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Polysubstance Use

Polysubstance use is the use of more than one drug. This can occur when an individual takes two or more drugs - including prescription medications - at the same time or within a short period. Polysubstance use can be intentional or unintentional.

  • Intentional: Occurs when an individual purposely takes more than one substance to increase, decrease, or experience the combined effects of the substances.
  • Unintentional: Occurs when an individual takes one or more substances that have been "cut" or mixed with other substances - such as fentanyl - without their knowledge.

Regardless of intention, mixing drugs is never safe. Side effects from combining drugs may be stronger and more unpredictable than a single drug - it can even be fatal.

Mixing Stimulants (Uppers)

Examples of stimulants: MDMA (ecstasy/molly), cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines (speed)

Stimulants can increase your heart rate and blood pressure to dangerous levels and increase your risk of several serious health problems. 

Combining stimulants may directly or indirectly increase your risk of:

  • Brain Injury
  • Liver Damage
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Signs of use/overdose that may occur when mixing stimulants:

  • Fast/troubled breathing
  • Increased body temperature
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chest Pain
  • Seizures or tremors

Mixing Depressants (Downers)

Examples of depressants: opioids (heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl), benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax)

Depressants can slow down your breathing and increase your risk of several adverse health outcomes.

Combining depressants can also directly or indirectly increase your risk of:

  • Damage  to the brain and other organs
  • Overdose
  • Death

Signs of use/overdose that may occur when mixing depressants:

  • Slow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Altered mental status/confusion
  • Loss of consciousness/ passing out

Mixing Stimulants & Depressants

Mixing stimulants and depressants doesn't balance or cancel them out. In fact, the results of combining drugs are unpredictable, often modifying or even masking the effects of one or both drugs. This may lead an individual to think that the drugs are not affecting them, increasing the possibility of an overdose.

Drinking alcohol while using other drugs

Drinking alcohol while using other drugs isn't safe. Alcohol is a depressant with similar effects to other downers. Mixing alcohol with other drugs can increase the possibility of an overdose and may cause serious damage to the brain, heart, and other organs.


Prescription Medications and Other Drugs

The dangers of polysubstance use also apply to prescription drugs. Always let your doctor know what drugs you are taking to prevent any adverse reactions with newly prescribed medications. Never take pills that did not come from a pharmacy and weren't prescribed specifically to you. Take medications exactly as prescribed by your provider.