At Southeast Addiction, understanding addiction from an academic, psychological, and street level is something that all of our staff strives to do through learning from our experiences with patients as well as relying on our background in successful addiction treatment. Today, we’d like to talk about what poly drug use is and why it’s important to recognize in the greater scheme of how people develop and maintain addictions.

What is Poly Drug Use?

Poly drug use is a term that denotes the use of more than one drug. In other words, taking another drug while under the influence of a substance. When taking a dangerous substance, the risks are already present for something to go wrong. When combining said substance with another, the risks are magnified which is why many emergency room visits involving illicit substances often involve another substance.

The Dangers of Poly Drug Use

“The use of cocaine by heroin-dependent individuals, or by patients in methadone or buprenorphine maintenance treatment, is substantial and has negative consequence on health, social adjustment, and outcome of opioid-addiction treatment” is a finding and statement made by a widely cited paper by Leri, Bruneau, and Stewart.

The paper serves as an important validator and reminder that many individuals suffering from addiction are also suffering from more than one addiction at a time. Poly drug use highlights the complicated nature of addiction and how many addictions are a balancing act mediated by drug use.

Interestingly, even outside of an addiction treatment perspective, ordinary people naturally fall into patterns similar to poly drug use with some of them even being classified as poly drug use.

For example, if you have ever mixed alcohol and caffeine, that is an example of poly drug use. The alcohol is a nervous system depressant despite it producing an “uninhibiting” effect and caffeine is a stimulant. These substances have opposite effects on the nervous system and body.

Dangerous are the effects of mixing caffeine and alcohol that the manufacturer of the infamous “Four Loko” was forced to remove it from their recipe after complaints of erratic behavior and hospitalizations from the predominantly young demographic which it was popular with.

Commonly Combined Drugs

“Speedballs” are a common form of poly drug use among those suffering from an opioid use disorder. A stimulant such as cocaine is taken in conjunction with an opioid like heroin.

Alcohol and Cocaine

Many people dangerously mix alcohol and cocaine. The cocaine is used to stimulate and bring alertness to a person who has likely already consumed too much alcohol. This allows them to continue to drink and—much like with the caffeine, mask the effects of alcohol. Conversely, people may mix alcohol with their cocaine use to mask the negative effects of cocaine such as twitching, clenching, anxiety, tension, etc.

Alcohol and Heroin

Like other poly drug combinations, alcohol and heroin combine to create different sensations in the body that either drug would not cause alone. Because both drugs dampen the nervous system, highly dangerous side-effects such as respiratory system failure can and do occur, causing many deaths annually. When people lapse into an overdose on alcohol and heroin, permanent brain damage can occur due to lack of blood and oxygen reaching the brain.

Sleeping Pills and Alcohol

Quite a few people in the United States routinely use sleeping pills or sleeping aids. Before there were such things, one of the oldest consumed substances in history was also used as a nightcap—alcohol. Unsurprisingly, people combine sleeping pills and alcohol for their increased sedative effect. As discussed above, combining two central system depressants is dangerous and certainly not good for your health. While many individuals accidentally mix these two due to not enough time in between, many individuals combine these two intentionally.

Benzos and Alcohol

Benzodiazepines, or benzos for short, are mixed with alcohol due to the similar effects they produce, even going so far as to act in a similar capacity on neurotransmitters in the brain. This combination is one of the most common and dangerous forms of poly drug use leading to complications or death due to the highly sedating effects of both substances.

Both alcohol and benzodiazepines such as Xanax are highly available. Benzos are commonly prescribed for depression, panic disorder, seizures, or used for sedation purposes.

In our last post about benzos, we discussed how many people acquire benzos from a friend or family member with a prescription, as opposed to obtaining them firsthand. This makes benzos a prime class of drugs that encourage poly drug use in susceptible individuals.

Poly Drug Use Addiction Treatment Atlanta GA

Southeast Addiction provides addiction treatment in Atlanta GA and its surrounding metropolitan areas, as well as a location in Nashville TN.

Poly drug use is a common component of substance use disorders and a significant contributing factor to overdoses, ER visits, and death.

Contact Southeast Addiction today to learn more about our admissions process and how we can help you or a loved one get the help that they require.

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