Intoxicating drugs can seem remarkably easy to control. Someone who drinks alcohol, for example, might feel comfortable with the idea of describing the differences between a shot of whiskey and a glass of wine, and that person might feel as though this knowledge makes drinking somehow safer. That knowledge seems to give the person a modicum of control.
Unfortunately, some people choose to expand their drug-using experiences by mixing and matching different types of drugs. People like this may take different drugs at the same time in order to intensify the high that might come, or they might add in different drugs at the end of a high, to amend and adjust the transition to sobriety. People like this might feel as though they’re very much in control of their drug-using habits, but in reality, they’re taking dangerous chances with their long-term health.
Combining Drugs and Dangers
There are a number of different terms experts can use in order to describe the experience of using multiple drugs at once, including:
- Combined drug intoxication (CDI)
- Polydrug intoxication
- Multiple drug intake (MDI)
- Co-occurring drug intake
It’s a common part of the drug-use experience for many people, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, as 39 percent of all people who enrolled in treatment programs for addiction took more than one substance during the course of their disease.
Users can also take in multiple drugs in the context of a party. For example, a study of men who went to so-called “circuit parties” in San Francisco found that 53 percent of attendants used four or more drugs. Methamphetamine, ketamine, Ecstasy and GHB were common choices, as these are the sorts of drugs that allow partygoers to dance for hours without feeling fatigue, but alcohol also might play a role in a party experience.
Dangers of Mixing and Matching
It’s hard to speak generally about the harm that might come to someone who mixes one drug with another, as the real dangers depend on the types of drugs that are involved. Since sedatives, stimulants and hallucinogens don’t work the same within the human body, it’s hard to define the dangers of these drugs in general terms. However, it’s safe to say that people who blend drugs tend to have a higher risk of overdose when compared to people who do not.
Augmenting a sedating drug with another sedating drug tends to bring about a sense of fatigue that is so overwhelming that the person might simply be unable to recover.
Similarly, adding two stimulant drugs together can have a profound impact on the heart, and that might translate into cardiovascular distress and death. Two drugs working together are just more harmful than one drug working alone, and the results can be catastrophic.
It’s also difficult to know just how two drugs might combine inside the human body. For example, alcohol can be considered a sedative at high doses, but at low doses, it tends to have a stimulating effect. Mixing the right amount of alcohol with the right amount of stimulant might produce a sensation of power and invincibility that allows a person to say things and do things he/she wouldn’t normally do, and the pressure on the heart might be enormous. It’s difficult to predict these sorts of responses, but they can be incredibly dangerous.
Of all of the dangers, an overdose is the most severe. People who overdose take in substances at such a level that their bodies are overwhelmed with sensation and their vital functions shut down, one by one. Some people who overdose don’t lose their lives, as they get swift treatments that counteract the effects of the drugs they take, but others do lose their lives due to overdosing on multiple drugs. The sensations are just too powerful, and life slips away before the person is aware that something terrible is taking place.
People who mix and match drugs can seem difficult to reach, particularly if they believe that their habits keep them safer or somehow provide proof of their superior drug-taking status. These users might put on a good face and suggest that they’re in complete control of their habits, even as their lives seem to fall apart around them. Breaking past that denial isn’t easy, but an interventionist can help.
Interventionists are skilled professionals who have training in conversational techniques that can elicit change in people who use and abuse drugs. These experts can meet with the family and learn more about the drug abuse situation that’s in place, and they can help the family to craft a supportive, healing discussion about addiction with the person who is abusing drugs. Here, denial tends to slip away, as people are given the opportunity to really examine how life has changed due to the influence of drugs. The talk is loving, but it can also be a real eye-opener, and it can prompt someone to get help.
In a treatment program for addiction, experts tend to use many different types of tools to elicit change, including:
- Alternative medicine
- Medication management
- Peer-to-peer support groups
These are the same therapies that might be provided to anyone who has an addiction, but people who have poly-drug addictions might need yet more intense therapies, due to the augmented damage their brains have endured due to their habits. Blending drugs harms the brain in a way that sticking to one drug does not, and it pays to provide co-addicted people with a little extra help as a result.
An Extra Push Might Help
A study in the journal Addictive Behaviors outlines one such approach. Counselors provided co-addicted people with vouchers they could redeem for prizes if they continued to come to their therapy sessions as scheduled. Those who received those prizes tended to stay sober at a rate superior to that seen in people who didn’t get prizes. Studies like this demonstrate how important an extra push might be in keeping people safe and sober.
When to Intervene
People who abuse multiple drugs have likely endured significant brain damage due to their habits, and they simply can’t snap off their behaviors and live in a safe and sober manner on their own. They need their families to say something and provide help that can allow them to change their ways.
If someone in your family needs help like this, please contact us at Black Bear Lodge. We provide a complete suite of therapies that can help people with an addiction, and we’re fully capable of helping people who have more than one addiction at the same time. Just call us and we’ll tell you more about how you can get the person you love into our revolutionary program.