Multiple Substance Use Disorders
People with one substance use disorder are at-risk of developing additional substance use disorders, and often do. Research suggests that anywhere between 37 and 56 percent of people who enter treatment for addiction have two or more substance use disorders upon admission.
This used to be diagnosed as polysubstance abuse, but recent changes in clinical terminology simplified this diagnosis to substance use disorders – two or more.
There are many pathways to multiple substance abuse: the most common is combining alcohol with either prescription painkillers or marijuana, then developing an addiction to both. People with more than one substance use disorder typically fall on a predictable spectrum. At one end are those unaware of what they’re getting themselves into. They’re prescribed a short-term painkiller and mix it with casual alcohol consumption, for instance, and end up addicted to both. On the other end are people who intentionally mix substances in order to achieve a greater high. Sometimes they mix drugs because they’ve developed a tolerance to one and use additional drugs to achieve the same feeling they experienced before they developed tolerance. In other cases, those deep in addiction see a warning label on a bottle of pills, such as “May Cause Drowsiness – Do Not Drive or Operate Heavy Machinery. Alcohol May Intensify This Effect” and think, “That’s exactly what I’m after – intensifying the effect.” Using multiple substances increases the risk of adverse outcomes such as death and can make detox more risky outside of a program designed to treat issues that may arise.
Whatever your path to multiple substance use disorders, the chronic use of multiple substance exacerbates the negative physical, emotional, and psychological effects of drug addiction. The changes in your brain, body, and behavior accumulate, and treatment becomes more challenging with each additional substance that’s abused.
If you fall into the category of substance use disorders – two or more, we can help. Though the terminology has changed, we’ve been helping people with polysubstance abuse for decades. We can help you, too.