Poly Drug Use


Poly drug use
Opiate Painkillers and Poly-Drug Abuse Among Young People
Polydrug Use: Get the Facts

Poly drug use

Poly drug use refers to the use of two or more psychoactive drugs in combination to achieve a particular effect. In many cases one drug is used as a base or primary drug, with additional drugs to leaven or compensate for the side effects of the primary drug and make the experience more enjoyable with drug synergy effects, or to supplement for primary drug when supply is low.[1]


Poly drug use often carries with it more risk than use of a single drug, due to an increase in side effects, and drug synergy. The potentiating effect of one drug on another is sometimes considerable and here the licit drugs and medicines – such as alcohol, nicotine and antidepressants – have to be considered in conjunction with the controlled psychoactive substances. The risk level will depend on the dosage level of both substances. If the drugs taken are illegal, they have a chance of being mixed (also known as "cutting") with other substances which dealers are reported to do to increase the perceived quantity when selling to others to increase their returns. This is particularly common with powdered drugs such as cocaine or MDMA which can be mixed with relative ease by adding another white powdery substance to the drug. This cumulative effect can lead to further unintended harm to health dependent on what is being covertly added. Concerns also exist about a number of pharmacological pairings: alcohol and cocaine increase cardiovascular toxicity; alcohol or depressant drugs, when taken with opioids, lead to an increased risk of overdose; and opioids or cocaine taken with ecstasy or amphetamines also result in additional acute toxicity.[2] Benzodiazepines are notorious for causing death when mixed with other CNS depressants such as opioids, alcohol, or barbiturates.[3][4][5]


Within the general concept of multiple drug use, several specific meanings of the term must be considered. At one extreme is planned use, where the effects of more than one drug are taken for a desired effect. Another type is when other drugs are used to counteract the negative side effects of a different drug (e.g. depressants are used to counteract anxiety and restlessness from taking stimulants). On the other hand, the use of several substances in an intensive and chaotic way, simultaneously or consecutively, in many cases each drug substituting for another according to availability.[2]


The phenomenon is the subject of established academic literature.[6]

A study among treatment admissions found that it is more common for younger people to report polydrug drug use.[7]


See also:

Combined drug intoxication
Drug overdose
Recreational drug use
Responsible drug use
Speedball (drug)


1.Jump up ^ http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index34913EN.html

2.^ Jump up to: a b EMCDDA Annual Report 2006 ch. 8

3.Jump up ^ Serfaty M, Masterton G (1993). "Fatal poisonings attributed to benzodiazepines in Britain during the 1980s". Br J Psychiatry. 163: 386–93. doi:10.1192/bjp.163.3.386. PMID 8104653.

4.Jump up ^ Buckley NA, Dawson AH, Whyte IM, O'Connell DL (1995). "[Relative toxicity of benzodiazepines in overdose.]". BMJ. 310 (6974): 219–21. doi:10.1136/bmj.310.6974.219. PMC 2548618Freely accessible. PMID 7866122.

5.Jump up ^ Drummer OH; Ranson DL (December 1996). "Sudden death and benzodiazepines". Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 17 (4): 336–42. doi:10.1097/00000433-199612000-00012. PMID 8947361.

6.Jump up ^ Scholey AB, Parrott AC, Buchanan T, Heffernan TM, Ling J, Rodgers J (June 2004). "Increased intensity of Ecstasy and polydrug usage in the more experienced recreational Ecstasy/MDMA users: a WWW study". Addict Behav. 29 (4): 743–52. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2004.02.022. PMID 15135556.

7.Jump up ^ "Polydrug Use Among Treatment Admissions: 1998." OAS Home: Alcohol, Tobacco & Drug Abuse and Mental Health Data from SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies. Web. 29 Sept. 2011. [1]

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poly_drug_use

Opiate Painkillers and Poly-Drug Abuse Among Young People

When taken as directed, prescription opiates help millions of Americans deal with the pain of injuries, major surgeries and other severe conditions.

Opioids are great for short-term relief, and when taken in small amounts for no more than two to three weeks, they can even be safe and not overly addictive. However, as drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin become more and more prevalent in the medical industry, illicit usage of opioids is also on the rise.

As part of this trend, hospitals and drug addiction treatment centers are seeing a rapid expansion of a phenomenon known as “poly-drug” use, especially among young recreational drug users. This practice poses a high risk of overdose and other health complications, and it also tends to go along with other dangerous behaviors.

What Is Poly-Drug Use?

Poly-drug use is the combination of two or more drugs with the intention of achieving a particular effect. In many cases, users take secondary drugs to balance out the effects of a primary drug. For example, many abusers of the drug ecstasy will smoke marijuana or drink alcohol to counter the bad feelings of ecstasy’s comedown stage. Other common combinations are marijuana and alcohol, cocaine and alcohol, and LSD and ecstasy.

Some poly-drug combinations involve perfectly legal over-the-counter medications or other products. For example, Red Bull and other energy drinks are popular as elements in poly-drug formulas, as are cold medications like Nyquil and caffeine stimulants like NoDoz.

