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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

The Daily Telegraph

RTT News
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 05:22:30 -0700

The report highlights a greater tendency toward poly-drug use across Australia's illicit drug market, increasing the pool of methyl amphetamine users. It also outlines the pervasiveness of serious and organised crime groups, who are now dealing in ...


Fri, 20 Mar 2015 01:06:07 -0700

According to government statistics, while the number of regular drug users in Bulgaria has not fluctuated much in recent years, poly-drug use has increased and presents a challenge for traditional methods of treatment. The authors of the report remind ...


Fri, 13 Mar 2015 06:42:08 -0700

Few, if any people took handfuls of pills, and poly-drug use was far rarer than it is now: ketamine was non-existent, and cocaine was for yuppies. 'Harm reduction' was a rational approach to drug use that accepted that some people will use drugs ...
Drug WarRant
Thu, 29 Jan 2015 07:28:45 -0800

This article absolutely destroys the abstinence-only approach to addiction treatment that drives so much of U.S. drug policy and the treatment industry, showing how this approach actually leads to many of the overdose deaths we see, while failing to ...

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 ...


Mon, 16 Jun 2014 17:56:26 -0700

poly-drug use is the main cause of death in the majority of prescription drug overdose cases. i wouldn't exactly call that correct usage. then again, the numbers are the same with regards to illegal substances.


Thu, 05 Feb 2015 08:19:29 -0800

Over the last decade Ireland's street drug culture has changed rapidly. These days you're more likely to find Dublin's street dealers selling Zimmovanes—strong sleeping tablets commonly known as "Zimmos"—or benzodiazepines—sedative drugs like Valium ...

International Business Times

International Business Times
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 02:22:30 -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. 0. 0 ...

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