Treatment for substance use can be tricky, as it requires a combination of mental, emotional, and physical approaches to recover. Adding a second substance makes it harder to treat, and when we have been using multiple substances or suffer from polysubstance abuse, we make things especially difficult. Can polysubstance abuse be treated?
Most people don’t immediately start using three or more substances. Typically, the use begins with one substance, most commonly alcohol. After prolonged use, particularly when we don’t get the same numbing or high experiences when consuming larger quantities, we try another substance. When that is no longer enough, many of us will try another substance, and so on and so forth. There are some people who will use multiple substances more quickly, particularly in social environments such as parties, concerts, or night clubs. The goal in these scenarios is often to have the most intense or pleasurable experiences. In the end, that search for a high degree of pleasure also leads to multiple addictions rather than just a single substance.
Upping the Ante
One of the difficult things about treating multiple substance use is that often the length of time we have been addicted is very long. The longer we have been using a substance, the more difficult the treatment can be. When more substances are added, this complicates the process, as we will have greater symptoms as our bodies withdraw from multiple substances at once. This creates a medically complex situation where managing some symptoms may cause others to get worse. The risks are higher and it can also take longer when there are multiple substances in our bodies.
The treatment itself also becomes more difficult, both due to the length of use and also the reasons why we used multiple substances. There are three categories in which treatment becomes more complicated: co-occurring disorders, physical health, and cognitive functioning.
1) There is a greater prevalence of co-occurring mental health issues within those who use multiple substances. Depression is very common, as is bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, as well as other mental health issues. This brings another layer of challenges in treatment, as it takes proper care from professionals well-trained in both mental health and substance abuse to manage the mental and physical symptoms.
2) Physical health is impacted significantly due to health issues that arise from long-term substance use. Each substance has different impacts on the body and chronic use potentiates the effects produced. For instance, when using a depressant like alcohol and stimulants, our cardiovascular system is impacted in a different way as one substance speeds up the body while the other slows it down. This type of interaction in the body between competing substances is a large part of the drastic physical effects that occur during long term substance abuse. The more substances, the greater the intensity of health problems we may face.
3) Our cognitive function is impaired at an increased level when we use multiple substances as well. This includes memory, learning, and reasoning. It is difficult to tell which substance or substances impair our mental function greatest in cases such as this because they are all in our bodies at the same time. The more complex the interactions are, the larger impact they will have on our brains. The worst part is that this is not necessarily something that can be recovered over time, as cognitive functioning can be damaged long-term or permanently, but treatment and abstinence from substances offer a chance of recovery in some capacity.
Layers of Healing
When we seek treatment for substance use, there are layers of physical, mental, and emotional healing that occur. A holistic approach to healing helps to treat not only substance abuse but also the underlying cause of it. With polysubstance use, this process is more complex, but not impossible. Finding the source of our substance use, whether it be loss, trauma, or simply a desire to change the way we feel, and treating that therapeutically helps to strip away the negative impacts of substance use. As we slowly and carefully cleanse our bodies of all of the substances, we can bring about change in our mental and emotional health. Even if we have permanent mental and physical health complications, recovery is the gateway to a chance at an incredible life.
Beating the Odds
No one sets out to try to make their life the most difficult and complicated. Substances do not conspire against us, they are just substances. Even when we face a more difficult road ahead of us as a result of polysubstance use, we can beat the odds. No matter what obstacles lie ahead of us, we can take control of our lives, and live each day in gratitude that we made it this far.
Polysubstance abuse creates more challenges for us in our healing. But it does not bar us from healing. No matter how long we have been using multiple substances, there is always hope. We have survived this lifestyle thus far, and that shows that we are strong, resilient, and have the courage to find our healing. Find the strength to ask for help in changing your life’s path. Your recovery journey begins right now. Take the leap of faith, beat the odds, and find yourself again.
You can be treated for polysubstance use. Find out if AToN has the right answers for you. Call (888) 535-1516 today.