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Polydrug Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment

Drug and alcohol abuse can disrupt and harm every aspect of your life. Your health, relationships, and ability to function daily may suffer. Polysubstance abuse–using more than one substance at a time–can cause even more significant consequences.

Understanding the risks of polysubstance abuse and seeking treatment as quickly as possible is essential. This guide will provide basic information about polysubstance abuse and treatment. Contact the Mandala Healing Center team for more information about our polysubstance abuse treatment programs.

What is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse refers to using more than one drug at a time. It can include illicit mood-altering drugs and prescription medications when used recreationally. Polysubstance abuse is sometimes called “polydrug misuse” or “polysubstance addiction,” but the meanings of these terms are interchangeable.

Polydrug abuse can be intentional, such as using alcohol and cocaine at the same time. Some people may intentionally take two substances, hoping they will enhance the other’s effects. Polysubstance abuse can also be unintentional, such as drinking alcohol while taking a prescription medication that should not be mixed with alcohol.

When someone uses two substances simultaneously, they may experience more unpleasant or unwanted side effects. In some cases, the substances may interact and lead to dangerous–sometimes life-threatening–complications.

What Are the Risks of Polysubstance Abuse?

Mixing two or more substances can have unintended, dangerous consequences for your short and long-term health. The effects of polydrug abuse will vary depending on the substances you use. However, there are some significant risks of polysubstance abuse to be aware of.

Intensified side effects

Any substance, including prescription medications, can cause unwanted side effects. Mixing two or more substances increases the risk of severe side effects or dangerous interactions. Some of the most common side effects of polydrug abuse include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle or body pain
  • Poor balance
  • Changes in heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure

When two or more drugs are in a person’s system at the same time, they can create new side effects that differ from the side effects of each substance.

Acute health issues

Polysubstance abuse can lead to dangerous drug interactions, which may change how your body metabolizes substances. People who use two or more substances simultaneously may have higher concentrations in their bloodstream than if they had taken the substances individually. Higher drug concentrations can be toxic and may increase the risk of overdose.

Several chronic health conditions are related to polysubstance abuse, including heart disease and hepatitis C.

Worsening mental health symptoms

People with co-occurring disorders–meaning they have a substance use disorder and a mental illness–are more likely to misuse two or more substances simultaneously. Drug and alcohol misuse, including polydrug abuse, can worsen the symptoms of a mental illness and make treating both conditions more challenging.


People who engage in polysubstance abuse are more likely to experience an overdose than people who misuse one substance. While it is possible to overdose on one substance, using more than one substance simultaneously makes it much more likely. But why is this the case?

Some substances cover up the effects of others. For example, if someone takes a stimulant and a depressant at the same time, they may not feel the full effects of either medication. Because people cannot feel the substances’ effects, they’re likely to use more than they would if using them individually.

Treating a polysubstance overdose is also more complicated than a single-substance overdose. For example, if a person has taken opioids and alcohol or other substances, Naloxone may not work as effectively as if the person had only taken opioids. Polysubstance overdoses often require more medical intervention and specialized treatments to ensure a complete recovery.

Treating Polydrug Abuse

Polysubstance abuse is often a complicated condition and can be more challenging to overcome. When people stop taking substances their body has become dependent on, they’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. Treatment for addiction to multiple drugs typically begins with a medically-supported detox program. In a detox program, patients receive supervision, treatment, and support that allows them to safely overcome the physical aspects of their addiction and manage withdrawal. Treatment during detox includes:

  • Medications like buprenorphine and methadone to alleviate uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings
  • Monitoring and treatment for dangerous withdrawal symptoms
  • Emotional support, including counseling
  • Massage, yoga, exercise, and other holistic practices that soothe the body and calm the mind

Depending on the substances a person abuses, doctors may choose to taper these medications slowly to make withdrawal more manageable and reduce the risk of complications.

After completing detox, people must continue in a treatment program tailored to their needs. Addiction treatment plans include therapies that allow people to identify the physical, behavioral, and emotional roots of their addiction and learn the skills they need to avoid relapse after rehab.

Polysubstance abuse is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing engagement and support. People must create and follow an aftercare plan to keep them active and committed to recovery for life. Aftercare plans might include things like:

  • Staying in a sober living home
  • Participating in additional substance abuse treatment programs
  • Attending group therapy or support meetings
  • Going to individual therapy
  • Meeting with a sober coach or mentor

Polydrug addiction is a complex condition, but getting comprehensive treatment and ongoing support can give you the chance to live the healthier, sober lifestyle that you choose.

Start Polysubstance Abuse Addiction Treatment in West Palm Beach, FL Today

At Mandala Healing Center, we inspire healing in our patients through compassionate care. Going beyond the conventional approach of detoxification, patients at our facility are inspired to fully heal in an environment designed to nourish their entire being.

Clients are taken on a journey of healing through complete immersion into evidence-based clinical modalities, multifaceted alternative therapies, and expert medical management, allowing them to fully detox and recover from multiple drug addiction. Through a program of care designed to encourage change, a foundation is created that allows clients to find their higher purpose and reclaim their lives.

If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction or would like to learn more about your alcohol rehab options, please reach out to our dedicated admissions counselors today.