The Alarming Risks of Polydrug Use
Using and abusing one single drug carries an immense number of risks; however when multiple drugs are combined together at the same time, these same risks can increase ten-fold. With the global rise in drug abuse and addiction as a whole, it has become increasingly common for users to combine multiple drugs for enhanced effects. Known as polydrug use, it’s trendy on a social level especially in adolescents and in people under thirty. However in Europe, polydrug use is seen more frequently in and men and women between 30 and 60.
What is Polydrug Use?
Using more than any one drug at a time, including alcohol, is considered to be polydrug use. It intensifies the effects of all drugs being consumed and can lengthen the overall time of the high. In 2009, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) estimated <https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drug-related-hospital-emergency-room-visits> 519,650 emergency room visits directly associate with alcohol and at least one other drug such as CNS depressants, psychotherapeutics , cocaine , marijuana and heroin.
The Serious Risks of Drug Combining
What’s most concerning about polydrug use is that many users actually don’t understand the risks that can be associated with drug combining. Polydrug risks will depend on the combination of drugs, the amounts used and the timeframe in which they were used. Mental health or underlying physical health issues should also be taken into consideration on an individual basis.
In the case of polydrug use, the pleasurable “feel-good” effects are enhanced, but so too are the negative, potentially dangerous effects. The greatest risk of engaging in any polydrug use is the overall intoxication. This is the primary reason for emergency room visits, overdoses and deaths. Apart from this severe danger, risks of drug combinations can cause:
- Heart palpitations
- Heatstroke and dehydration
- Suppressed breathing
- Respiratory failure
- Organ damage
- Cognitive impairment
- Heart attack
When a person has mental health issues, there is an even further risk of developing extreme paranoia, anxiety, delirium and hallucinations.
Most Common Drug Combinations of Users
Alcohol and other drugs – Alcohol is commonly mixed with a host of different drugs including marijuana, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, opiates, antidepressants, antipsychotics and sleeping aids .Combining alcohol with any of these drugs, or others, can cause nausea, vomiting, dehydration, over sedation, unconsciousness, depressed breathing, choking, coma and death. The primary reason this form of polydrug abuse is so dangerous is because alcohol lowers or depresses activity in the central nervous system. Any drug that also does this causes a dangerous interaction in the body. It’s one of the most common emergency room visits from users and has been the cause of death for many people including celebrity Jimi Hendrix.
Stimulant and depressants – Known as a ‘speedball’, this polydrug combination is often a mix of methamphetamine or cocaine with morphine, heroin or benzodiazepines. This cocktail creates amplified effects of all drugs used. The stimulant drug increases the heart rate while the depressant lowers it. The body may attempt to balance this out, but can fail to do so and cause a cease in breathing and death.
Cocaine and tobacco – Both of these drugs act on dopamine and when used together, the effects of both are amplified. Because dopamine plays a massive role in abuse and addiction, there is a greater risk of becoming addicted to one or both drugs.
MDMA and antidepressants – Certain types of antidepressants, particularly SSRIs block the serotonin reuptake transporter. This causes a disruption with the action of MDMA (molly or ecstasy) and other psychedelics because they too act on serotonin. When used together, the effects of the MDMA are decreased. That said the real issue is that MDMA causes depletion in serotonin. Abusers often try to protect themselves against this by taking SSRIs between 3 and 4 hours after using MDMA. In other instances, a user will take another type of antidepressant known as MAOI. These interfere with the way the body processes serotonin and when combined with MDMA, the body can produce too much serotonin and lead to what’s known as serotonin syndrome. Both combinations of this form of polydrug abuse can cause confusion, agitation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, delirium, coma and death.
Marijuana and antidepressants – Marijuana can interact badly with certain types of antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs. When smoked, this combination can cause heart palpitations, increased blood pressure and psychosis. Eating marijuana can significantly increase these risks and even trigger the onset of extreme paranoia or a full blown psychotic episode.
Alcohol and energy drinks – Popular drink combinations include alcohol and energy drinks or caffeine. Because alcohol is a suppressant and caffeine is a stimulant, the polydrug combination conflicts with one another in the body. Moreover, it can cause extreme thirst, promoting the user to consume more. Elevated or irregular heartbeat, respiratory failure, stroke, heart attack, coma and death can occur. In the case of binge drinking on this combination, there is a high risk of fatal alcohol poisoning.
The following are only a few of the most common polydrug combinations. Others include LSD and MDMA, alcohol and cocaine, cocaine and benzodiazepines, meth and barbiturates, meth and sleeping aids and many more. Some people will take any drug they can get their hands on elevated any associated risks.
Developing an Addiction to More than One Drug
It’s common for rehabs to treat people with an addiction to at least two different drugs. Known as co-occurring addictions, it essentially multiples the effects of the substances or nulls certain symptoms when needed (i.e. taking a sleeping aid after binging on cocaine). With time, the brain becomes used to the various effects and promotes an addiction to each drug being abused. When there is co-occurring addictions, the individual must be treated for each one.
Polydrug Treatment Program
If you or someone you know abuses multiple substances or has a polydrug addiction, help is available. Contact Serenity Chiang Rai to find more about our private rehab in Thailand.