Poly Drug Use
Poly drug use often carries with it more risk than use of a single drug, due to an increase in side effects, and drug synergy. The potentiating effect of one drug on another is sometimes considerable and here the licit drugs and medicines such as alcohol, nicotine and antidepressants have to be considered in conjunction with the controlled psychoactive substances. The risk level will depend on the dosage level of both substances. If the drugs taken are illegal, they have a chance of being mixed (also known as "cutting") with other substances which dealers are reported to do to increase the perceived quantity when selling to others to increase their returns. This is particularly common with powdered drugs such as cocaine or MDMA which can be mixed with relative ease by adding another white powdery substance to the drug. This cumulative effect can lead to further unintended harm to health dependent on what is being covertly added. Concerns also exist about a number of pharmacological pairings: alcohol and cocaine increase cardiovascular toxicity; alcohol or depressant drugs, when taken with opioids, lead to an increased risk of overdose; and opioids or cocaine taken with ecstasy or amphetamines also result in additional acute toxicity. Benzodiazepines are notorious for causing death when mixed with other CNS depressants such as opioids, alcohol, or barbiturates.
Within the general concept of multiple drug use, several specific meanings of the term must be considered. At one extreme is planned use, where the effects of more than one drug are taken for a desired effect. Another type is when other drugs are used to counteract the negative side effects of a different drug (e.g. depressants are used to counteract anxiety and restlessness from taking stimulants). On the other hand, the use of several substances in an intensive and chaotic way, simultaneously or consecutively, in many cases each drug substituting for another according to availability.
The phenomenon is the subject of established academic literature.
A study among treatment admissions found that it is more common for younger people to report polydrug drug use.
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Painkillers and Poly-Drug Abuse Among Young People
Opioids are great for short-term relief, and when taken in small amounts for no more than two to three weeks, they can even be safe and not overly addictive. However, as drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin become more and more prevalent in the medical industry, illicit usage of opioids is also on the rise.
As part of this trend, hospitals and drug addiction treatment centers are seeing a rapid expansion of a phenomenon known as poly-drug use, especially among young recreational drug users. This practice poses a high risk of overdose and other health complications, and it also tends to go along with other dangerous behaviors.
What Is Poly-Drug Use?
Poly-drug use is the combination of two or more drugs with the intention of achieving a particular effect. In many cases, users take secondary drugs to balance out the effects of a primary drug. For example, many abusers of the drug ecstasy will smoke marijuana or drink alcohol to counter the bad feelings of ecstasys comedown stage. Other common combinations are marijuana and alcohol, cocaine and alcohol, and LSD and ecstasy.
Some poly-drug combinations involve perfectly legal over-the-counter medications or other products. For example, Red Bull and other energy drinks are popular as elements in poly-drug formulas, as are cold medications like Nyquil and caffeine stimulants like NoDoz.
The Speedball Effect
Prescription opiates are a growing element in poly-drug use. The mixture of cocaine and heroin, also known as a speedball, was once popular in the 70s and 80s but declined throughout the 90s. In more recent years, the combination is making a comeback with prescription opiates in place of heroin.
Its particularly popular in places where young people have access to these drugs, which is increasingly in suburban communities and on college campuses.
Drug abusers who have taken this combination describe it as having a unique effect. Because cocaine is a stimulant and opioids are depressants, taking the two drugs together leads to a sense of euphoria without the negative effects of either drug. Of course, beneath these euphoric effects there are real physical dangers to taking speedballs. The combination kills hundreds of young Americans each year.
However, cocaine is not the only drug that is commonly mixed with opioid medications. Methamphetamine is said to have similar effects when combined with opioids, and kids may also mix opioids with alcohol, marijuana or other types of prescription drugs.
Whenever two or more drugs are taken in combination, the risk of medical complications increases exponentially. When it comes to the cocaine-opiate combination, there is always a danger that the cocaines effects will cause the user to take a larger-than-usual dose of the opiate drug.
Cocaines effects wear off much more quickly, so if an overdose of the opiate drug was taken, the user may suffer respiratory depression, which can be fatal. In fact, this is the most common cause of death related to poly-drug use.
Combining opioids with alcohol can also be very dangerous, especially when large amounts of alcohol are consumed. While the two substances mental effects can be quite different, their physical effects are similar in some important ways. Both are depressants, which means that both cause lowered heart rate and respiratory depression. In short, this makes it much easier to overdose. Also, both can cause vomiting, which increases the risk of choking should the user pass out or fall asleep.
