What is Polysubstance Misuse?

Although the consumption of more than one drug at the same time isn’t necessarily a new phenomenon, polysubstance misuse has become an alarming trend amid the current fentanyl epidemic. Due to a noticeable surge of multi-substance misuse being linked to fatal overdoses, it’s important people recognize the dangers of this practice and learn how they can get help.

How Common is Polysubstance Misuse?

Using more than one drug at the same time is much more common than people realize since it includes prescription drugs as well as illicit substances. In some cases, people use mixed substances unknowingly, like taking prescription anxiety medication and then having a glass of wine with dinner, not realizing the two should never be mixed. This is why patients must be candid with their medical providers when they ask how often they drink, smoke, or use recreational drugs. Checking for potentially dangerous drug interactions can save patients a lot of grief and prevent a medical emergency.

However, in many cases, people intentionally misuse more than one substance at once, attempting to achieve a desired high. This often includes a person’s drug of choice with an additional substance that may prolong or enhance the primary drug’s effects. In the recent history of opioid misuse, people would mix either prescription or illicit opioids with benzodiazepines to maximize sedative or “relaxing” effects.

A new and disturbing trend is now occurring where people are mixing fentanyl and methamphetamine, two drugs that have effects at opposite ends of the spectrum. Experts suggest that drug users are attempting to “self-regulate” their opioid dependency with a dangerous combination of two drugs that, to them, balance each other out. The significant danger in this practice lies in the strength of fentanyl on the street is entirely unpredictable, and the “energizing” effects of methamphetamine make it more difficult to recognize potential overdose symptoms.

The Dangers of Mixing Substances

Whether someone is combining two substances to maximize one effect or counter the effect of the primary drug, there is a lot of potential harm. Causing the body to undergo extremes with the use of mind-altering chemicals puts an enormous strain on the heart and lungs. Fluctuations in blood pressure and heart rate can cause anything from strokes to overdose connected to cardiac arrest. Additionally, suppose someone is experiencing drug-induced medical emergency attempts to get help from emergency personnel but cannot communicate that they’ve ingested multiple substances. In that case, medics may not know to use overdose reversal medications or will deploy the wrong method to save that person.  

With polysubstance use becoming more popular than ever, now is the best time to take the first step toward addiction treatment. Outpatient offices like Middlesex Recovery help people from all walks of life address their substance use disorder using evidence-based methods and FDA-approved medications. Specialized medical providers, nursing staff, and substance use counselors can help those misusing one or more substances with expertise and compassion. Conveniently located and private Middlesex Recovery medical offices are prepared to help those wanting to put their best foot forward in pursuing a future free of drugs. Message or call today to learn more about the programs available.