder regardless of how many substances are involved.

The dangers of polysubstance abuse are vital to know and recognize. Long-term damage can occur from polysubstance misuse. Damage to major organs, physical and psychological reactions to the drugs, and the development of addiction are primary concerns. Therefore, understanding the dangers involved with combining drugs and alcohol can be vital to your health. 

The Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse

Because polysubstance abuse entails combining drugs to reach desired effects, the consequences can be unknown. Heightened side effects, difficulties in detox and treatment, and a higher percentage of overdoses occur. In addition, symptoms of any co-occurring mental illness may magnify and escalate to out-of-control behaviors. 

Polysubstance abuse can lead to these symptoms:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Significant changes in blood pressure
  • Difficulty and abnormal breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Balance difficulties
  • Aches and pains in the body
  • Heightened risk for overdose

Most people are unaware that a new metabolite is formed from using combined substances. This intensifies the effects of the drugs. This metabolite, cocaethylene, affects heart rate and blood pressure. Because of this metabolite, there is an increased chance of toxicity of the liver, heart and other major organs. Knowing this, you need to stop combining substances if you’re an addict.

Types of Polysubstance Abuse

Mixing substances to find the desired high or effect is the dangerous methodology behind polysubstance abuse. This abuse is now referred to as a substance abuse disorder, no matter how many drugs are involved. Some of the most dangerous combinations include synthetic drugs. Synthetic drugs combine unknown chemicals, leaving their side effects unknown. These substances increase the probability of risky and impulsive behaviors.

Common substances used in polysubstance abuse:

  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Meth
  • Heroin
  • Marijuana
  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Molly
  • LSD

The most common substance combinations are cocaine and alcohol. Routinely used together, cocaine produces euphoria and is counteracted by using a depressant, alcohol.  Unbelievable but true, some believe that users combine these two substances to use alcohol to calm the anxieties that cocaine may cause. It’s a situation when the addict decides to evaluate the effects of certain substances to find the best high possible by combining drugs and alcohol. 

Wondering what is polysubstance abuse points you straight to speedballing. Cocaine and heroin used together is a dangerous combination. Overdose is an immediate danger, with death knocking on the door. In conclusion, taking too many chances with heroin and cocaine is only a matter of time until the addiction is permanently over. 

Benzos, and opioids are central nervous system depressants. When these two types of drugs come together, the effect can be deadly. SAMHSA has reported a 55% increase in overdoses from these drugs. If you are abusing these drugs, please decide to get help and treatment.

Using illicit drugs while taking prescription medications is another example of polysubstance abuse. However, there exists a mistaken belief that prescription medication is safe because the doctor prescribed it. Prescription medication is a drug; mixing it with other substances is hazardous to your health. 

Polysubstance Abuse Addiction

Developing an addiction to one drug is very dangerous, but polysubstance addiction is exceptionally problematic. Pairing up drugs and their effects to remain undetected by the public and family, polysubstance addicts seem to be okay. In this addiction, the addict does not rely on just one drug. Polysubstance abuse addiction is an overdose waiting to happen. 

Polysubstance Dependence

Substance abuse and dependence are not the same. When polysubstance abusers stop using one drug, they use two others together to reach the same effect. In short, when the body becomes dependent on a substance, it is no longer a user’s choice. The body becomes dependent on the drugs to function. Moreover, the addict does not maintain recreational use any longer. Dependence becomes debilitating. Fortunately, treatment is available. 

Types of Treatment for Polysubstance Dependence

Detox for polysubstance abuse is an option for addiction recovery. Therefore, an extensive assessment must be made in order to design a plan to address the drugs being abused. Once a medically maintained detox is complete, a treatment plan can begin to work toward recovery, including cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy.

Begin Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse in Los Angeles, CA

Launch Centers in Los Angeles can assist you in starting your treatment for substance use disorder. Don’t try to detox at home, and take the dangerous and frightening path alone. Let us use our professionals to medically monitor your detox from the substances you have been using. We are ready to help you on your sober journey. Contact us today.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

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Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

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Eric Chaghouri, MD


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Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

Our Testimonials

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    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

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