Polydrug use means using more than one drug at once. An example of polydrug use would be having a drink of alcohol and then lighting up a joint or taking an ecstasy and having a bump of Special K. This type of drug use appears to be the norm now – and many people who use drugs don’t think twice about using an assortment of drugs in combination. It is important to remember that when you use one illegal drug alone you may be already inadvertently taking a cocktail of drugs. This is particularly true of ecstasy pills which may contain any number of substances including MDMA. Other drugs that may be in the mix include caffeine, ephedrine or ketamine. We also know that most ecstasy currently available in Australia contains methamphetamine or speed.
You can never be sure of the effect a drug will have on you – regardless of the number of times you have used it in the past, or how it has affected others. When drugs are mixed or taken together the effects can become even more extreme and unpredictable. Drugs can act together and increase the effect of each other, e.g. speed and ecstasy; LSD and cannabis; amyl and Viagra; heroin and alcohol; GHB and alcohol; ecstasy and anti-depressants, etc.
While mixing speed and ecstasy or any of the other combinations described above may sound like a great idea because it gets you more out of it, the chances of things going wrong are far greater. Although people believe that by taking a combination of drugs they will increase the positive effects that they are after, what often happens is that polydrug use increases some of the negative effects that users try to avoid. What is in fact occurring is that the combined effects of the drugs are hitting the body twice as hard, placing even greater strain on the heart and other vital organs.
Drugs can also work against each other and can seem to cancel out the effects of one drug over the other, e.g. ecstasy and alcohol; speed and alcohol; cocaine and cannabis, etc. These drug combinations are dangerous in that they place huge stress on the body which is trying to maintain a functional balance. An internal chemical battle is occurring where one drug is trying to override the effects of the other.
There are a couple of dangers linked to this type of drug use. Firstly, this battle puts great stress on the body and the resulting hangover or comedown is usually quite severe and includes dehydration, anxiety and irritability. Secondly, when you use drugs like this you are not likely to consciously experience any of the effects of one drug because it has been masked by the other. This is particularly dangerous in relation to driving as a person may feel as though they are fine to drive but may actually be very intoxicated.
This information on polydrug use comes from a new resource called Chemical Reaction. If you are interested in reading more about the effects of mixing drugs you can obtain a copy from the Manly Drug Education and Counselling Centre by calling 9977 0711.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blasé.