Polysubstance Abuse Treatment: How to Get Help for Addiction

Polysubstance Abuse Treatment: Understanding the Methods Used for Recovery

The word part ‘poly’ refers to ‘many.’ Therefore, polysubstance abuse refers to the act of using multiple drugs simultaneously or in rapid succession to achieve a desired effect. Polysubstance abuse can involve different combinations of drugs such as alcohol, opioids, stimulants, and sedatives, all of which can have severe physical and psychological consequences, especially when used together.

Polysubstance abuse is often associated with addiction, where individuals have difficulty controlling drug use despite negative consequences. The combination of different drugs in polysubstance abuse can increase the risk of negative side effects and overdose, which can be fatal, as well as exacerbate existing mental health issues.

Treatment for polysubstance abuse must be well-rounded and address both the medical aspect of the addiction as well as the mental health aspect. Dual diagnosis rehab is often used for polysubstance abuse treatment, where both the drug addiction and any mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder or depression, can be simultaneously treated.

Dangers Associated with Polysubstance Abuse

Before we discuss the treatment process, it’s important to understand the risks and dangers of polysubstance abuse, especially because they can be life-threatening. Specifically, combining multiple drugs can increase the risk of overdose, which can cause respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, and even death. In 2019, nearly half of drug overdose deaths involved multiple drugs.

Polysubstance abuse can also lead to the development of addiction, making it harder for individuals to quit or seek help. The withdrawal symptoms from multiple drugs can be more severe and longer-lasting, further complicating the recovery process.

The use of multiple drugs can also exacerbate underlying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. This is because substance abuse can impair the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, for example, which are responsible for helping us feel calm and free of anxiety. 

Individuals who engage in polysubstance misuse may also experience increased impulsivity, aggression, and psychosis, leading to self-harm and suicidal ideation. All of these factors are heightened by changes in brain chemistry linked to polysubstance abuse.

Finally, polysubstance misuse can have a significant impact on an individual’s social and economic well-being. When mental disorders affect someone for an extended period of time, it can impair their motivation and physical ability to participate in jobs and relationships. Eventually, this may lead to job loss, financial difficulties, and relationship problems.

Polysubstance Overdose

A drug overdose occurs when an individual takes too much of a drug or combination of drugs to the point that it overwhelms the body’s natural ability to eliminate them. With polysubstance abuse, the risk of overdose is higher. The symptoms of a polysubstance overdose can also be difficult to predict as the combination of drugs can lead to unpredictable interactions that can exacerbate the effects of each drug.

Symptoms of a polysubstance overdose may include:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cardiac arrest

The severity of symptoms can vary depending on the combination and quantity of drugs used. If you suspect that someone is experiencing a polysubstance overdose, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately. 

Polysubstance Abuse Treatment

group of people sitting in semicircle offering support for polysubstance abuse treatment

Treatment for polysubstance abuse is essential to prevent long-term physical, psychological, and social consequences. Treatment for polysubstance abuse often involves a combination of medication-assisted treatment, individual and group therapy, and alternative therapies when available.

The most ideal treatment for polysubstance abuse is dual diagnosis rehab, where individuals receive simultaneous treatment for drug addiction and mental health issues. This provides individuals with the best chance at recovery.

Some of the methods used to treat polysubstance abuse include:

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment for polysubstance abuse involves residential treatment at a facility for a set period of time to receive intensive and comprehensive care for their substance abuse. Inpatient treatment programs typically last anywhere from 30 to 90 days, although the length of stay may vary based on the severity of the addiction and individual needs.

During inpatient treatment for polysubstance abuse, individuals receive round-the-clock medical supervision and care to manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse. Treatment may include a combination of individual and group therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and alternative therapies such as art or music therapy to address the physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of addiction.

Inpatient treatment also provides a structured environment that removes individuals from the triggers and stressors of their everyday lives – such as the serene environment at Wellness Retreat Recovery in the Bay Area – allowing them to focus solely on their recovery. Individuals receive support from trained professionals and peer support from other individuals undergoing treatment, fostering a sense of community and accountability.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is a type of treatment for polysubstance abuse that involves the use of medications to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings associated with drug use. MAT is often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy during dual diagnosis rehab, such as counseling and behavioral therapies.

The medications used in MAT are often opioid agonists or antagonists, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. These medications can help to reduce cravings for opioids and manage withdrawal symptoms, allowing individuals to focus on recovery.

MAT is administered under the supervision of a healthcare provider and requires regular monitoring and adjustments to medication dosages. The goal of MAT is to provide a stable, long-term solution for individuals struggling with polysubstance abuse.

Outpatient Polysubstance Treatment

After completing inpatient treatment, individuals may transition to outpatient treatment or step-down programs that provide ongoing support as they continue on their journey of recovery. Outpatient treatment typically involves regular therapy sessions with a licensed therapist, as well as group therapy and support groups. 

Therapy sessions can be individual or in a group setting and aim to help individuals address the underlying causes of their addiction, develop coping skills to manage triggers and stressors, and build a strong support system.

12-Step Treatment Programs

Twelve-step treatment for polysubstance abuse is based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Treatment is rooted in the belief that addiction is a disease that requires spiritual, emotional, and social healing.

The 12-steps involve a series of principles and practices that guide individuals through their recovery journey. The steps typically involve admitting powerlessness over drugs or alcohol, seeking help from a higher power, taking a personal inventory, making amends for past wrongs, and helping others in their recovery.

