Polysubstance Abuse: Understanding the Signs and Dangers

People with substance abuse disorder vary from curious teenagers to retired adults. These individuals often develop different preferences with their condition and what substance they choose to abuse. For this reason, it’s common for most people struggling with addiction to abuse more than one drug or substance.

The term “polysubstance abuse” is for classifying a person who’s dependent on multiple substances. Since these addictive materials can have varying effects on the human body, their withdrawal symptoms and treatment options need to be more precise than common drug abusers.

Polysubstance Abuse

People who are developing an addiction to specific kinds of medication, whether for treatment or leisure, can become prone to polysubstance abuse. Since their body’s drug tolerance increases, they need to chase their high in different ways. One solution is to increase their primary drug dosage, while another is adding another medication into the mix.

It’s common for people to indulge in polysubstance abuse by sampling and mixing alcohol with their current drug fix. Since it’s harder to get illegal drugs, most people struggling with substance abuse turn to prescription medication or over-the-counter medicine to enhance their high. This experimentation on different chemicals in the body can amplify a drug’s effects or cause a conflict of reactions that can be dangerous or fatal.

What is polysubstance abuse? 

Any addictive substance can be a part of a person’s polysubstance abuse, with alcohol being a leading culprit for most people with this condition. Other substances that people mix their drug fix with include opiates, cannabis, amphetamines, hallucinogens, and more.

If a physician diagnoses a person with polysubstance abuse, that patient is known to have more than one addictive substance in their body. You qualify for this diagnosis if you’re abusing use for three different substances. However, be mindful that non-addictive substances like nicotine and caffeine do not count in diagnosing polysubstance abuse.

Similar to people who abuse just one substance, people with polysubstance dependence can show warning signs in their changes in behavior. The most common red flag is dissociating with social groups and responsibilities like work or studies. They may also require a longer time to recover from the high of their medication, which is a red flag for people using more than their prescription’s dosage.

Some people are at higher risk of polysubstance dependence, especially those who already have an alcohol addiction. On the other hand, people can accidentally rely on multiple substances, depending on their situation. This can happen when a person mixes their medications for several conditions, such as chronic pain and anxiety.

Substance Dependence

For physicians to give the right treatment option to the patient, it’s necessary to know all the drugs that a person is using. Next, a person must exhibit a set of three or more symptoms within 12 months of being dependent on drugs. This ensures that they need a detox treatment for polysubstance abuse specifically. Listed below are six symptoms you should be cautious of:

  1. Inability to stop using: People who are developing a dependence on drugs end up using it more than necessary. This is most common among patients who are using it for prescription medication.
  2. Increased tolerance of multiple substances: As a person’s body adapts to the dosage of their medication, they will develop a higher tolerance to the drug. It’s for this reason that physicians need to be cautious about giving high doses of potent and addictive medicine to their patients.
  3. Increased time spent using: Connected to increased tolerance, a person with polysubstance dependence will spend more time catching their high. This can disrupt their ability to perform other social duties.
  4. Lack of interest in activities: Since they spend more time being high, these people can disengage from other pursuits like studies, work, hobbies, and socializing.
  5. Withdrawal symptoms: People who attempt to stop their unhealthy drug dependence will start experiencing withdrawal symptoms. This can manifest even while they’re using drugs. It then causes a cruel cycle of taking drugs to relieve the pain from another drug’s withdrawal effects.
  6. Signs of self-harm: Unlike the traditional meaning of self-harm, people who have polysubstance dependence indulge in self-sabotaging practices. They undermine the physical and mental effects of the drugs and will continue to abuse their usage of it.

Any of the symptoms above will vary in intensity and frequency. Some signs will be more present than others, so it’s important to understand to assess yourself or your loved ones if they have them. This is why it’s necessary to stay vigilant about behavior patterns that can point toward a person struggling with drug dependence.

Substance Abuse Treatment

Besides detoxing, people with substance abuse disorders need to follow a comprehensive additional treatment program. Every case of substance abuse in patients will require Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help them reevaluate their thought patterns. These programs aim to help patients let go of their unhealthy behavior patterns that come with substance abuse’s effects.

Everyone’s healing process will vary, depending on the drugs they’re detoxing from and the situations that brought them to be dependent on addictive substances. This is why a medical professional must address the patient’s individual needs. One of the many advantages of going to an inpatient facility is the benefit of identifying the leading cause of their current condition.

It’s necessary for people with polysubstance abuse to peel away the true cause of relying on multiple addictive substances. Since people have different reasons for indulging in drug dependence, the recovery process may last longer for some more than others. You may experience alterations in your treatment routine if the one you’re in isn’t working. This is a typical case among patients who have complex conditions of substance abuse.

Polysubstance  Abuse Treatment

Polysubstance Abuse Treatment

Substance Abuse Treatment Near Me

Detoxing from one drug is already a challenging task on its own, requiring multiple weeks of detoxing and therapy to achieve. However, withdrawal from multiple drugs will take tighter supervision and care. It’s best to receive help at an inpatient medical detox facility so that medical professionals can monitor you for any changes in your vitals.

Since your body’s detoxing process will be unpredictable, it’s necessary for constant monitoring to ensure that you receive the right medication. You may receive several long-term maintenance meds for specific drugs.

For example, you may undergo opiate replacement medication through methadone or buprenorphine to adjust your opioid withdrawal. However, the case will be different if your body starts processing benzodiazepines out of your body first.

You may receive long-acting doses in increments to prevent the benzodiazepine’s withdrawal symptoms. Since its effects can also interact with different substances still in your body, it’s crucial to report any positive or negative sensations you may experience.

Substance use is merely the symptom of a greater condition that a patient is facing. It can take root in the form of a chronic or terminal illness, causing anxiety and depression. On the other hand, it can also come from pre-existing mental health issues or come in the aftermath of a harrowing life experience.

Sources:
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24852056/

https://www.healthline.com/health/drug-dependence#definition

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