Treating Polysubstance Abuse

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Many patients you see may abuse more than one substance. If this is the case, their treatment will be more tedious than not. There are many techniques for treating polysubstance abuse. Many of them include medication along with therapy. Some substances require a more rigorous treatment, like opiates as opposed to marijuana. In these cases, a treatment plan that is built for the individual is best.

How Polysubstance Abuse Develops

Why do people become polysubstance abusers? One factor is genetics. Some people are exposed to multiple substance use somewhere in their childhood. A parent’s substance abuse can be a major influence on how their children see substance use and may contribute to developing substance use disorder.

There are also social factors that play into polysubstance abuse. Many teens engage in polysubstance abuse as a way to experiment with drugs or as a result of peer pressure. They are not mature enough to use proper risk assessment when using multiple substances, nor do they possess the proper knowledge of drug interaction.

Signs of Polysubstance Abuse Disorder:

  • Tolerance: using more and more of a substance at one time because the usual amounts are less effective.
  • Withdrawal: the user shows withdrawal symptoms when drug use ends, or the drug is used specifically to prevent other withdrawal symptoms.
  • Poor self-control: repeated use of more drugs than planned, unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop using, or shows a desire to stop using, but cannot.
  • Time: the person spends a lot of time studying drugs, obtaining drugs, using drugs, being under the influence of drugs, and recovering from the effects of drugs.
  • Affecting daily life: the user has reduced the amount of time involved in recreational activities, social activities, and/or work because of the use of drugs.
  • Self-harm: the person continues to use substances despite having a physical or psychological problem caused by the use of drugs.

Getting Help

Polysubstance abuse treatments should be tailored to the individual. Therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and group therapy, is likely to help, as can medication-assisted treatment that combines therapy with medication. A person with a dependence on multiple substances may benefit from a residential treatment program, which provides a more intensive treatment that includes individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, medication, and other forms of support all under one roof.

The person has the opportunity to get away from substances and triggers while focusing on treatment and recovery. Polysubstance abuse is now included within the diagnosis of substance use disorder. Rather than being dependent on specific substances, the person is dependent on a group of substances without favoring any specific ones. A rigorous treatment program can identify this problem and provide a customized treatment plan that targets the full range of dependency.


Proper detox is also important for addressing polysubstance abuse as the withdrawal symptoms vary in severity. In inpatient detox programs, patients are monitored at all hours with regular checks on their vital signs. If necessary, a doctor may provide medicines to ease the severity of withdrawal symptoms such as nausea or depression.

Due to the unpredictability of withdrawal from multiple substances, medical monitoring is always needed. Furthermore, the support and encouragement given in medical detox decrease the likelihood of a patient’s relapse and increase the chances of successful withdrawal from the substances of abuse.


After detox, a user may require more inpatient treatment to deal with their addiction. The key to successful treatment is that it is tailored to the individual’s needs. If a person uses substances as a way to self-medicate a psychological disorder, that issue needs to be addressed in treatment, or their risk of relapse increases. It is not uncommon for treatments to be restructured during the process.

This is because new issues might arise, or a person may become more motivated through the process. It is important to research a facility before you choose to seek treatment to see what experience they have with treating polysubstance use. People mandated to seek treatment will find better success at inpatient treatments because there is a more consistent structured program than if they were in an outpatient program.

Many people who suffer from polysubstance abuse have underlying mental illnesses, which seems to permeate through all levels of addiction. Inpatient treatment centers are better equipped to handle mental health disorders that may arise from their drug use. This is not to say that outpatient treatments aren’t as effective, there is just more structured support during inpatient treatment.

Northstar Transitions knows that regardless of the substances being using, finding the reasons for them being used all at once is absolutely critical. It is not effective to treat only one problem and leave the others unattended to. If a person’s substance abuse is linked to their mental illnesses, they may not be able to remain sober on their own, and we are here to help. Their risk of relapse may be increased. The addiction recovery specialists at Northstar Transitions find that treating these disorders simultaneously is the best practice for treatment. Northstar Treatment is here to help you heal from polysubstance use disorder and live a sober life. Call us now at 1-303-558-6400.