Do You Have Multiple Addictions?
Many people who use drugs and alcohol take more than one substance at a time. Known as polydrug use or co-occurring disorders, this is extremely dangerous because it amplifies intoxication and increases the risk of suffering a fatal overdose. Polydrug addiction occurs when an individual develops a dependency on more than one substance at the same time.
Common Multiple Addictions Include:
- Alcohol + Heroin
- Alcohol + Cocaine
- Alcohol + Prescription Drugs or Painkillers
- Alcohol + Stimulants
At 12 Keys, we’re experienced in treating a variety of co-occurring addictions and can create a customized plan for you or your loved one.
Recovery From Multiple Addictions Is Possible
Treating multiple addictions is more complex than treating a single addiction because each substance produces an array of physical and emotional side effects. For example, a person who is addicted to alcohol might benefit from a benzodiazepine during detox to reduce the likelihood of developing a dangerous withdrawal reaction. However, a person who is addicted to both alcohol and a benzodiazepine may not be able to take commonly used detox drugs.
If someone is addicted to a painkiller and begins to progress towards sobriety while releasing the body’s toxins, certain emotional symptoms, such as depression, may grow in intensity. Therefore, determining the root causes of the substance abuse problems becomes critical for a successful rehab program.
The symptoms of polydrug abuse recovery often mimic those of a preexisting mental health disorder such as depression. When a person uses drugs and/or alcohol to self-treat a condition such as anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder or depression, the condition is called dual diagnosis. Successfully treating a polydrug addict who also has dual diagnosis means addressing the underlying reasons drug use became a problem in the first place.
Once the difficult early stage of withdrawal passes, treatment should include diverse therapies that will reveal these root causes while guiding the individual with lessons on how to manage inevitable cravings, temptation and relax without depending on substances.
12 Keys Rehab understands the complexity of treating multiple addictions at one time, and is prepared to help you make a full recovery. We use a recovery model that is personalized to the needs of each of our clients. Your addiction is unique to you, and your recovery program should be too.
Are You or a Loved One At-Risk?
Most people who die from overdose are individuals who abuse drugs and/or alcohol casually. These people are not always buying drugs on the street on a shady corner and retreating to a crack den; they’re taking some extra pills from a family or friend. While people who inject drugs like heroin in combination with other drugs are obviously at the highest risk of contracting an IV-borne disease and suffering other consequences of multiple addictions, those who limit their use to social settings or certain occasions also put their futures in jeopardy.
As abuse progresses to addiction, the individual may notice certain shifts in his or her own behavior. Spending more time trying to get drugs becomes a primary focus. Occasional weekend abuse increases in frequency and duration. Lapses in judgment, including ignoring important personal responsibilities and obligations, also increase in frequency. Money problems, reputation problems and relationship problems develop — many users find themselves hanging out with a new crowd of fellow polydrug abusers.
When not using, depressive and anxious symptoms set in, along with anger and potential physical withdrawal. Physical withdrawal symptoms usually resemble a severe case of the flu, but they may also include shakiness, hallucinations or delirium tremens.
Why Are Multiple Addictions So Dangerous?
The health risks of multi-drug addiction are serious, even when a person uses a drug that is commonly perceived as “safe,” such as marijuana. Certain drug combinations are deadlier than others, however. For example, taking a benzodiazepine drug like Valium, Xanax or Klonopin alongside a painkiller such as Vicodin or oxycodone can stop a person’s breathing.
Although illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine and meth hold a special place in the public consciousness as particularly dangerous substances, alcohol and prescription medications cause more fatalities and injuries than other substances — they’re even deadlier than traffic accidents, according to statistics from the federal government.
The risk of fatality ultimately depends upon the amounts of the substances taken. Central nervous system depressants such as alcohol, narcotic painkillers, benzodiazepines and barbiturates slow heartbeat and breathing. Taking multiple pills, especially in the absence of physical tolerance and when combined with alcohol, is extremely dangerous. Drinking alcohol and taking a drug such as ecstasy causes harm because alcohol dehydrates the body while ecstasy raises body temperature. Alcohol and cocaine, two substances commonly abused together, increase the risk of suffering an adverse heart event such as heart attack. Even combining an energy drink with a drug can be dangerous.
The Roots of Multiple Addictions
Using more than one substance to achieve a stronger high dates back many decades. Polydrug substances include illegal drugs such as heroin, meth and cocaine as well as legal substances such as alcohol, prescription painkillers, over-the-counter cough syrup, muscle relaxers, anti-anxiety medicines and “study drugs” such as Ritalin and Adderall. Certain combinations, such as alcohol and cocaine or painkillers and muscle relaxers, are more likely to cause fatal overdose.
For example, one type of polydrug intoxication called a speedball — which is any mix of an upper and a downer such as cocaine and heroin — has caused several prominent overdose deaths. Speedball victims include the comedian John Belushi and the actor River Phoenix.
An individual who becomes intoxicated on a combination of drugs might use both at the same time, or he might start with one and proceed to the next later on. Regardless of the order of use, taking more than one substance is extremely dangerous. A polydrug user hopes to maximize the effects of each substance while also mitigating potential negative outcomes of abuse. For example, a person who drinks alcohol might hope to relieve paranoid or anxious symptoms resulting from smoking marijuana.
Polydrug Abuse Help
Addiction is a brain disease characterized by certain behaviors. Continuing to use substances even when those substances cause obvious harm, being unableto control how much and how frequently using takes place, and suffering from withdrawal symptoms will eventually define the addicted individual. The more a person uses drugs, the more severe the changes in the brain become — changes that last a long time and explain why people who abuse substances are likely to relapse.
Despite unfortunate, saddening stories, addiction is treatable. However, participating in a rapid detox or medical detox program that only addresses physical withdrawal symptoms — but does not provide adequate follow-up or psychological care — rarely achieves a desirable, effective outcome.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that people who engage in long term treatment that is personalized for individual needs are more likely to achieve successful outcomes than those who try to quit alone. These treatments frequently address both the psychiatric reasons behind use as well as the behavioral problems that ended in addiction. Because every person’s road to addiction and sobriety is different, treatment plans that address specific lifestyle needs are some of the best ways a struggling individual can learn how to return to a productive role at home and school, work and society.
Getting sober is difficult enough, but staying sober in the “real” world outside rehab presents additional challenges. People who accept that addiction is a chronic relapsing disease requiring lifelong attention often stay sober well beyond those who quit participating in treatment once rehab ends. That is why 12 Keys Rehab recommends that newly sober clients continue participating in ongoing treatment. This treatment may include support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, private psychotherapy or continuing behavioral therapy. Reengaging with once-loved activities is also a central focus of our treatment programs. Should a lapse or full relapse occur, the struggling individual has a built-in support system ready to assist.
As health improves, a recovering addict’s needs will likely change. Modifying aftercare treatment to include assistance such as ongoing family therapy, job skills training, drug-free physical rehabilitation, and social or legal services will help the polydrug addict manage the stresses of everyday living without having to resort to drugs and/or alcohol.
If you or a loved one is struggling with multiple addictions, you need to get help before it is too late. Call 12 Keys Rehab Today.