What is Polysubstance Abuse?

Get the answer to the question, “what is polysubstance abuse”?

Many people think about addiction and drug abuse as a singular issue. For example, a person may be labeled a heroin addict or an alcoholic. The problem is that very few people know about or understand polysubstance abuse. If you are sitting there asking yourself, “What is polysubstance abuse?” you are not alone. In order to understand addiction as well as the treatment options available to help a person overcome addiction, it is important to be able to answer the question, “What is polysubstance abuse?” as well as understand what can be done about it.

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

Firstly, to answer the original question of “What is polysubstance abuse?” it is a form of substance abuse and addiction that involves abusing two or more addictive drugs rather than just one. In technical terms and according to medical substance abuse facts, a person is said to be engaged in polysubstance abuse if they have consumed or abused more than two drugs in a 12-month period. So, if a person was binge drinking but also used heroin, cocaine, or another drug, they engaged in polysubstance abuse.

Why Is Understanding Polysubstance Abuse Important?

Having an understanding of polysubstance abuse is important for several reasons. When a person engages in polysubstance abuse, they are putting themselves at great risk. Many addictive drugs and substances do not mix well together and can cause serious and severe reactions in the body if the drugs are consumed at the same time. Heroin and alcohol, for example, both slow down and sedate the central nervous system. If taken together, these drugs could cause sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, or seizures and brain damage.

Secondly, when a person is engaging in polysubstance abuse, the likelihood that they have or will develop an addiction is much higher than it would otherwise be. The more addictive drugs a person abuses, the more they begin to depend on the physical, mental, and emotional effects of those substances to get them through the days or through difficult times. Drug use and abuse, whether it is one substance or several can lead to addiction, but multiple substances taken together or within a 12-month period of one another is extremely dangerous.

Why Treating Polysubstance Abuse and Addiction Is Different

Treating polysubstance abuse and addiction is different from treating an addiction to just one drug because more complications could occur during the treatment process with several drugs rather than one drug. Detox, for example, is a major step in the addiction treatment process. However, when you need to detox from multiple substance simultaneously, some of the standard treatment techniques may not be appropriate.

Using the example of heroin and alcohol addiction, both of these substances can be treated through medical detox program. In medical detox, doctors and nurses oversee detox and can administer prescription medications to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and make the process gradual to increase detox safety. The problem is that if a person is addicted to heroin and alcohol, they will not be able to take the prescription medications for both substances. This can make withdrawals especially challenging and can involve a longer process.

Additionally, because the person is dependent on multiple substances that may have very different effects on the mind and body, the post-rehab treatment process will likely be more involved as well. If a person abuses cocaine and heroin, for example, the therapy sessions will have to focus on the reasons the person began abusing each substance as well as the reasons that they may have used them together. This can take additional time and effort in comparison to treatment for a singular addiction.

Now that you can more easily answer the question, “What is polysubstance abuse?” and you understand the substance abuse facts surrounding polysubstance abuse and the treatment process, you can be sure that you are doing everything you can to handle the situation if you or someone you care about is struggling with polysubstance abuse or addiction.