Polydrug use is when you use more than one drug at a time or mix drugs and alcohol. People usually mix drugs to enhance their effects and to experience a more euphoric high. However, mixing drugs can compound their side effects and increase the chances of an overdose, respiratory failure, or even death.
What Are the Dangers of Polydrug Abuse?
The dangers of mixing drugs depend on the combination of drugs or alcohol that you are using. While it is possible to combine some drugs safely when following a prescription, mixing drugs without medical advice or mixing illicit drugs is extremely dangerous. Some of the possible dangers include:
- Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
- Liver damage and failure
- Heart problems
- Stomach bleeding
- Respiratory failure
- Brain damage
Alcohol and Benzodiazepines
Mixing drugs with alcohol is one of the most common forms of polydrug abuse. In 2011, over half of all alcohol-related emergency room visits in the United States also involved illicit drugs. People often mix drugs and alcohol at parties to intensify the intoxicating effects.
Mixing benzodiazepines (benzos) with alcohol can be particularly dangerous. Both substances are central nervous system depressants that work by slowing down the brain. Taking them together compounds their effects and may lead to slow breathing, organ failure, and coma.
Alcohol and Cocaine
People often mix alcohol with cocaine to ease some of cocaine’s negative side effects like anxiety or twitching. It can also re-energize someone and make people feel less drunk.
However, using alcohol with cocaine is hazardous. It enhances the effects of cocaine, increasing its blood concentration by up to 30%. It may also increase your heart rate and cause you to behave more violently.
Combining alcohol with cocaine also produces a new chemical in the liver called cocaethylene. This drug is toxic and may lead to seizures, liver damage, and a weakened immune system.
Opioids and Benzodiazepines
Opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines are both prescription drugs that your doctor may prescribe to treat certain conditions. Combining opioids and benzos is always extremely dangerous. Both drugs are sedatives that impair thinking and suppress breathing which is the leading cause of death by overdose. A study in North Carolina found that death by overdose was ten times higher in patients combining opioids and benzos than in those just using opioids.
Worryingly, many doctors still prescribe opioids and benzos simultaneously. In 2013, 17% of people receiving opioid prescriptions in the United States were also prescribed benzos.
Heroin and Cocaine
Combining heroin and cocaine is known as ‘speedballing’. Taking heroin with cocaine enhances the effects of each drug and produces a new kind of high that you can not experience from taking either substance on its own.
Using both substances together can also reduce some of their negative side effects. While this may make the experience more pleasurable, it can cause you to think that you are soberer than you are. Speedball users may continue to take more of each substance, increasing the chance of an overdose.
The duration of cocaine is shorter than heroin, so the effects wear off earlier. Users who have taken a high dose of heroin can experience respiratory failure when the effects of cocaine subside. Repeatedly injecting drugs also increases the risk of collapsed veins and abscesses.
How Does Polydrug Use Lead to Addiction?
When you repeatedly use an addictive substance, it affects the reward pathways in your brain. Your brain recognizes the pleasurable effects of a drug and produces urges to use the substance again. If you take multiple addictive substances, this reward-seeking behavior is reinforced and intensified. It strengthens the urges to use drugs, increasing the chances of addiction.
Polydrug abuse is a serious problem in the United States that can be devastating to your short-term and long-term health. At Enlightened Solutions, we offer our clients numerous tools to move forward in a sober lifestyle. We focus on healing the whole person alongside addiction. Our treatment program is rooted in the 12-step philosophy and offers each client an individualized recovery plan.
We offer a range of treatment modalities, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), family constellation therapy, art and music therapy, yoga and meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic work, and equine-assisted therapy. Our treatment facilities are on the south shores of New Jersey and provide optimal healing and relaxation. If you seek relief from addiction, or if someone close to you does, please call us at (833) 801-5483 for more information about our treatment options.