The Speedball Effect

Prescription opiates are a growing element in poly-drug use. The mixture of cocaine and heroin, also known as a “speedball,” was once popular in the 70s and 80s but declined throughout the 90s. In more recent years, the combination is making a comeback with prescription opiates in place of heroin.

It’s particularly popular in places where young people have access to these drugs, which is increasingly in suburban communities and on college campuses.

Drug abusers who have taken this combination describe it as having a unique effect. Because cocaine is a stimulant and opioids are depressants, taking the two drugs together leads to a sense of euphoria without the negative effects of either drug. Of course, beneath these euphoric effects there are real physical dangers to taking speedballs. The combination kills hundreds of young Americans each year.

However, cocaine is not the only drug that is commonly mixed with opioid medications. Methamphetamine is said to have similar effects when combined with opioids, and kids may also mix opioids with alcohol, marijuana or other types of prescription drugs.

Associated Dangers

Whenever two or more drugs are taken in combination, the risk of medical complications increases exponentially. When it comes to the cocaine-opiate combination, there is always a danger that the cocaine’s effects will cause the user to take a larger-than-usual dose of the opiate drug.

Cocaine’s effects wear off much more quickly, so if an overdose of the opiate drug was taken, the user may suffer respiratory depression, which can be fatal. In fact, this is the most common cause of death related to poly-drug use.

Combining opioids with alcohol can also be very dangerous, especially when large amounts of alcohol are consumed. While the two substances’ mental effects can be quite different, their physical effects are similar in some important ways. Both are depressants, which means that both cause lowered heart rate and respiratory depression. In short, this makes it much easier to overdose. Also, both can cause vomiting, which increases the risk of choking should the user pass out or fall asleep.

Aside from the risk of overdose and fatality, poly-drug use involving opioid drugs puts young people at risk in other ways. Opiates, cocaine, methamphetamine and alcohol are all more than enough to cause acute intoxication on their own. When taken in combination, they can cause intoxication at such a level that the user completely loses control of his or her behavior and may become wildly uninhibited.

This opens the user up to sexual abuse and other crimes, and it greatly increases the chances that the user will do something that he or she will regret later on.

Prescription Opiate Availability

While there is a small black market for prescription painkillers, most people who abuse opioids get the drug either from doctors or from other people who got them from doctors. That’s why this type of opioid-based poly-drug use is typically seen in areas where prescription painkillers are common.

Suburban teens often get the drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets, and college students usually bring them from home.

As a result, it’s generally difficult for young people to obtain long-term supplies of opioid drugs, and poly-drug use often takes the form of, for example, a weekend binge or a back-to-campus celebration. On college campuses, many of these incidents take place very soon after a winter or summer break.

Treatment for Poly-Drug Use

Because it’s difficult for most young people to get long-term supplies of opioids, poly-drug use rarely becomes a habit. In fact, it’s generally much easier for a college student to develop alcoholism than an opiate habit.

If a young person in your life has had an incident with opioid-related poly-drug use, it’s much more likely that he or she has a binge drinking problem. Both the drinking and the poly-drug use are signs of recklessness that go beyond normal youthful rebellion. These are signs that the individual is truly troubled and probably needs counseling for addiction or mental illness.

If you find that the young person in your life is taking opioids regularly, whether alone or in combination with other drugs, it’s important to seek opiate addiction treatment as soon as possible. Opiate addiction develops and worsens rapidly, which means that time is of the essence. It’s essential for this person to go through detox as soon as possible, and they will probably need opioid maintenance therapy with methadone or Suboxone. After that, long-term therapy and participation in a drug addiction support group are recommended. Talk to a doctor about the best options.
Source: www.crchealth.com/find-a-treatment-center/opiate-addiction-treatment/buprenorphine-detox/opiate-painkillers-poly-drug-abuse-young-people/

Polydrug Use: Get the Facts

Drug abusers and addicts often find themselves combining drugs, either out of “necessity” when they can’t get their usual fix, or to enjoy the altered effects of ways one drug might interact with another in the body. These people are called polydrug abusers.

What is polydrug abuse?

Polydrug-usePolydrug abuse involves abusing one or more drugs in combination with one another. Sometimes this is done intentionally in order for one drug to play off another, either by heightening the effects, or by allowing one drug to downplay the effects of the other. For instance, taking cocaine with a sedative allows the sedative to dampen or stabilize some of the “high” usually offered by cocaine.

In some cases, drug users will combine drugs without rhyme or reason. This is often because they can’t access, either due to money restraints or inability to find a dealer, their drug of choice. Haphazardly combining pills and other drugs is a dangerous game. Many drugs interact with one another in dangerous ways, and this can quickly lead to deadly interactions or even drug overdose if the wrong pill combinations are taken in close proximity. Many drug users do not care whether they live or die, and once combinations of drugs are started, it’s only a matter of time before an overdose occurs.

How dangerous is polydrug abuse?

Polydrug use is extremely dangerous because of each drug’s potential to interact poorly with other drugs. Taking the wrong combination of pills within close proximity of each other can easily result in overdose or death.

