Multiple Addictions

    Multiple Addictions.

    A person with Multiple or Poly-Substance Addiction is psychologically addicted to being in an intoxicated state without a preference for one particular substance. Although any combination of three drugs can be used, studies have shown that alcohol is commonly used with another substance. Enabling is a term often used in the context of a relationship with an addict; it might be a drug addict or alcoholic, gambler, or compulsive overeater. Enablers, rather than addicts, suffer with the effects of the addict’s behavior. For example, a heroin addict might start abusing alcohol, or someone recovering from alcoholism starts abusing painkillers. Many cross-addicted people will abuse a substance that mimics their original addiction. For instance, a recovering cocaine addict may become addicted to prescription stimulants used to treat ADHD.


    There is very little documented regarding the causes of poly-substance dependence.


    The DSM-V-TR specifies that three or more of the following symptoms must occur at any time during a 12-month period (and cause significant impairment or distress) in order to meet diagnostic criteria for substance dependence.


    The individual either has to use increasingly higher amounts of the drugs over time in order to achieve the same drug effect or finds that the same amount of the drug has much less of an effect over time than before. After using several different drugs regularly for a while, an individual may find that he or she needs to use at least 50% more of the amount they began using in order to get the same effect.


    The individual either experiences the withdrawal symptoms when he or she stops using the drugs or the individual uses drugs in order to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms.

    Loss of Control.

    The individual either repeatedly uses more drugs than planned or uses the drugs over longer period of time than planned. For instance, an individual may begin using drugs (any combination of three or more types of drugs) on weekdays in addition to weekends.

    Inability to Stop Using.

    The individual has either unsuccessfully attempted to cut down or stop using the drugs or has a persistent desire to stop using. An individual may find that, despite efforts to stop using drugs on weekdays, he or she is unable to do so.


    The individual spends a lot of time obtaining drugs, using drugs, being under the influence of drugs, and recovering from the effects of drugs.

    Interference with activities: The individual either give up or reduces the amount of time involved in recreational activities, social activities, and/or occupational activities because of the use of drugs. An individual may use drugs instead of engaging in hobbies, spending time with friends, or going to work.

    Harm to Self.

    The individual continues to use drugs despite having either a physical or psychological problem that is caused by or made worse by the use of drugs. Involves in self harming behavior to overcome their painful situations.


    Young adults (i.e., between the ages of 18 and 24) have the highest rates of use for all substances. Generally, males tend to be diagnosed with more substance use disorder.


    Individuals who abuse alcohol and other drugs usually meet criteria for substance abuse and/or dependence for each individual substance use. Multiple diagnoses are given in this situation (cocaine dependence, hallucinogen dependence, and sedative dependence. Poly-substance dependence is reserved only for those situations when an individual uses multiple substances indiscriminately and meets criteria for dependence on these substances, taken as a whole.


    There are very little documents regarding the treatment of polysubstance dependence. However, several treatments have been tried; Psychological evaluation and tests may be used to assess the affected individual. The person may be admitted to a hospital or treatment center as an inpatient, and/or he or she may receive Cognitive Behavioral therapy.


    The course of substance dependence varies from short-lived episodes to chronic episodes lasting years. The individual with substance dependency may alternate between periods of heavy use with severe problems, periods of no use at all, and periods of use with few problems.


    The best thing an individual can do to prevent poly-substance dependence is to avoid using drugs including alcohol. On a larger scale, comprehensive prevention programs that utilize family, schools, communities, and the media (such as television) can be effective in reducing substance abuse.

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