What Is Polysubstance Abuse and What Is Its Dependence?

If you or someone you know struggles with addiction to drugs and is experiencing a withdrawal, they could begin to take multiple substances. For instance, they could suffer from an alcohol dependence disorder, and begin to experiment with different drugs, only to fall into dependence on one or two substances. If someone is addicted to multiple substances they’re diagnosed as having polysubstance dependence often referred to as “polysubstance misuse.” If you really want to overcome alcohol abuse, Alcohol Rehab Places Seattle has a chain of Alcohol Rehab Treatment Centers in Seattle, Washington with certified and experienced medical staff to guide and take care of you at every step of recovery.

What is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse isn’t an official term in the field of medicine since the term was eliminated from the DSM-5 which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The word “abuse” causes this disorder to appear more like a choice for the individual rather than an illness that requires medical treatment. This is why this condition is now known as polysubstance dependence, or polysubstance use instead of abuse by polysubstances.

What is Polysubstance Dependence?

Polysubstance dependency is when someone utilizes multiple substances at the same time to increase the effects of each whether intentionally or not. In addition, the person is not always chemically dependent on any of the many substances they’re using.

But, certain people may prefer a particular substance that they will blend with different substances in certain instances. To be considered a polysubstance dependent person, you must use multiple substances over a long period of time.

However, there is a debate regarding the length for which the use of multiple substances should last. Certain facilities deal with polysubstance use disorders in which multiple substances are utilized for any time. Some facilities offer a more expansive definition that requires the patient to use several substances over a period duration of twelve months.

What happens when someone is unintentionally using Multiple Substance?

Intentional use of polysubstances is when people abuse various substances, which are then cut by other substances. For instance street fentanyl can be cut with the heroin and other opioids in order to increase its potency as prescription fentanyl. However, the user of the street fentanyl typically is unaware of the fact that it was made using various substances.

Risk Factors

A few of the most common polysubstance dependence risk factors could be:

Genetics and Family

If a member of the immediate family uses more than one substances, they are at an increased risk of the other relatives developing substance abuse disorder or dependence on several substances. If you have been convicted of alcohol abuse in Seattle, Washington, you may be required to take a 26 Week Alcohol Treatment Program at Alcohol Rehab Places Seattle. Their 26-week Alcohol Treatment Program in Seattle is designed for those who have a more extensive history of alcohol use and/or legal running consequences due to their drinking habits.

Adolescents and Young Adults

If young adults and teenagers experiment with alcohol or drugs, they may be offered a mixture of drugs to test. If they are satisfied with the results they experience, there’s an increased chance that they will continue mixing the substances and feel similar effects. 


When someone has developed a tolerance to the substance they prefer and develops a tolerance, they may switch to different substances to increase the effects and provide more lasting or intense experiences. Additionally, the body develops an immunity to every substance used.

Mental Health

Being afflicted by a mental health issue is a risk factor for polysubstance use disorders. Many people use alcohol or substances to manage their symptoms because they are not confident enough to seek treatment to treat their mental health issues. However, they frequently discover that mixing several substances is more effective to alleviate symptoms temporarily rather than relying on a single drug.

Risks associated with Polysubstance Dependence

Every substance-related disorder is linked to severe and adverse consequences. When a person is using multiple substances, the risks increase since multiple substances are used at the same time.

A few of the most common adverse effects include:

  • Slowed or increased heart rate
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Troubles with Breathing
  • Memory and Concentration Problems
  • Black Outs
  • Inadequate coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • The body is aching and pains

The longer the duration of polysubstance usage continues, and the doses of the substances rise Some of the most severe side effects can be found:

  • Accidental Overdose
  • Coma
  • Respiratory Failure
  • Heart Attack/Heart Failure
  • Death
  • Deteriorating Mental Health
  • Lowered Immune System
  • An increase in the number of infections and diseases

Drugs commonly used together

Alcohol is among the most commonly used substances alongside other substances, the other substances commonly used in conjunction with alcohol are:

Benzos (Benzodiazepine) as well as Opioids

Benzos like Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin can be dangerous when combined with opioids like heroin, fentanyl, or the oxycodone. Both drugs function as serotonin, which can slow the rate of breathing as well as cognitive function. As per the NIH in the year 2019, 16% of deaths from overdose were due to mixing benzos with opioids.1

Cocaine and Ecstasy

Certain people use cocaine with ecstasy to prolong the time of effects. However, what they’re doing is causing a dangerous increase in their heart rate and blood pressure which can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

Stimulants and depressants

Stimulants are substances like meth, cocaine, and Ecstasy. The most common depressants are alcohol benzos, alcohol, and opioids. Mixing these substances can mask the effects of one drug. This means that the risk of an overdose is substantially higher. Additionally, the effects of the drugs don’t cancel one another out and can be extremely unpredictable.

In addition, according to the CDC the CDC, in 2019 more than 50% of all overdose deaths were caused by using multiple substances.2

What is Polysubstance Dependence Handled?

Polysubstance dependence is treated the same way as other disorders of substance abuse. The first step towards recovery is to undergo a controlled detox in order to eliminate the substance out of the body. The treatment for detox can differ depending on the substance that is misused and may include medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms.

If the person suffers from a mental illness the treatment plan for them will incorporate similar treatments used for treating co-occurring (dual-diagnosis) disorders. It is therefore essential to ensure that both mental health and addiction are treated in tandem. In our Private Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers in Seattle, each patient will receive a rehabilitation program for polysubstance abuse customized to match the substance they used as well as the best treatment to meet their specific needs. For instance, therapy sessions may help the person discover the reason they began using various substances.



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