The Complexities of Addiction Treatment

Drug addiction treatment can become more complex when an individual experiences addiction to more than one drug at the same time. Such cases, known as poly-drug addictions, can pose special concerns during both the physical detoxification process and the therapeutic process of drug addiction recovery. In some cases, the force of drug tolerance causes users to achieve the sought-after chemical high by combining two similar drugs (such as marijuana and opiates). In some party scenes, drug combinations of dissimilar drugs are intentional, desired for the combined effect, such as the use of LSD and Ecstasy together (a practice known as “candy flipping” often occurring at raves) or the combination of heroin and cocaine (taken to combine stimulant and sedative effects in a practice known as “speed balling”).

Poly-drug use can occur due to addiction to multiple legitimate prescription medications, as well, such as opiate painkillers and amphetamines prescribed for learning disabilities or narcolepsy.

Physical Detoxification Needs During Polydrug Addiction Treatment

Regardless of how polydrug addiction develops, the addiction to multiple drugs creates additional risk to the body during use – as well as during the withdrawal period of detoxification. Many drug addiction treatment centers require that new patients receive thorough drug testing for this reason – to ensure the safety of the individual during detoxification and to help forge a customized, targeted treatment plan. It’s also common for poly-drug addiction to intensify withdrawal effects, as more systems within the body become naturally affected and withdrawal symptoms can also occur at higher intensities. When side effects or physical damage of two drugs align – such as the taxing of the liver in both alcohol and hydrocodone use – special medical care may be necessary to head off complications and to promote physical healing. Addiction research has demonstrated that combining two or more drugs allows users to reach intoxication levels that surpass the summed effect of individual drugs.

Psychological Needs During Poly-Drug Addiction Therapy

At times, poly-drug addiction also carries unique core causes that need to be addressed during the therapeutic portion of drug addiction treatment in order to fully break the psychological and emotional ties to drug use. The vast majority of illicit drugs affect the brain’s chemicals, known as neurotransmitters, causing chemical imbalances that lead to cravings and can spark depression, anxiety and mania during withdrawal. The introduction of more than two drug addictions to the body can severely affect mood, cognition and personality, sometimes requiring psychological medication in order to resolve.

Another core reason for poly-drug use is the reluctance to come down from a high — often indicating that deeper psychological reasons exist, fueling the drive for escape through drug use. Many poly-drug users also have crutched on opposing dynamics of drugs in order to deal with unpleasant side effects. This is one reason that many drug-addicted individuals tend to alternate between “uppers” and “downers” – stimulants and sedative narcotics – in order to achieve sleep after too many hours of wakefulness. This phenomenon not only requires that users resume natural sleep cycles during recovery, but also learn to cope through therapy with negative sensations or emotions in more positive, drug-free ways. In some cases, polydrug use can even occur as a method of suicide attempt, indicating deep dual diagnosis treatment may be necessary in order to achieve recovery from both drug addiction and possibly a serious depressive episode or mental health disorder.