Guide to Polydrug Abuse and How to Help

Drug abuse with just one substance can cause a variety of negative effects on the body and the mind. Abusing multiple drugs at the same time (also known as polydrug abuse) can be even more dangerous. Polydrug abuse can even be fatal in some cases. 

Polysubstance abuse can end up causing permanent damage to the mind and body if left untreated. Additionally, polydrug abuse also affects everyone around you as well. Unfortunately, polydrug abuse continues to be an issue with many people over the age of 12.

As intense as a situation as polydrug abuse may be, there are ways to get help. Along with the many treatment options, there are ways you can help a loved one struggling with polysubstance abuse. They shouldn’t have to go through it alone and there are plenty of resources to help towards recovery. 

Signs of Polydrug Abuse

There are a few common signs that indicate polysubstance abuse. It is important to spot these red flags so you can begin to help them. In many cases, a person’s social, work, and school life will begin to fall apart after continuous polydrug abuse.

Common signs of polysubstance abuse include the following: 

  • Unable to stop taking drugs, even if they want to 
  • An increase in tolerance (a need to consume larger amounts of a drug to get the desired effect)
  • Using multiple drugs to balance out the effects of another 
  • Various types of drugs or drug paraphernalia lying around their home
  • Taking large amounts of time trying to get their hands on drugs
  • Decreased performance at school or work
  • No longer enjoys activities or hobbies they used to

Along with these signs come the withdrawal symptoms associated with certain types of drugs. Abusing multiple drugs only fuels these symptoms further. It is important to look out for these signs and be ready to act before it’s too late. 

The Effects and Dangers of Polydrug Abuse

People typically abuse multiple drugs because it enhances the effects of another. When multiple drugs are abused, it can cause a new euphoric high. What many people don’t realize is how dangerous combing drugs can really be. 

Sometimes people don’t even realize that by abusing multiple drugs, they are increasing the risks associated with the drugs. In some cases, people may not be aware of the dangers involved with unintentional prescription drug combinations. 

The risks of polydrug use are based on what kind of drugs are mixed and the amounts of each. One of the biggest risks of polydrug abuse is combined drug intoxication. Combined drug intoxication has led to many cases of death and ER visits over the past decade.

Common risks and side effects of polydrug abuse include:

  • Seizures
  • Heatstroke
  • Heart issues
  • Coma
  • Respiratory failure
  • Liver failure (or damage)
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Suppressed breathing
  • Brain damage

These are all serious side effects that can cause permanent damage to the body and mind. Not only that but constantly mixing drugs can deplete the calming ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain. This can invariably lead to other mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

Dangers of Polydrug Abuse in Teens

Surprisingly, teens are the group most likely to mix drugs. In a shocking study, it was found that 7 out of 10 drug users (teens) combined painkillers with alcohol and drugs. At a younger age, a person’s brain is more likely to become addicted. Sadly, by combining drugs can lead to addiction and overdose, especially as a teen. 

Common Drug Combinations 

There are many types of drug combinations and each can have different effects on a person. Some people combine to create unique euphoric highs among other effects. It is safe to say that any combination of drugs has its negative and dangerous effects. Here are some of the more commonly combined drugs

Alcohol Combined with Other Drugs

Alcohol is one of the most combined drugs out there today. Alcohol is typically combined with a number of different drugs to get the desired effect. Alcohol is combined with the following: 

  • Heroin – Heightens the effects on the central nervous system
  • Cocaine – Alcohol counteracts cocaine’s negative effects (anxiety, twitching, etc.) and vise versa
  • Anxiety Medication – Exacerbates the intoxication of alcohol
  • Sleeping Pills – Increases the sleeping pills’ sedative effects on the person
  • Benzodiazepines – Further increases intoxication within the person
  • Precipitation stimulants – Further increase alertness and heart rate
  • Opioids – Depresses the respiratory system and lowers blood pressure

All of these combinations have the potential for dangerous and fatal effects. Overdose, respiratory failure, brain damage, and digestive disorders are just some of the scary effects polydrug abuse with alcohol can have on the body. You should never mix drugs, prescription medications, or alcohol under any circumstance.

Heroin and Cocaine (Speedball)

The polydrug abuse combination of heroin and cocaine is typically called ‘speedball’. The two drugs are virtually opposites in a way, heroin is a depressant and cocaine is a stimulant. 

People combine the two in hopes to get a ‘new high’ while trying to counteract some of the effects.

When a person combines the two together they may think they are less intoxicated than they actually are. This might lead to a misleading feeling of sobriety which can lead to overdose and death in some cases. Large quantities of heroin or cocaine can cause many negative effects.

Mixing Prescription Drugs

Prescription polydrug usually happens during self-medication. Mixing different prescription drugs can have dangerous side effects and may lead to overdose. Mixing these prescribed medications with alcohol can make things even more severe and dangerous.

Cocaine and Ecstasy

People combine cocaine and ecstasy to create an intense rush that wouldn’t be possible if taken alone. Combining cocaine and ecstasy increases a person’s heart rate substantially and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Cocaine and ecstasy are both stimulants, and can have completely adverse effects if mixed together (this goes for all stimulants).

How to Help Loved Ones Struggling with Polydrug Abuse

The risky consequences that polydrug abuse can have on a person’s body and mind are alarming and dangerous. It is important to seek medical help while creating a supportive foundation if a loved one is struggling with polydrug abuse. There are things you can do to help those close to you. 

One of the hardest parts of getting help for a loved one is helping them understand the problem. If they are unwilling or unable to accept their problem it can be extremely hard to help them. With this in mind, there are a number of techniques you can try to get through to them. Here are a few things to try:

  • Let them know you are there for them and will love them no matter what happens
  • Patiently and careful address the problem directly, show your concern
  • Explain how you or the people around them have been affected by their drug use
  • Show them drug resources and information from trusted drug treatment centers

They may not come around immediately but with patience and persistence, they will recognize that they have a problem. Getting help for a loved one struggling with polydrug abuse is essential. Since time is at the essence, it’s important to never give up on them. 

Treatment Options

Luckily, there are a number of different resources to help a person break free from addiction and polydrug abuse. Polysubstance abuse can consume a person but treatment and recovery are definitely possible. Trusted treatment centers like Unity Behavioral Health are here to help your loved one get to a better place.


Detoxification (or detox) is one of the first steps of any drug treatment. Detox can be extremely effective for polysubstance abuse cases. Detox essentially purges the body of substance and alcohol. This enables the person to move forward with other treatment options.

Residential Treatment (Inpatient)

After detox, a person can move on to residential treatment for the most rounded option. Residential addiction treatment allows you to live in a trusted facility with qualified doctors and therapists by your side.

Polydrug abuse cases can have intense withdrawal symptoms and side effects. This is why it’s extra important to have qualified professionals by your side through the process. Inpatient treatment also offers therapy and support group options as well.

Get Help Today

With dangerous addiction like polysubstance abuse, it is essential to get help as soon as possible. To avoid permanent effects on the body and other fatal consequences, professional help is needed. If you or a loved one is struggling with polydrug abuse or addiction, Unity Behavioral Health may be able to help. Contact us today for more information on treatment and our facility.

Get Help Now

Speak to one of our experienced and caring representatives at Unity Behavioral Health to learn about how our rehab programs can help your loved one defeat addiction.


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