Begin Your Recovery
(619) 797-7319

What is Polysubstance Abuse? Why is it Dangerous?

Learn about the causes and dangers of polysubstance abuse and where to seek treatment for you or your loved one today.

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

A common occurrence in substance abuse and addiction is the use of more than one substance. This is known as polysubstance abuse. Polysubstance abuse is hazardous and can be more complex to treat, as it may cause various side effects and symptoms and require multiple treatment methods.

This article will discuss polysubstance abuse and why it is so dangerous. It will also provide essential information on how to get help if you or someone you know is struggling with this condition.

Polysubstance Abuse Definition

Polysubstance abuse is characterized by the use of multiple substances, either taken together or within a short timeframe. For example, taking prescription opioids and drinking alcohol. Polysubstance abuse can be extremely dangerous, as nearly half of all overdose deaths involve multiple drugs. 1

Note that polysubstance abuse is different from polydrug use, which is the concurrent use of multiple medications for medical purposes.

What Influences Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is often used to self-medicate or enhance other substances' effects. For example, someone abusing alcohol may also use cocaine to help them drink more. Likewise, someone abusing prescription drugs may also use marijuana to help them cope with the side effects.

How Common Is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is quite common—most people who abuse drugs use multiple substances. A recent study on the prevalence of multiple substance use disorders (SUDs) found that 45.8% with tobacco addiction, 63.6% with alcohol addiction, 73.8% with cannabis addiction, 87.5% with prescription opioids addiction, 90.2% with cocaine/crack addiction, and 93.8% heroin addiction met the criteria for multiple SUDs. 2

Polysubstance Abuse Causes and Risk Factors

There are many reasons why multiple substance abuse occurs. For example, using multiple substances may be to self-medicate, cope with a mental health disorder, or enhance the effects of other substances.

Risk Factors For Polysubstance Abuse

Some of the most common risk factors and causes for polysubstance abuse will be detailed below.

Biological Factors
Many biological factors can contribute to polysubstance abuse. One of the most common is addiction. When someone is addicted to a substance, they are often unable to control their use. This can lead them to use multiple substances to achieve the desired effect.

Psychological Factors
Another factor that can contribute to polysubstance abuse is mental health disorders. Many people who abuse substances also have mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Social Factors
Many social factors can contribute to polysubstance abuse. One of the most common is peer pressure. People often abuse substances because their friends or peers are doing it.

Another social factor that can contribute to polysubstance abuse is stress. People often turn to substances to cope with stressors in their life, such as work stress, relationship problems, and financial troubles.

Why Is Polysubstance Abuse Dangerous?

Polysubstance abuse is dangerous because it increases the risks of all possible consequences from each substance used. It also makes it more challenging to treat due to the complexity of substances in the body and potential withdrawal symptoms that may occur during detox. Therefore, if you or someone you know is struggling with polysubstance abuse, it is essential to seek help as soon as possible.

Risks Affiliated With Polysubstance Abuse

Some of the most severe risks associated with polysubstance abuse include:

  • Increased severity of side effects
  • Brain damage
  • Liver damage
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Acute health problems, such as hepatitis C and myocardial infarction
  • Adverse effects on mental health
  • Effects on cognitive ability
  • Polysubstance overdose
  • Death

Polysubstance Abuse Signs and Symptoms

There are many signs and symptoms of polysubstance abuse, ranging from mild to severe. These can vary depending on the substances involved, the doses, drug use history, and frequency of use. Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Tolerance and dependency
  • Withdrawal
  • Inability to stop using
  • Interference with activities
  • Self-harm

Common Substance Combinations in Polysubstance Abuse

Between 2012 and 2013, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions found that 15.0% of people with alcohol use disorder, 56.8% of people with prescription opioid use disorder, and 97.5% with hallucinogen use disorder had at least one other substance use disorder. 3

There are many different combinations of substances that can be abused. Some of the most common include:

  • Cocaine and alcohol
  • Alcohol and benzodiazepines
  • Benzodiazepines and opioids
  • Prescription opioids and alcohol
polysubstance addiction      

Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse in San Diego

If you or someone you love is struggling with polysubstance abuse, it's essential to seek professional help. Addiction is a severe disease that requires comprehensive treatment.

Diagnosing Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance abuse is diagnosed by examining medical and psychological history, behavior, and side effects. This will usually include questions about substance use, mental health, and family history. Medical professionals may also conduct physical and mental exams to rule out other medical conditions.

Polysubstance Abuse Treatment Options

Treatment for polysubstance abuse usually involves a combination of medication and counseling. Some standard treatment options for polysubstance abuse include:

Medically Supervised Detox
Medically supervised detox is the process of eliminating substances from the body in a safe and controlled environment. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, including hallucinations, seizures, and convulsions. Thus, detoxing should be done under medical supervision.

Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral therapy can be used for several types of addiction, making it ideal for polysubstance abuse. It helps people recognize unhealthy behavioral patterns and triggers and develop coping skills.

Some medications help reduce cravings and addictive behaviors. When this method is combined with behavioral therapy, it is extremely effective.

Treatment at Genesis Recovery

Polysubstance abuse is a severe condition with dangerous consequences. If you or someone you know is struggling with polysubstance abuse, it's essential to seek professional help as soon as possible. Overcoming this disease requires a solid treatment foundation created by experienced medical professionals.

At Genesis Recovery, we offer a comprehensive program that includes detoxification, individual counseling, and group therapy. Our experienced staff is dedicated to helping all clients overcome polysubstance abuse and achieve lasting recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our program and how we can help you or your loved one.


Learn More About Treatment
Our team is standing by to discuss your situation and options. Your call is fully confidential, and no obligation is required.
Call Us 24/7
[email protected]