The Risks of Polydrug Use

Alcohol and cocaine. Painkillers and benzodiazepines, or marijuana and alcohol. If you’ve ever used two or more substances together, you’ve experienced polydrug abuse. Polydrug use increases the risk of addiction and fatal overdose because it boosts intoxication quickly. It can also make recovering from a substance abuse problem more difficult because of the withdrawal challenges each drug presents.

Just because you’ve been using more than one substance doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a lifetime of addiction, however. It just means your treatment will incorporate techniques that address the symptoms of each substance. It may also mean you’ll experience cravings for more than one substance, but with the right recovery tools, you can achieve sobriety.

Polydrug Use Facts and Statistics

risks of polydrug useYou already know that polydrug abuse means using more than one substance at one time, but polydrug abuse doesn’t always mean taking more than one drug at the same time. Sometimes, a person might start with one substance and then proceed to another substance.

For example, starting the night with alcohol and ending the night with marijuana or painkillers is considered polydrug abuse. Alternatively, a person who takes a drug such as a speedball, which is a combination of heroin and cocaine, is also a polydrug abuser. Speedballs are particularly deadly, and they have caused the overdose deaths of famous personalities John Belushi and River Phoenix.

Some polydrug combinations are particularly deadly. Alcohol and prescription painkillers are one of the most cited causes of fatal overdose in the country, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Individuals who combine prescription painkillers and benzodiazepines are also playing with fire, and drugs such as Vicodin and Xanax are often present in individuals who have overdosed. Alcohol and cocaine are particularly deadly, in part because the stimulant effect of cocaine tricks the user into thinking he can drink more. An individual who drinks alcohol might hope to mitigate the anxiety or paranoia caused by smoking marijuana.

Consider the following:

  • Cocaine and alcohol are deadly on their own, but taking them at the same time produces a new toxic, long-lasting substance called cocaethylene. Cocaethylene causes seizures, liver damage and immunity problems. The risk of immediate death from cocaethylene is 20 times higher than using cocaine alone,  because alcohol allows more cocaine to stay in the bloodstream — as much as 30% more.
  • Alcohol and ecstasy together make the user much more susceptible for death by heatstroke, especially when the substances are taken together in a hot environment. One survey sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found that 92% of adults in New York City clubs participated in polydrug abuse. Of the respondents, 86% used ecstasy and 85% used cocaine.
  • A 2011 federal government report found that over 56% of all substance abuse-related emergency department visits could be attributed to multiple drug intoxication.
  • Pharmaceutical drug abuse, whether mixed with alcohol or illicit drugs, more than doubled between 2004 and 2011.
  • Most overdose deaths are due to multiple drug intoxication. From Albuquerque and Los Angeles to Boston and Philadelphia, 2012 statistics overwhelmingly point to polydrug abuse as the cause of death.

Concerned? Call 12 Keys Rehab Now

At 12 Keys Rehab, we help people recover from polydrug abuse every single day. We know what you’re going through, because we were once addicted ourselves. You can find your path to freedom, we can help, and you can start now. Isn’t it time you woke up feeling good — without using?

For more information about polydrug abuse or to enroll in our program, call 12 Keys Rehab now.

The Addiction Blog