Blog Contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Addiction Hope
For individuals struggling with a drug addiction, it is likely that more than one substance is being abused. Poly-drug use, or the consumption of multiple substances at the same time, is a trend commonly seen in addicts who are attempting to increase their intoxication or achieve a heightened result of the drugs taken.
Poly-drug use is a dangerous practice that will often yield devastating outcomes. A 2012 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services revealed that a person abusing multiple drugs is much more likely to need emergency care than the single-drug abuser .
In fact, statistics from a 2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network report showed that almost 60 percent of all emergency room visits in the United States due to drug abuse had involved multiple drugs . Often, the combination of multiple substances can lead to unpredictable reactions, usually ones that are harmful and destructive to the user.
A Common Occurrence
One of the most common forms of poly-drug abuse is the combination of cannabis, or marijuana, with alcohol. People who abuse marijuana while under the influence of alcohol may be at increased risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms, including anxiety, paranoia, and panic . This is likely due to the faster absorption of THC, an ingredient of marijuana, into the bloodstream when alcohol is present.
Marijuana and alcohol both operate as depressants in the body, which decreases the function of the central nervous system. The combination of these two substances can severely compromise a person’s motor function, ability to process information and make rational decisions.
A Dangerous Combination
Whether the mixing of marijuana and alcohol is done purposely in attempt to enhance the drug effects or negligently, the combination of these substances can prove deadly. Some of the risks involved include but are not limited to:
- Toxicity: The combination of marijuana and alcohol can lead to intoxication, which can result in alcohol poisoning, incoherence, blacking-out, or disorientation. Being unable to make logical and reasoned decisions can lead to physical harm, or even death.
- Compromise in Mental Health: Because alcohol can increase the absorption rate of marijuana through the blood stream, this can result in severe debilitation to a person’s mental health. This includes the risk of experiencing paranoia and panic. Other psychological and physical symptoms are likely to result as the effects from combining these substances are not fully known. Experiencing psychotic symptoms can cause the individual suffering to hurt themselves or others involved.
- Co-occurring disorders: The combination of marijuana and alcohol can increase the risk of developing an abusive relationship with multiple drugs and/or alcohol. A person may be increasing their use of alcohol to negate the effects of marijuana, and vice versa. This behavior can lead to a dangerous and complex addiction as multiple substances are involved.
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to both marijuana and alcohol, it is important to seek the help of professionals who can adequately address poly-drug use. The combination of marijuana with alcohol can prove deadly, and having professional treatment can be the greatest key towards regaining your life and freedom from substance abuse.
: National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, https://ncpic.org.au/workforce/cannabis-information/factsheets/article/mixing-cannabis-and-alcohol
: Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011. “National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits”. http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k13/DAWN2k11ED/DAWN2k11ED.htm