Common Drug Combinations

There are some drug combinations that are more common than others among drug users. These can include:

  • “Speedball” – Combining a depressant medication with a stimulant is often referred to as a “speedball.” While the two drugs cancel each other out in the beginning (the depressant lowering heart rate and blood pressure, while the stimulant increases them), the stimulant often wears off much faster than the depressant. This leaves an amplified opiate effect on the user, and can lead to cessation of breathing.
  • Cocaine and cigarettes – Since both drugs act on the brain chemical dopamine, which is one responsible for addiction, one substance helps make addiction to the other stronger and vice versa. Users of both may find it harder to quit both drugs.
  • Antidepressants and MDMA – Many people combine these two types of drugs in order for the antidepressants to balance out the reduction in serotonin caused by drugs like ecstasy and psychedelics. While those who use an SSRI may achieve this goal, using another classification of antidepressant, such as an MAOI inhibitor, may cause a fatal reaction known as serotonin syndrome. This is caused by too much serotonin in the brain.
  • Marijuana and other drugs – Marijuana can have fatal interactions with other drugs. For instance, when used in combination with some antidepressants, heart rate irregularities are common. It may also increase the effects of cocaine, and offset the results by antipsychotic medications.

How to recognize polydrug addiction?

Factors that can help you recognize polydrug addiction:

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Goes through large amounts of money quickly and in secret
  • Mood swings and changes in behavior
  • Decreased ability in regards to memory and focus

Drugs and Alcohol

One of the most common combinations drug users like to use is that of various drugs and alcohol. This is especially common with cocaine, marijuana, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and antihistamines. Alcohol can be especially dangerous when combined with depressants. Because alcohol suppresses the central nervous system, it is also a depressant. Combining the two can slow down the nervous system too much, which can easily lead to respiratory arrest, irregular heart rate, slowed mental function, dizziness, coma, or death.

600,000 ER visits every year are related to use of drugs and alcohol in combination. This makes up over half of all drug related hospital visits. Alcohol is highly dangerous to use with any drug, as it has been shown to interact with over 150 separate substances, including recreational and prescription drugs.

Recognizing Polydrug Addictions

The signs and symptoms of someone using multiple drugs are similar to those of someone who only uses one drug. They may be amplified, however, as the risk of overdose and other complications are much higher among those who use drug cocktails vs any single drug. Someone you love may be using drugs if he:

  • Doesn’t care about activities he used to enjoy
  • Has decreased his level of personal hygiene
  • Seems secretive, withdrawn, or less talkative than usual
  • Spends money but won’t indicate where it’s being spent
  • Has mood swings and other erratic behavioral changes
  • Lacks focus, memory, or seems easily confused
  • Struggles at school or work

Signs of drug overdose are more pronounced, but they can be confused with other medical conditions if you don’t realize a person is doing drugs.

The following signs or symptoms are indicative of drug overdose and warrant immediate medical attention:

  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Trouble breathing
  • Headache or migraine
  • Irregular or rapid heart rate
  • Convulsions
  • Emotional outbursts or severe mood swings
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slurred speech
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Coma

The most commonly combined drugs are:

  • Depressants and stimulants— “speedball” often refers to combining cocaine (stimulant) with heroin or morphine (depressants)
  • Cocaine and cigarettes— intensifies each drug’s effects on dopamine levels in the brain
  • MDMA and antidepressants— counteract each other to balance out the brain’s serotonin levels
  • Marijuana and other drugs— can cause adverse, sometimes fatal, drug interactions

Treatment of Polydrug Abuse

Often time, polydrug addiction and abuse is harder to treat than treatment of single drug addiction. This is due to many factors:

  • Drug addicts using multiple drugs are often more deeply ensnared in addiction. Often, by the time a drug user tries multiple drugs or combines drugs with alcohol, he has been using for a while, and addiction has had time to “rewire” his brain. These people are highly addicted.
  • Drugs play off one another to cause heightened reactions, as well as more addictive dependency. Combining drugs often makes quitting any of them more difficult to accomplish.
  • Withdrawal symptoms are often compounded. The more drugs at play, the more severe withdrawal symptoms can be. Additionally, quitting some drugs or combinations cold turkey can lead to dangerous side effects. These can often be deadly.
  • Users are more resistant to help. Higher levels of addiction often mean more resistant addicts. The saying “the first step is admitting you have a problem” is true and those who aren’t open to getting help usually won’t. Unfortunately, many polydrug users will die before they reach that point.

The most effective treatment for polydrug addicts is an inpatient rehabilitation facility. While there are outpatient counseling and programs available, they are often less effective at treating the most severe cases of addiction. An inpatient center will provide a higher level of care which will include:

  • Medical monitoring during detoxification to ensure any side effects or withdrawal symptoms are kept under control
  • Intensive counseling to get to the root of the drug use
  • Treatment for any underlying co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety or depression
  • Group therapies for peer to peer support and advice

If you or someone you love is suffering from a polydrug addiction, there is help available. Contact us to discuss getting the treatment you need.
Source: addictionresource.com/addiction/polydrug-use/

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