People often combine opiates with other depressants for a more intense high, but this can result in serious consequences
As a society, we are often led to believe that more is always better. More money, for example, can provide financial stability and reduce the stress of paying bills. The mindset of “more is better” can be damaging in many situations, especially in the case of substance abuse.
Whether it is a prescribed medication or an illicit drug, it is common for people to continually seek a greater result from the drug by taking more, whether that be pain relief or a more intense high. Once increasing the dose is no longer effective, they might begin mixing it with another substance. Mixing substances is almost always a dangerous idea. This is especially true when the mixed substances are both depressants.
Mixing Opiates with Other Depressants
Opiates fall into the general category of central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which slow down the activity of the brain. Some other common CNS depressants include alcohol, benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Combining an opiate drug with any of these substances can amplify some of the potentially harmful effects of depressants, including respiratory depression and unconsciousness.
When CNS depressants are used, both individually and combined, they cause a person’s breathing to become both slower and shallower. In serious cases, respiratory depression can become so severe that the body’s organs are unable to receive adequate amounts of oxygen to function. Furthermore, respiratory depression can progress to respiratory arrest, a condition where breathing stops altogether.
Unconsciousness is another risk when combining opiates with other CNS depressants. In small doses, depressants cause the user to become lethargic. In high doses or when mixed together, however, this lethargy can progress to a state where consciousness is completely lost. This can be particularly dangerous for those who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, as unconsciousness increases the possibility of choking on vomit or saliva.
Treating Multiple Substance Addiction
Many people who have become addicted to more than one substance feel that recovery is too far out of reach. With the right motivation and effective treatment, though, people can recover from addiction. While the foundation of treatment remains the same for single or poly-drug addiction, certain parts of treatment may vary slightly for those addicted to two or more substances.
One of the most notable differences is the need for a formalized detox. Single substance addicts may not require a medically supervised detox depending on the severity of addiction. However, a supervised detox is a much more important part of treatment for multiple substance addicts, due to withdrawal risks. Those who are addicted to more than one substance may experience the withdrawal symptoms of both substances. These effects may be more severe or unpredictable than for those with single substance addictions.
Another key modification of treatment is an increased focus on aftercare support. Aftercare is used to help addicts continue down the road of recovery when they are no longer in rehab. There are many aspects of aftercare available to all recovering addicts, though multiple-drug addicts may be encouraged to be even more active in their aftercare. Common aftercare settings include recovery groups, 12-Step programs, halfway housing and outpatient counseling.