What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

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Sometimes individuals can struggle with addictions to multiple different substances. This is known as polysubstance abuse. Polysubstance abuse is extremely dangerous. If you or your loved one is struggling with it, then it is imperative that they seek drug rehab treatment as soon as possible.

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is consuming more than one mind altering drug at the same time. People who engage in polysubstance abuse are normally trying to feel the effects of multiple different substances. Usually, the addict will combine other drugs with their drug of choice in order to enhance the effects.

For example, someone who abuses heroin may also take Xanax in order to feel a heightened sense of relaxation and sedation. While polysubstance abuse may intensify the desired effects it can also increase the adverse side effects of the drugs that have been consumed.

People with a co-occurring mental health diagnosis are more likely to engage in polysubstance abuse. More often than not, they will try to self medicate with multiple different substances in order to cope with the side effects of the mental health condition. In order for someone in this situation to recover they must get the proper treatment they need from a medical professional for both their addiction and mental health disorder.

Research has proven that mixing different drugs together can have unpredictable effects. Unfortunately, when someone engages in polysubstance abuse they are not able to recognize the severe or even deadly consequences that can happen due to their choices. If you or someone you love is trying to recover from polysubstance abuse, then they should contact an addiction treatment program immediately. 

How Is It Defined?

Individuals who are diagnosed with polysubstance abuse are normally addicted to the feeling of being high. Sometimes they are using multiple drugs in order to enhance the effects of their drug of choice. Other times, people with polysubstance abuse addictions will not have a particular drug that they prefer.

Polysubstance abuse is defined as someone who is abusing two or more addictive drugs. Some common drugs that are used in polysubstance abuse include:

  • Alcohol
  • Opiates
  • Marijuana
  • Amphetamines
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Inhalants


Cases of polysubstance abuse can include mixing illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol with either of the two. The consumption of a combination of substances, legal or not, is categorized as polysubstance abuse. 

How Is Polysubstance Abuse Diagnosed?

Diagnosing polysubstance abuse can be a tough process if an individual is not disclosing all of the drugs that they are using. In order for the condition to be diagnosed a person must meet the DSM-5 criteria for substance abuse disorder. This criteria includes:

  • Hazardous use
  • Social and interpersonal relationship issues due to drug use
  • Legal problems
  • Neglecting responsibilities to use
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance
  • Failed attempts to quit
  • Psychological problems due to drug use
  • Taking large amounts of drugs over a long period of time
  • A majority of time spent using drugs


There are other qualifying factors for someone to be diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. It is important to note that someone does not need to meet every single one of these criteria.

According to the DSM-5 substance abuse is categorized from mild to severe. This means that if someone only meets a few of the criteria they may be diagnosed with mild substance abuse disorder. Subsequently, if they meet a majority they will be diagnosed with a severe substance abuse disorder. In order to meet the criteria for polysubstance abuse disorder the individual must be abusing more than one substance and meet the criteria outlined in the DSM-5.

The Contributing Factors 

Many people wonder what leads to polysubstance abuse in the first place. The reality is that there are a multitude of reasons why someone may abuse more than one substance. Sometimes, it can be genetic. If an individual’s close relative has been diagnosed with a form of addiction, then they are at a higher risk for polysubstance abuse. 

Furthermore, social or environmental factors can also be at play. Throughout teenagerhood or young adulthood someone may be in situations that lead to them trying a number of different substances. If they enjoy the effect of the substance, then they will normally continue to crave the substance. Another factor is mental health. If someone has a mental health disorder they may turn to different substances in order to cope. If they are depressed they may use stimulants in order to feel happy, and if they have panic attacks too they may abuse opiates or benzodiazepines to calm down. 


The Dangers Of Polysubstance Abuse

No matter what the factors were that led to polysubstance abuse, it is important to understand that it is extremely dangerous. When drugs are combined together, it increases the severity of the side effects. This easily leads to fatal effects such as overdose, especially when opiates and benzodiazepines are combined. The body can also become physically dependent on multiple different substances. When this happens the detox process can not only be more uncomfortable, it can also be more dangerous. The regular side effects from polysubstance abuse are also fairly severe. They include nausea, vomiting, digestive problems, heart rate changes, generalized pain throughout the body, high blood pressure, and respiratory issues. If you are struggling with polysubstance abuse it is important to speak with a medical professional before stopping use of the substances. The detox process for some drugs is deadly and should always be done in a medical setting.


Help For Polysubstance Abuse In Cherry Hill, NJ

If you or someone you love is struggling with polysubstance abuse, then it is important to get in touch with a drug rehab facility now. The Healing Center, in Cherry Hill, NJ, treats drug addiction, alcoholism, and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our programs focus on treating not only the addictions, but also the reason for the addiction in the first place. Since polysubstance abuse can stem from mental health disorders it is important to seek help from a facility that is capable of treating co-occurring disorders. Recovering from an addiction to multiple substances is not easy. You do not have to do it alone. Call The Healing Center’s admission team in order to get the help you need to recover.