In 12-step treatment, individuals are encouraged to attend meetings regularly and connect with a sponsor, who is typically someone who has successfully completed the program and can provide support and guidance throughout the recovery process. The focus is on creating a supportive community of individuals who share a common goal of sobriety.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

therapist providing cognitive behavioral therapy for polysubstance abuse addiction

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that is often used in the treatment of polysubstance abuse. The goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to help individuals identify negative thought patterns and behaviors and replace them with more positive, healthy ones.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy for polysubstance abuse typically involves a series of structured sessions with a licensed therapist. The therapist works with the individual to identify triggers for drug use and develop coping strategies to manage these triggers in a healthy way. The therapist also helps the individual identify negative thought patterns that may contribute to substance abuse and teaches them how to replace these thoughts with more positive, empowering ones.

In cognitive-behavioral therapy, individuals learn skills to manage stress, anxiety, and depression, which can be contributing factors to substance abuse. The therapy also helps individuals develop healthy habits and routines that support long-term recovery.

Individual Therapy

Therapy is an important pillar of dual diagnosis rehab for polysubstance abuse. Individual therapy involves one-on-one counseling sessions between the patient and a licensed therapist or counselor. The goal of individual therapy is to help individuals explore the underlying reasons for their substance abuse, develop coping skills, and make positive changes in their behavior and thought patterns.

Group Therapy

Along with individual therapy, most people will participate in group therapy during inpatient rehab, especially for dual diagnosis rehab. Group therapy involves sessions with a therapist and a group of other individuals that are also recovering from substance abuse. 

Group therapy aims to provide a supportive and non-judgmental environment where individuals can share their experiences, receive feedback, and learn from others. Group therapy helps reduce feelings of shame and increase feelings of connectedness, which provides therapeutic benefits for polysubstance abuse recovery.

Family Therapy

Substance abuse can have a profound impact on family dynamics, leading to conflict, mistrust, and communication breakdowns. Family therapy can help to improve communication, increase understanding, and rebuild relationships that may have been strained by polysubstance abuse.

In family therapy, the therapist works with the patient and their family members to identify patterns of behavior that may be contributing to substance abuse and to develop strategies for addressing these issues. Family therapy is often continued during outpatient rehabilitation for continued support.

Holistic Treatment

group of people recovering from polysubstance abuse doing yoga in the park for holistic recovery

Holistic addiction treatment focuses on the individual as a whole, rather than just addressing the symptoms of polysubstance abuse. Holistic recovery considers the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of a person and aims to treat each aspect equally. 

Holistic recovery may include a combination of traditional therapies for polysubstance abuse, such as individual and group therapy, and complementary therapies. Here at Wellness Retreat Recovery, we are proud to offer many holistic treatment options such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and nutrition counseling

Holistic recovery recognizes that substance abuse can often be a symptom of deeper issues, such as trauma, mental health disorders, or spiritual disconnection. By addressing these underlying issues, individuals can find lasting healing and recovery from substance abuse.

Common Combinations in Polysubstance Use

Now that you understand how treatment for polysubstance abuse works, and why it’s important for addressing the dangers, let’s discuss other facts that are helpful to know. 

Polysubstance abuse can involve any combination of two or more drugs, but there are common combinations to be aware of, which include:

Alcohol and Benzodiazepines

woman sitting at table drinking whiskey and holding a pill considering whether or not to take it

Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the central nervous system, and benzodiazepines are a class of prescription sedatives that work in a similar way. When taken together, the effects of alcohol and benzodiazepines can be amplified, leading to respiratory depression, unconsciousness, and even death.

Opioids and Benzodiazepines

Both opioids and benzodiazepines can cause sedation and respiratory depression, and when taken together, they can increase the risk of overdose. This combination is particularly dangerous because both drugs are highly addictive and can cause physical dependence in a short amount of time.

Cocaine and Alcohol

Cocaine is a stimulant that increases heart rate and blood pressure, while alcohol is a depressant that slows down the central nervous system. When these alcohol and cocaine are taken together, they can create a dangerous combination that puts a strain on the heart and can lead to heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.

Methamphetamine and Cocaine

Methamphetamine and cocaine are both stimulants that can cause intense feelings of euphoria and energy. However, when taken together, they can put a significant strain on the heart and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems.

Marijuana and Alcohol

While marijuana is generally considered to be less harmful than other drugs, combining it with alcohol can lead to increased impairment and cognitive dysfunction. Both marijuana and alcohol impair coordination, reaction time, and judgment, which can increase the risk of accidents and injuries. When used together, the effects can be even more pronounced, making it extremely dangerous to drive or operate heavy machinery.

Comorbidities Associated with Polysubstance Abuse

While there are specific combinations of drugs seen in polysubstance abuse, there are also comorbidities to be aware of. Comorbidities refer to the presence of two or more medical or psychiatric conditions occurring in the same individual. 

Polysubstance abuse is often associated with comorbidities, meaning that individuals who engage in this behavior are more likely to have other medical or psychiatric conditions.

Common comorbidities of polysubstance abuse include mental health disorders such as:

Individuals may also experience physical health problems such as liver disease, respiratory issues, and infectious diseases due to the sharing of needles or engaging in unprotected sex while under the influence of drugs.

Additionally, polysubstance abuse may be associated with a history of trauma or abuse, as well as social and economic factors such as poverty, homelessness, and unemployment. It is important for individuals who engage in polysubstance abuse to receive a comprehensive assessment to identify any comorbidities and receive appropriate treatment for all conditions.

Understanding Polysubstance Abuse Treatment

Polysubstance abuse is a complex issue that requires comprehensive treatment approaches. It is not just a matter of stopping the use of one substance, as there may be underlying mental health issues or past traumas that contribute to the substance abuse. Therefore, it is important to seek professional help when dealing with polysubstance abuse.

If you or a loved one struggles with multiple substance addictions, the Wellness Retreat Recovery Center has a dual diagnosis treatment center in the Bay Area, and we would be happy to help you. Call us today at 1-888-738-0692 to learn more about our dual diagnosis rehab program and get started on the road to recovery.