poly drug users

An In Depth Guide On Poly Drug Users And What You Can Do To Help Them

In a one-month period, approximately 10.6 percent of people over the age of 12 will use an illicit drug.

Millions of Americans abuse drugs on a regular basis and, of this group, many of them abuse multiple drugs at the same time. 

Combining drugs (also known a polydrug abuse) is a serious problem that can have a lot of negative effects both on the drug user and their loved ones.

Read on to learn more about polydrug users and what you can do to help someone in your life struggling with this issue.

Effects of Polydrug Use

Many people begin engaging in polydrug use because they find that it enhances the effect or effects of a particular drug. What polydrug users don’t always realize, though, is that polydrug use also increases the risks associated with abusing drugs.

Drug abuse and drug combining are some of the most common reasons for emergency room visits. In fact, nearly one million visits are related to the consumption of an illicit drug or combination of drugs.

The following are some of the most serious effects one can experience when they begin combining drugs:

  • Temporary or permanent brain damage
  • Coma
  • Heart problems and an increased risk of heart disease
  • Seizures
  • Stomach bleeding and other digestive problems
  • Liver damage
  • Liver failure
  • Heatstroke
  • Suppressed breathing rate
  • Respiratory failure

Mixing drugs on a regular basis also contributes to the depletion of calming feel-good chemicals produced by the brain. This, in turn, can increase the likelihood that the polydrug user will suffer from mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Signs of Polydrug Use

In order to help someone who is struggling with polydrug abuse, you first need to know the signs of it. The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms you may notice if someone is a polydrug user:

  • Increased tolerance and a need to consume greater amounts of a drug in order to experience an effect
  • Using one drug to balance out the effects of another (e.g., smoking marijuana to balance the effects of a stimulant)
  • An inability to stop consuming drugs, despite expressing a desire to do so
  • Spending time studying drugs or looking for ways to obtain them
  • Stopping participation in activities they once enjoyed or neglecting responsibilities
  • The presence of various types of drugs or drug paraphernalia in their home

Withdrawal symptoms are common among people who are abusing multiple drugs. Withdrawal symptoms may be worsened because the individual is abusing several drugs at once. They may also use one drug to minimize the withdrawal symptoms of another.

Most Common Drug Combinations

There’s almost an infinite number of drug combinations a polydrug user may consume. Some combinations are more popular than others, though.

Listed below are some of the most common drug combinations among polydrug users:

Alcohol and Other Drugs

Alcohol is perhaps the drug that is most likely to be combined with another. Polydrug abusers combine alcohol with a wide range of substances, including the following:

  • Cocaine, which creates a sense of alertness in people who are inebriated
  • Heroin, which helps to further depress the central nervous system
  • Prescription stimulants like Adderall, which also increase alertness in those who have consumed excess alcohol
  • Anxiety medications, which can increase the intoxicating effects of alcohol
  • Sleeping pills, which enhance the sedative effects of alcohol 
  • Painkillers, which bring about a greater sense of calmness and depress the respiratory system when combined with alcohol

Combining alcohol with any of these medications can enhance or detract from alcohol’s effects. These combinations also can have serious and frightening health effects, including brain damage, respiratory issues, and digestive disorders. 

Heroin and Cocaine

This combination is often referred to as a “speedball.” Heroin is a depressant and cocaine is a stimulant.

Taking these two together can cause users to believe they’re less intoxicated than they actually are. This, in turn, can lead to higher levels of drug consumption and a greater risk of overdose.

Cocaine and Ecstasy

Both of these drugs are stimulants that result in a greater “rush.” Combining them can also increase the risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. The same result is possible when you combine other stimulant drugs, such as Adderall.

Prescription Drugs

Many people also combine prescription drugs without realizing the potential risks. Mixing prescription drugs can lead to serious side effects and, in some cases, can cause an accidental (and even fatal) overdose. 

How to Help Polydrug Users

If you have a loved one who is exhibiting signs of polydrug abuse, or whom you know is mixing drugs in one or more of the combinations listed above, it’s important to encourage them to seek help.

Helping someone who struggles with polydrug abuse can be tricky, especially if they are unwilling or unable to acknowledge the problem. The following are some strategies you can use to convince them to seek help, though:

  • Address the problem directly and let them know why you’re concerned
  • Be there for them and let them know you love them no matter what
  • Provide them with educational resources and information regarding drug treatment centers and programs
  • Explain to them how you or others have been affected by their drug use

Remember, too, that patience is necessary when you’re trying to help someone struggling with drug abuse and addiction. They may not come around right away, but you’ve at least planted a seed and given them something to think about.

Find Help for Your Loved One Today

Now that you know more about polydrug abuse and how to help polydrug users overcome their addiction, it’s time to take action.

If you’ve recognized signs of polydrug use in a friend or loved one, encourage them to seek help as soon as possible.

Keep these tips in mind to help them see the negative effects of their drug use and understand why they may need to participate in a substance abuse rehab program.

To learn more about different rehab programs or to help your loved one get enrolled in one, contact us at The Discovery House today.

We offer a variety of programs designed to help drug users overcome their addiction and take back control of their lives.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.