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Understanding Polysubstance Abuse

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When it comes to substance abuse, it is not difficult to find individuals who abuse more than one substance at a time. Doing so is actually quite common, as many people often combine mind-altering substances like alcohol, marijuana, and prescription pills together. However, when someone is experiencing polysubstance abuse, it is a much different situation. 

Polysubstance abuse refers the abuse of at least three separate substances but does not favor one over the other. Those experiencing polysubstance abuse are not dependent on only one of their substances. Rather they are usually simultaneously dependent on them all. What this indicates is that the three or more substances being abused are being abused at the same time, all the time. This is extremely dangerous and can produce a number of signs and symptoms that are not only noticeable, but potentially harmful to the user and those around them.

Signs of Polysubstance Abuse

The signs that someone with polysubstance abuse will exhibit are typically dependent on factors such as the type of substances they are abusing, the length of time they have been abusing them for, and how much are being consumed at a time. Typically more severe symptoms are more evident in more frequent users. But there are some common signs of polysubstance abuse that are typically shared among all who experience this condition. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Inability to control consumption of substances
  • Difficulty or inability to stop using despite the negative consequences of continued use
  • The development of withdrawal symptoms when unable to use as usual 
  • Continued need to increase the amount of substances being abused in order to achieve the desired effects
  • Spending an excessive amount of time on using, thinking, acquiring, and recovering from substances
  • Engaging in risky behaviors when under the influence that put oneself or others in harm’s way

Common Drug Combinations

One of the reasons why individuals end up abusing three or more mind-altering substances at the same time is because they are looking to enhance the effect of the drugs. Someone may begin abusing Adderall but quickly turn to the abuse of other stimulant substances like meth and cocaine. The desire to continue using multiple drugs can be fueled by wanting to create the best high possible. Or, on the other hand, someone may want to use one drug to counter the effects of another. For instance, someone who uses meth may also use heroin to “come down” from the meth high.

Some of the most common drug combinations include the following:

  • Cocaine and marijuana
  • Heroin and cocaine
  • Cocaine and ecstasy
  • Any three prescription drugs

The truth of the matter is, anyone can create any combination of mind-altering substances. Because there are any number of possible combinations of drugs means that there are more potential dangers.

Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse

Substance abuse comes with many risks to a person’s health and safety. Polysubstance abuse exacerbates these dangers. When someone uses more than one addictive substance at a time, there is a cumulative risk.

The most notable dangers of polysubstance abuse tend to include the following:

  • Cardiac problems such as heart attack, stroke, or heart failure
  • Seizures
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Liver damage or failure
  • Kidney damage or failure
  • Respiratory depression or failure
  • Brain damage

Individuals with polysubstance abuse disorder are also likely to experience overdoses, which can cause permanent, irreversible damage or be fatal. 

Unique Treatment Requirements for Polysubstance Abuse

Individuals who are experiencing polysubstance abuse often have unique treatment needs due to the complexity of their condition. More often than not, individuals with polysubstance abuse require detox services and a comprehensive approach to treatment. 


Anytime a person is dependent on one or more substances, seeking the help of professionals when looking to detox is a good idea. Those with polysubstance abuse can benefit from professional detox services, as there is a good chance they will experience problematic symptoms as they attempt to detox from three or more mind-altering substances. Detoxing while in the care of experienced professionals gives these individuals access to medical and mental health care that can help keep them on track in their detox, rather than push them to the brink of using once again. 

Comprehensive Treatment

Detox is simply not enough for someone with a polysubstance abuse problem. Those who experience this type of addiction often require physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing in order to regain control of their lives. Therefore, they may participate in evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and group counseling, as well as non-traditional therapies such as aromatherapy and yoga. When recovering, these individuals can work to restore all areas of their lives as opposed to focusing solely on one area of concern. 

What to Expect During Treatment

Polysubstance abuse treatment plans are unique to each individual who seeks treatment. This is due, in large part, to the need to address the symptoms of each type of drug. This is likely to include detox services and therapy, as well as possibly other elements of addiction treatment that can enhance the care you are already obtaining (such as holistic therapy). 

By speaking with your treatment team, you can better understand what to expect from the level of care you are about to obtain, giving you more confidence in what to expect. No matter what type of care you receive, you can expect to get care that addresses all aspects of your wellbeing so that you can begin living a successful life of recovery. 

Polysubstance Abuse Treatment in Santa Ana

Polysubstance abuse is an extremely dangerous form of substance abuse. If you are struggling with polysubstance abuse and are in need of help in order to stop, call Pacific Sands Recovery at (949) 426-7962. Please visit our  website to learn more about our team and what we offer. 

You do not need to go through this alone. If you are ready to get started on the road to recovery, contact us right now. We are here to help you. 

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