Polysubstance abuse disorder occurs when a person develops a physical dependence on multiple dangerous chemicals, causing impairment, pain, and distress. This can result in death due to overdose. This dependence can occur with or without the person’s knowledge, making this condition particularly unnerving. Chemical dependency is complicated enough when there is only one substance involved. However, being dependent on multiple substances carries even more substantial risks.
Developing a dependence on more than one substance is common when a doctor prescribes an opioid. Many combination opioids also contain acetaminophen. Since people can buy acetaminophen over-the-counter, they assume the drug is safe to take on an as-needed basis, overlooking the other potentially habit-forming ingredients. The majority of opioid overdose deaths in Oregon also involve another drug, including other opioids.
If you’re battling polysubstance abuse, there is help available. At Sunstone Recovery, we give you the tools you need to heal. To learn more about your substance abuse treatment options, contact us today by calling 855.833.9199.
Combinations Frequently Leading to Overdose
There are a number of polysubstance abuse combinations that can lead to overdose.
- Fentanyl (Abstral, Actiq, Duragesic) or Carfentanil mixed with any benzodiazepines
- Opioids (Oxycontin and Vicodin) mixed with Benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax and Klonopin)
- Alcohol combined with opioids (including benzodiazepines)
- Fentanyl combined with opioids
- Heroin mixed with methamphetamine
- Fentanyl combined with heroin
- Opioids combined with other opioids
- Fentanyl combined with cocaine
- Opioids combined with methamphetamine
- Opioids combined with cocaine
One of the reasons that these medications can be so addictive is that opioids provide people with a sensation that mimics happiness. The rush of neurotransmitters responsible for the pleasurable effects of intoxication causes gradual changes to the brain’s pleasure and reward centers. Eventually, the brain stops recognizing pleasurable messages from anywhere but the drug.
Over time, the brain becomes dependent on a particular substance to release neurotransmitters (so you feel good). People who spend their time and energy searching for drugs (or money to buy drugs) tend to get quite good at acquiring drugs, but they stop developing skills and personality traits needed to function. Opioids actually make people more sensitive to pain over time. After extended periods of use, once the brain becomes reliant on opiates, people lose the ability to handle the pain and stress of their daily lives. If your brain is telling you that you are in unbearable agony, your natural response will be to alleviate it.
Signs of Polysubstance Abuse Disorder
- Constant anxiety surrounding medication administration
- Using opioids to avoid uncomfortable situations or feelings
- Taking prescription pills that a doctor did not prescribe to you
- Hiding medications
- Legal trouble resulting from opioid use
- Inability to distinguish between an inconvenience and a catastrophe
- Failure to properly care for your loved ones
- Taking more medication than is prescribed by your doctor
The unpredictable nature of polysubstance withdrawal makes it difficult to identify. Withdrawing from multiple substances is extremely difficult for you and those around you. The symptoms of withdrawal can be so severe that many doctors may misdiagnose them by confusing them with other medical conditions. These are some of the most common side effects:
- Extreme mood changes (can resemble a psychotic break)
- Uncharacteristically violent or aggressive behavior
- Unbearable pain in various locations
- Trouble balancing
- Memory loss
- Emotional outbursts
Opioids and Polysubstance Abuse Disorder
Using opioids with a wide array of other substances (e.g., stimulants, benzodiazepines, alcohol, antidepressants, and other opioids) drastically increases health problems and the likelihood of death due to overdose. Doctors, unfortunately, prescribe many of the medications that increase the risk of death. Developing a physical dependence on a prescribed medication can happen to anyone. A person who has never witnessed the effects of chemical addiction is often less likely to worry about developing it.
The COVID-19 pandemic is especially dangerous for people with polysubstance abuse. We are extremely worried about overdoses during this time because people are self-isolating in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The more isolated people become, the harder it is to intervene before (or during) and overdose. If you or someone you love develops an addiction to multiple substances, seek treatment immediately. Don’t let your polysubstance abuse overcome your life. We offer a range of treatment programs, including:
- Alcohol addiction treatment
- Opiate addiction treatment
- Heroin addiction treatment
- Meth addiction treatment
- Xanax addiction treatment
Anxiety and Polysubstance Abuse
People who experience panic attacks will do anything to eliminate the paralyzing sense of dread. If their drug of choice isn’t available in the dosage they need, it is tempting to take whatever anxiety medication is available, but this can lead to extreme consequences. Much like depression, anxiety is usually treated through medicine and sessions with a psychologist to determine the anxiety’s root cause.