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Tranquillizers, sleeping pills, opiates and alcohol.
Alcohol and benzodiazepines
Polydrug use
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 F19

Polydrug use refers to the use of two or more psychoactive drugs in combination to achieve a particular effect. In many cases one drug is used as a base or primary drug, with additional drugs to leaven or compensate for the side effects of the primary drug and make the experience more enjoyable with drug synergy effects, or to supplement for primary drug when supply is low.[1]


Polydrug use often carries with it more risk than use of a single drug, due to an increase in side effects, and drug synergy. The potentiating effect of one drug on another is sometimes considerable and here the licit drugs and medicines – such as alcohol, nicotine and antidepressants – have to be considered in conjunction with the controlled psychoactive substances. The risk level will depend on the dosage level of both substances. Concerns exist about a number of pharmacological pairings: alcohol and cocaine increase cardiovascular toxicity; alcohol or depressant drugs, when taken with opioids, lead to an increased risk of overdose; and opioids or cocaine taken with ecstasy or amphetamines also result in additional acute toxicity.[2] Benzodiazepines are notorious for causing death when mixed with other CNS depressants such as opioids, alcohol, or barbiturates.[3][4][5]


Within the general concept of multiple drug use, several specific meanings of the term must be considered. At one extreme is planned use, where the effects of more than one drug are taken for a desired effect. Another type is when other drugs are used to counteract the negative side effects of a different drug (e.g. depressants are used to counteract anxiety and restlessness from taking stimulants). On the other hand, the use of several substances in an intensive and chaotic way, simultaneously or consecutively, in many cases each drug substituting for another according to availability.[2]


The phenomenon is the subject of established academic literature.[6]

A study among treatment admissions found that it is more common for younger people to report polydrug drug use.[7]

MDMA taken in combination with or the day after low doses of viagra (20mg) has been shown to reduce MDMA-induced serotonin deficit in rats by increasing resistance to MDMA-induced oxidative stress.[8][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/html.cfm/index34913EN.html
  2. ^ a b EMCDDA Annual Report 2006 ch. 8
  3. ^ Serfaty M, Masterton G (1993). "Fatal poisonings attributed to benzodiazepines in Britain during the 1980s". Br J Psychiatry 163: 386–93. doi:10.1192/bjp.163.3.386. PMID 8104653. 
  4. ^ Buckley NA, Dawson AH, Whyte IM, O'Connell DL. (1995). "[Relative toxicity of benzodiazepines in overdose.]". BMJ 310 (6974): 219–21. doi:10.1136/bmj.310.6974.219. PMC 2548618. PMID 7866122. 
  5. ^ Drummer OH; Ranson DL (December 1996). "Sudden death and benzodiazepines". Am J Forensic Med Pathol 17 (4): 336–42. doi:10.1097/00000433-199612000-00012. PMID 8947361. 
  6. ^ Scholey AB, Parrott AC, Buchanan T, Heffernan TM, Ling J, Rodgers J (June 2004). "Increased intensity of Ecstasy and polydrug usage in the more experienced recreational Ecstasy/MDMA users: a WWW study". Addict Behav 29 (4): 743–52. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2004.02.022. PMID 15135556. 
  7. ^ "Polydrug Use Among Treatment Admissions: 1998." OAS Home: Alcohol, Tobacco & Drug Abuse and Mental Health Data from SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies. Web. 29 Sept. 2011. [1]
  8. ^ Puerta, E.; Hervias, I.; Goñi-Allo, B.; Lasheras, B.; Jordan, J.; Aguirre, N. (2009). "Phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors prevent 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine-induced 5-HT deficits in the rat". Journal of Neurochemistry 108 (3): 755–766. doi:10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05825.x. PMID 19187094.  edit
  9. ^ Puerta, E.; Barros-Miñones, L.; Hervias, I.; Gomez-Rodriguez, V.; Orejana, L.; Pizarro, N.; De La Torre, R.; Jordán, J. N.; Aguirre, N. (2011). "Long-lasting neuroprotective effect of sildenafil against 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine- induced 5-hydroxytryptamine deficits in the rat brain". Journal of Neuroscience Research 90 (2): n/a. doi:10.1002/jnr.22759.  edit

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74 news items

Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph
Thu, 18 Dec 2014 06:32:38 -0800

The PHA is highlighting the dangers of prescription drug misuse, of mixing drugs with alcohol, bingeing on drugs and taking more than one drug, known as poly drug use. “Bingeing is very dangerous and can result in death or permanent damage to your ...

The Siberian Times

The Siberian Times
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 23:59:27 -0800

He signed a resolution to blacklist the components of the lethal drug after concern over the acute impact of the designer drug in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region along with other places in Russia. 'Cases of poisoning with this synthetic drug were ...

International Business Times

International Business Times
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 02:26:51 -0700

The report said that even though the global situation in terms of the prevalence of illicit drug use was “generally stable,” poly-drug use, or consumption of two or more substances at the same time, remained a “major concern.” Submit Correction; Share ...
Dublin People
Sun, 28 Dec 2014 16:00:00 -0800

“What is clear is that alcohol remains the substance implicated in most poisonings, poly-drug use features in more than half of poisonings and we continue to see an increase in the number of people dying by hanging,” said chief executive of the HRB ...


Fri, 03 Oct 2014 06:52:30 -0700

Poly-drug use [combining different drugs at the same time] massively increases risk ,and isn't really looked at in the way that it should be – especially mixing alcohol with other substances. But without knowing what you're about to consume, 'smart ...
Medical Xpress
Sun, 05 Oct 2014 22:15:00 -0700

That's not the case with mental illness and poly drug use. "Yet the scale of this problem is like an iceberg - it's massive but largely unseen." Meanwhile, where can young people seek help? "If you're a young person and think you have a mental health ...

Murray State News

Murray State News
Fri, 07 Nov 2014 04:45:00 -0800

“Such poly drug use or co-ingestion is known to increase morbidity and mortality risk,” it said. Adderall prescriptions can't be refilled. If you are prescribed the drug, you have to go to your doctor every month and get a new prescription. That allows ...
Yahoo!7 News
Mon, 24 Nov 2014 08:41:15 -0800

"The escalating practice of poly drug use among young people is a major contributing factor to the increased violence we are seeing on our streets particularly at night," he said. "Enough is enough." The move comes a day after the Salvation Army, with ...

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