In most discussions about addictive drugs, the focus is typically on a singular drug. But, recent studies show that many people with addictions are likely to use more than one substance at a time.
The misuse of multiple drugs simultaneously is known as polydrug use. The majority of fatal overdoses today are a result of several different lethal drug combinations.
To be clear, there is no safe addictive substance. Accordingly, combining two or more chemical substances to elevate the intensity of intoxication increases the risk of deadly consequences.
Don’t Underestimate the Dangers of These Lethal Drug Combinations
Taking two or more substances simultaneously makes it very easy to lose track of how much of each was taken. This factor is at the core of why so many people suffer fatal overdoses. One drug may wear off faster than the other, so the person takes more.
If you are experimenting with different combinations of drugs, you should be aware of the possibilities for harm. Here are some of the most common deadly drug combinations that should be avoided due to the risk of severe side effects:
Opioids and Benzodiazepines
At least 30 percent of annual fatal overdoses involve a combination of benzodiazepines and opioids. Opioids and benzos are both depressants, so the effects are amplified when taken together.
Opioids are potent, highly addictive painkillers that block pain signals between the brain and body.
The most frequently prescribed opioids include:
- Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin
- Morphine (Kadian, Avinza)
- Oxymorphone (Opana)
Benzodiazepines are addictive sedatives that are used to treat anxiety, stress, sleep problems, muscle spasms, and seizures. They are also used to get high or to help with the “come down” after using stimulants or amphetamines. Many people use benzos to treat alcohol withdrawal.
The most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Triazolam (Halcion)
Common drug combinations such as opioids and benzos can result in sedation and suppressed breathing which can cause a fatal overdose.
Benzodiazepines and Alcohol
Approximately 11 percent of Americans are prescribed benzodiazepines. This addictive drug is prescribed more frequently in the U.S. than opioids. Studies show that one in four people in treatment for benzo addiction also use alcohol.
Benzodiazepines and alcohol are both powerful depressants. As such, combining the two substances can result in the following side effects:
- Severe drowsiness
- Poor coordination
- Impaired judgment
- Respiratory depression
Benzodiazepine prescriptions carry a black box warning about the dangers of mixing alcohol with benzos, but the warning is often not taken seriously.
Heroin and Cocaine
Combining heroin and cocaine is referred to as “speedballing.” In essence, the user is mixing a stimulant and a depressant which is a deadly combination. It’s like trying to pull the user’s body in opposite directions at the same time. Typically, the substances are injected, but can also be snorted.
Heroin slows breathing and can cause respiratory failure. Cocaine increases heart rate and energy levels. It can also cause rapid breathing. Side effects of speedballing also include:
- Blurred vision
- Mental fogginess
- Uncontrollable movements
Fatal side effects of speedballing include:
- Respiratory failure
- Heart attack
Speedballing enhances the effects of each drug and increases the risk of overdose.
Opioids and Alcohol
Opioids are widely prescribed to treat pain thus creating an uncontrollable addiction epidemic nationwide. To further compound the problem, illicit opioids are easily obtained from street dealers.
Many people who use or intentionally abuse opioids often use alcohol as well. Alcohol boosts the effects of the painkiller and causes an intense level of intoxication.
The side effects of combining opioids and alcohol are:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Depressed breathing
- Irregular heart rate and rhythm
- Dizziness, poor coordination
- Kidney and liver problems
- Respiratory arrest
Using alcohol and opioids puts a person at risk for a difficult-to-treat overdose. Naloxone will help reduce the effects of opioids but does nothing to reverse the effects of alcohol poisoning.
Treatment for Polydrug Use at Design for Change Recovery
The best way to prevent overdose or death is with quality addiction treatment that has expertise in treating multiple addictions simultaneously. At Design for Change Recovery, we offer a comprehensive program that is customized to address each client’s specific addiction challenges such as deadly drug combinations.
Our program aims to provide you with the skills and motivation to reach your recovery goals. Some of the treatment options available at Design for Change Recovery include cognitive-behavioral therapy, counseling programs, holistic approaches, medication-assisted therapy, and more.
We provide you a comfortable environment staffed by professionals who are compassionate and attentive to your needs. Through our evidence-based program, you’ll find the solution to your substance use problem.
If you are having problems controlling your substance use, contact our Lancaster, CA facility today. With our help, you will learn how to maintain a substance-free lifestyle.
- fda.gov/drugs/. – FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA warns about serious risks and death when combining opioid medicines with benzodiazepines