As the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) discusses, treatment for drug abuse (singular or poly-abuse) involves a complex interaction of an individual’s biology and behavior. The goals of treatment are always to achieve abstinence from drugs, maintain that abstinence, and help recovering substance abusers to be a functioning member of their family, work or school environments, and society in general.
Addiction is a chronic disease, and for this reason, one treatment attempt may not be sufficient. While the drug treatment process should involve commitment and not simply be a tryout, it is also a process of trial and error for many. A relapse does not signal failure as much as the need to try a different rehab plan or make a greater commitment to an existing one.
In the public, drug abuse is often seen as a monolithic problem without further consideration of the details of the number and different types of drugs abused. Although perspectives are shifting toward an understanding of substance abuse and addiction being an illness, part of the stigma drug abusers face is that the public often lumps them into an undifferentiated category of “addicts.” But no two substance abusers are the same, nor do they abuse the same combination or amount of drugs. Addiction specialists understand that some abusers may abuse more than one illicit substance at the same time. Such abusers require specialized and complementary rehab services to safely treat their poly-drug abuse.
As a research study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry discusses, the majority of drug addicts are poly-drug dependent and as of the time of publication in 2012, there was no effective pharmacological remedy available for this illness (i.e., treatment is therefore based on a combination of existing methodologies). The study involved 100 heroin-amphetamine drug abusers in outpatient treatment and tested the effectiveness of a naltrexone implant as a possible treatment option. As NIDA explains, in Russia, naltrexone is the primary medical treatment for opioid dependence (dependence on heroin and prescription painkillers), and it is used in some treatment programs in the US. The implant form provides a second option to the injectable version, known as Vivitrol. The study showed that the naltrexone implant receivers had more success than the placebo group.
In specific, at the 10-week mark, 52 percent of patients who received a naltrexone implant were still in treatment compared to 28 percent who received the placebo. At the same time, 38 percent of the naltrexone group tested negative for drugs compared to 16 percent of the placebo group. Regarding improvement overall, 56 percent of the naltrexone group demonstrated much or very good improvement whereas 14 percent of the placebo group had this rating. The study was a success in that it provided the first evidence of an effective pharmacological treatment for heroin-amphetamine poly-drug dependence.
In a comprehensive research report about poly-drug use in the European Union and Norway, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) provides useful and insightful information about this form of substance abuse. When it comes to poly-drug use, knowing the separate risks of each drug abused is not enough because the interplay of drugs acting on each other presents a key danger. As EMCDDA discusses, the following are some examples of poly-drug use dangers (and they are as applicable in the US as in Europe):
- Although it is not common to overdose on benzodiazepines (sedatives), combining a large amount of this drug with a large dose of an opiate (such as heroin) or alcohol can prove fatal.
- The combination of Ecstasy and alcohol increases health risks because alcohol causes dehydration and an imbalance of thermal regulation.
- Concurrent use of cocaine and alcohol can cause greater toxicity of the heart and liver than either drug alone (e.g., alcohol is often included in cocaine-related cardiac deaths).
- Different stimulants used in combination, including energy drinks, can impair the functioning of the heart and the body’s thermal regulation.
At FRN, our treatment centers are equipped to expertly treat poly-drug abuse with comprehensive dual diagnosis care. Our specialized staff is trained in treatment methodologies suitable to different types of addiction and combinations of illicit substances. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to provide a free, confidential assessment to get you or your loved one on track for recovery today. Call now.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.