Polysubstance abuse, which is sometimes referred to as polydrug abuse, refers to the abuse of multiple substances. Abusing multiple addictive substances such as illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol can have lethal consequences. Moreover, it is certainly possible for people to develop an addiction to more than one substance, complicating their substance use disorder. 

At WhiteSands, we treat polysubstance abuse using a combination of evidence-based, holistic, and alternative treatments that have all been deemed safe and effective for treating drug and alcohol use disorders. If you or a loved one is abusing more than one substance, you can rely on WhiteSands for help.

WhiteSands is a leading drug and alcohol rehab that offers inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment. Our treatment programs include medical detox, dual diagnosis treatment, and medication-assisted treatment. Our philosophy revolves around individualizing treatment to meet each client’s unique needs. Polysubstance abuse is a unique treatment need. If you abuse more than one drug and/or alcohol, you should visit us for an evaluation of your condition. 

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse refers to the abuse of more than one substance. These substances may be legal as in the case of prescription drugs and alcohol or even illicit. For instance, a person might abuse prescription opioids as well as heroin, an illicit opioid. To address this type of substance abuse disorder, clinicians often employ a comprehensive treatment approach to target each aspect of the condition. 

Polysubstance abuse can impact a person’s mental, physical, and behavioral health, causing serious deterioration to occur. At WhiteSands, we treat polysubstance abuse using the best treatment practices and therapies available for this type of disorder. A person who abuses multiple substances is at risk for developing multiple addictions. One addiction is difficult enough for people to contend with but developing more than one only complicates an already complex issue. 

Common Examples of Polysubstance Abuse

It’s not uncommon for polysubstance abuse to include alcohol. Readily available, alcohol is among the most commonly abused substances. Alcohol and barbiturates, for instance, a common examples of polydrug abuse. Alcohol and cocaine, alcohol and prescription drugs, and alcohol and cannabis are widely abused. Although alcohol is legal, it is highly addictive. It can maximize the effects of illicit or prescription drugs, causing serious and, sometimes, dangerous side effects to occur. Many emergency room visits involve the abuse of alcohol and other substances. 

On the other hand, there are also other examples of polysubstance abuse. Many people who abuse opioids may substitute one opioid drug for another. A person might abuse more than one prescription opioid. It’s not uncommon for someone with an oxycodone addiction, for instance, to substitute for hydrocodone or another prescription drug when they cannot obtain their first choice. People may also abuse other types of prescription drugs together. Again, the result can be particularly dangerous for users. 

The Causes and Triggers of Polysubstance Abuse

The causes and triggers of polysubstance abuse may vary. One of the most common reasons that people abuse more than one drug is due to self-medication practices. This is especially true in cases of prescription drug abuse where people may abuse more than one drug they’ve been prescribed by increasing the dosage without a doctor’s consent. 

Another cause of prescription drug abuse may be due to peer pressure. Individuals might be introduced and persuaded to use more than one substance. They may not realize the dangers of mixing two drugs or mixing drugs and alcohol. Again, this can be extremely dangerous and drug combinations or the mixing of drugs and alcohol is associated with high overdose rates. 

Some people are genetically predisposed to polysubstance abuse. They may have a biological vulnerability that others may not have. This is often why some people become addicted to a drug and another person who seems to abuse the substance similarly does not develop an addiction to it. People may also abuse more than one drug to cope with stress. They may reach for any substance that’s easily obtainable when suffering from stress or a mental illness.

Differentiating Terms: Polysubstance Abuse vs Polypharmacy Abuse

Polysubstance abuse and polypharmacy abuse are similar terms. Polysubstance abuse refers to the abuse of illicit and legal drugs. Polypharmacy abuse refers to the mixing of prescription drugs. Both types of practices are dangerous. The body can be negatively impacted by both legal and illicit substances. A person can overdose by mixing two or more prescription drugs–or simply taking too much of a single prescription drug. A person, of course, can also overdose by mixing illegal drugs or illegal and prescription drugs. 

At our drug treatment center, we can treat polysubstance and polypharmacy issues. Our clinicians are licensed and have the experience needed to address the most complex cases of polysubstance abuse and addiction. 

Recognizing Unintentional Polysubstance Abuse

polydrug abuse

It’s not uncommon for people not to realize that they are engaged in polysubstance abuse. They might be taking a prescription drug while accepting a drink of alcohol. Is this polysubstance abuse? The answer is yes. Many medications explicitly advise users to avoid using alcohol. However, many people don’t see the warning or don’t realize how serious it is to drink while taking certain medications. 

Also, many people don’t abuse multiple drugs and/or alcohol to get high or get a buzz. They may simply be mixing drugs and not recognize the danger they’ve put themselves in. By continuing with a dangerous practice, they leave themselves at risk for a medical issue. 

The Impact of Polysubstance Abuse on Health and Wellbeing

Polysubstance abuse can be deadly. There’s no way to minimize the danger. Mixing drugs or mixing drugs and alcohol can result in serious mental and physical health emergencies. Abusing drugs together often means that the effects of the substances are intensified. This can leave the person at a higher risk of an overdose or even an accident. Slip and fall accidents, for instance, are not uncommon among people who abuse multiple substances. 

Seeking Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse at WhiteSands

If you are abusing more than one substance, you should obtain an evaluation at WhiteSands. You don’t have to be addicted to any of the substances you are abusing to have profoundly negative effects. However, you are at increased risk of developing an addiction if you abuse multiple drugs and/or alcohol. 

WhiteSands treats all forms of substance addiction, including polysubstance abuse and addiction. We feature inpatient and outpatient treatment programs designed to promote healing and the well-being of our clients. Our treatment programs include medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, and dual diagnosis treatment. Not all clients require all the treatments we offer, so we carefully evaluate each person’s needs to prescribe the ideal course of treatment for them. 

If you are abusing multiple substances, you need help. Don’t put off getting an evaluation of your condition at WhiteSands. Our treatment facilities are welcoming and staffed by caring addiction specialists. We can help you identify your triggers and develop strategies for managing them successfully. Get in touch with us to learn more about our high-quality addiction treatment programs. 

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.