Aside from the risk of overdose and fatality, poly-drug use involving opioid drugs puts young people at risk in other ways. Opiates, cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol are all more than enough to cause acute intoxication on their own. When taken in combination, they can cause intoxication at such a level that the user completely loses control of his or her behavior and may become wildly uninhibited.
This opens the user up to sexual abuse and other crimes, and it greatly increases the chances that the user will do something that he or she will regret later on.
Prescription Opiate Availability
While there is a small black market for prescription painkillers, most people who abuse opioids get the drug either from doctors or from other people who got them from doctors. Thats why this type of opioid-based poly-drug use is typically seen in areas where prescription painkillers are common.
Suburban teens often get the drugs from their parents medicine cabinets, and college students usually bring them from home.
As a result, its generally difficult for young people to obtain long-term supplies of opioid drugs, and poly-drug use often takes the form of, for example, a weekend binge or a back-to-campus celebration. On college campuses, many of these incidents take place very soon after a winter or summer break.
Treatment for Poly-Drug Use
Because its difficult for most young people to get long-term supplies of opioids, poly-drug use rarely becomes a habit. In fact, its generally much easier for a college student to develop alcoholism than an opiate habit.
If a young person in your life has had an incident with opioid-related poly-drug use, its much more likely that he or she has a binge drinking problem. Both the drinking and the poly-drug use are signs of recklessness that go beyond normal youthful rebellion. These are signs that the individual is truly troubled and probably needs counseling for addiction or mental illness.
If you find that the young person in
your life is taking opioids regularly, whether alone or in
combination with other drugs, its important to seek
opiate addiction treatment as soon as possible. Opiate
addiction develops and worsens rapidly, which means that
time is of the essence. Its essential for this person
to go through detox as soon as possible, and they will
probably need opioid maintenance therapy with methadone or
Suboxone. After that, long-term therapy and participation in
a drug addiction support group are recommended. Talk to a
doctor about the best options.
Polydrug Use: Get
What is polydrug abuse?
Polydrug-usePolydrug abuse involves abusing one or more drugs in combination with one another. Sometimes this is done intentionally in order for one drug to play off another, either by heightening the effects, or by allowing one drug to downplay the effects of the other. For instance, taking cocaine with a sedative allows the sedative to dampen or stabilize some of the high usually offered by cocaine.
In some cases, drug users will combine drugs without rhyme or reason. This is often because they cant access, either due to money restraints or inability to find a dealer, their drug of choice. Haphazardly combining pills and other drugs is a dangerous game. Many drugs interact with one another in dangerous ways, and this can quickly lead to deadly interactions or even drug overdose if the wrong pill combinations are taken in close proximity. Many drug users do not care whether they live or die, and once combinations of drugs are started, its only a matter of time before an overdose occurs.
How dangerous is polydrug abuse?
Polydrug use is extremely dangerous because of each drugs potential to interact poorly with other drugs. Taking the wrong combination of pills within close proximity of each other can easily result in overdose or death.
Common Drug Combinations
There are some drug combinations that are more common than others among drug users. These can include:
How to recognize polydrug addiction?
Factors that can help you recognize polydrug addiction:
Drugs and Alcohol
One of the most common combinations drug users like to use is that of various drugs and alcohol. This is especially common with cocaine, marijuana, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and antihistamines. Alcohol can be especially dangerous when combined with depressants. Because alcohol suppresses the central nervous system, it is also a depressant. Combining the two can slow down the nervous system too much, which can easily lead to respiratory arrest, irregular heart rate, slowed mental function, dizziness, coma, or death.
600,000 ER visits every year are related to use of drugs and alcohol in combination. This makes up over half of all drug related hospital visits. Alcohol is highly dangerous to use with any drug, as it has been shown to interact with over 150 separate substances, including recreational and prescription drugs.
Recognizing Polydrug Addictions
The signs and symptoms of someone using multiple drugs are similar to those of someone who only uses one drug. They may be amplified, however, as the risk of overdose and other complications are much higher among those who use drug cocktails vs any single drug. Someone you love may be using drugs if he:
Signs of drug overdose are more pronounced, but they can be confused with other medical conditions if you dont realize a person is doing drugs.
The following signs or symptoms are indicative of drug overdose and warrant immediate medical attention:
The most commonly combined drugs are:
Treatment of Polydrug Abuse
Often time, polydrug addiction and abuse is harder to treat than treatment of single drug addiction. This is due to many factors:
The most effective treatment for polydrug addicts is an inpatient rehabilitation facility. While there are outpatient counseling and programs available, they are often less effective at treating the most severe cases of addiction. An inpatient center will provide a higher level of care which will include:
If you or someone you love is
suffering from a polydrug addiction, there is help
available. Contact us to discuss getting the treatment you