What Is Polysubstance Abuse? Why Is It Dangerous?

Intentional or unintentional polysubstance abuse is never completely safe. Combining drugs often makes both drugs stronger than before.

What Is Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is the misuse of multiple substances in order to get a “higher” effect from the drugs used. Some examples include mixing alcohol with prescription medication, or mixing illicit drugs like cocaine with prescription medications such as fentanyl. Many people use different combinations for different effects.

Whatever the reason is for taking drugs – either recreationally or obtaining a prescription from a health care provider – patterns of increased use or physical dependence can lead to a substance use disorder. Often, people won’t even realize that they have developed a polysubstance abuse problem.
Polysubstance Abuse


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What Are the Signs of Polysubstance Abuse?

There are many different signs and symptoms of polysubstance abuse.

The danger signs of polysubstance abuse often include a notable change in personality or behavior, losing interest in hobbies or friends, depression, anxiety, and increased mood swings or irritability. While these signs by themselves don’t directly point to a polysubstance abuse problem, they are good indicators if someone has been using multiple substances at the same time these signs are presented.

Some of the most noticeable symptoms of polysubstance abuse include intense cravings and urges to use either one or multiple substances, and constantly thinking about or planning when and how to use the substances.

Physical Symptoms of Polysubstance Abuse

Some other physical symptoms include:
  • Difficulty controlling substance use
  • Anxiety, depression, or isolation
  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils
  • Sleeping problems
  • Changes in attitude or personality
  • Increased aggression
  • Poor physical coordination
  • Abrupt weight changes
  • Poor personal hygiene

What Is Polysubstance Abuse Treatment?

Polysubstance abuse disorder is a disease that needs treatment as early as possible. The longer one resists treatment, the more complex and more prolonged the treatment and recovery process will be. A person’s history of polysubstance abuse determines the type and level of treatment medical doctors will administer. The treatment options available include different types of medically assisted treatment and therapeutic interventions.

For billing for alcohol and drug-related issues, you can use polysubstance abuse ICD 10 codes for polysubstance abuse ICD 9 codes. Doctors also use the ICD 10 code for polysubstance abuse to indicate a diagnosis for reimbursement purposes.

Approaches to Polysubstance Abuse

There are many different approaches and therapeutic interventions doctors use to help treat polysubstance abuse and various other mental health conditions.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Programy (DBT)

Most patients suffering from polysubstance abuse disorder also have co-occurring mental health disorders, like PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc. In that case, EMDR is a therapy that can be used together with medically assisted treatment and other medicines to ensure a speedier and long-lasting recovery.

EMDR is a structured psychotherapy method that encourages you to briefly focus on the traumatic memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (for example, eye movements), which reduces the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT helps patients to change their behavior and thinking patterns. In this type of therapy, patients will learn how to recognize negative thoughts that cause destructive behavior and then learn ways to reevaluate and cope with the idea. Patients learn to face their fears and calm their minds to make better overall decisions.

Somatic Experiencing Program (Bodily Therapy)

Bodily therapy involves psychotherapeutic treatment of mental health disorders that co-occur with polysubstance abuse. In these therapy sessions, patients will participate in body-oriented modalities through dance, meditation, or breathwork.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Program

Dialectical behavior therapy programs help patients accept their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. It teaches techniques to help change thoughts and skills for interpersonal relationships, and it majorly focuses on the emotional and social aspects of living.

Motivational Interviewing Program

Motivational interviewing counsels you based on your unique needs and your conflicting feelings regarding the desire to change to beat the addiction. This type of therapy is patient-focused. It is collaborative, non-judgmental, and honors your autonomy.

Risks And Dangers of Polysubstance Use

Different polysubstance abuse affects everyone differently and may depend on specific individual combinations. However, the common risks and dangers often include increased severity of side effects, acute health problems, and complications due to co-occurring mental health issues.

Increased Severity of Side Effects

Any symptom one might get from substance abuse, in general, is intensified with polysubstance abuse. Side effects such as nausea, vomiting, body pain, respiratory problems, increased blood pressure, and cardiovascular issues become more pronounced and can kill you if medical intervention is not obtained in time.

Acute Health Problems

Taking multiple substances will change certain aspects of the body; for instance, you can feel a shortness of breath after taking cocaine. Still, if you take both cocaine and alcohol, the effects of both substances may make breathing even harder, creating a higher chance of suffering from a cardiac arrest.

Mixing stimulants and antidepressants will have opposing effects on your body as well. Stimulants increase your heart rate and blood pressure, while antidepressants slow your breathing. This combination may lead to permanent brain damage or injury to other organs such as the liver. You can also suffer from a heart attack or stroke.

Complications Due to Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues

Using multiple drugs on top of having a mental health issue can aggravate your mental illness and increase the risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.

Polysubstance abuse disorder may coexist with other mental illnesses as well. If this is the case, you need to get treatment for both conditions. Other dangers and risks of polysubstance abuse include a physical dependence upon the substance(s), possible organ damage, and increased adverse effects on mental health.
Polysubstance abuse icd

Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse

There are many options in order to get treatment for polysubstance abuse.

Residential Care

Residential care is a treatment program that requires patients to check in at a facility and has a well-trained medical staff who can immediately respond to one’s medical and psychological needs. These facilities are primarily recommended if people suffer from a severe alcohol or substance use disorder for an extended period of time. The services offered often include individual and group therapies, counseling, and medically reinforced detox and withdrawal services when needed.

Residential care also involves inpatient and outpatient options.

Inpatient Care

Inpatient care involves a medical caregiver administering complete medical detoxification gradually until patients can start other concurrent treatments in inpatient care. In medical detox, patients receive medication that gradually reduces alcohol or other drugs in their bloodstream. The health service providers at detox treatment centers offer medications to help manage withdrawal symptoms safely.

Outpatient Care

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are treatment programs that manage different types of addictions that require round-the-clock intensive detoxification. Most people prefer IOPs because they are relatively cheaper than inpatient programs. Patients can live at home while visiting the treatment facility for scheduled treatment sessions.

After completing residential treatment, partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are generally next. Here, patients only need to go to the rehab center for specific treatment sessions. These are usually six-hour sessions five days a week. PHPs provide an excellent way of transitioning after detox and can help patients adapt smoothly to their daily routines.

Treatment at Concise Recovery

Seek treatment, medical advice, and professional help at Concise Recovery to help cope with polysubstance abuse. Though treatment is often challenging at first and coupled with mild to severe withdrawal symptoms, it is always worth seeking help. Concise Recovery will be with you every step of the way during the recovery process and can help with multiple aspects of the withdrawal phases. Contact us today if you or a loved one could benefit from treatment.