For those living with substance use disorder, it is not uncommon for individuals to take multiple substances at once. Meth and heroin are two incredibly addictive drugs that, when used together, can bring unprecedented danger to the user.
Both drugs have a range of severe mental and physical side effects that can lead to a powerful high but destructive short-term consequences and long-term health complications.
Meth use is surging in the United States, particularly in the West, while more and more opioid users say they use meth as well, up from 19% in 2001 to 34% in 2017.
Why is this Happening?
There are varying reasons as to why an individual would be polysubstance abuser (or be addicted to more than one drug). Some people combine multiple drugs to enhance their effects. Others have become addicted to either drug separately.
There is also the possibility that the individual has taken multiple drugs to counteract the effects of each. Meth, for example, is a stimulant that creates a feeling of extreme euphoria and a false sense of well-being and happiness. It can cause users to feel extraordinarily talkative, social, and energetic while decreasing the user’s appetite.
Heroin, on the other hand, is a depressant that gives a user an initial short-lived sense of euphoria followed by a period of drowsiness. Heroin users may appear to feel a kind of heaviness to their limbs along with having coordination problems.
Meth, as a stimulant with long-lasting effects, and heroin, a depressant that slows the activity of the central nervous system, have opposite effects from one another, which may add to the allure of mixing the two substances. One speeds things up and the other slows them down, providing a false sense of balance in the mind of the user.
The effects of these two drugs essentially cancel out each other’s uncomfortable symptoms, which allow the user to experience the high produced by each drug at a more intense level.
What is the Risk of Combining the Two Substances?
The dangers of mixing meth and heroin are significant. When combined, it’s difficult to determine when too much of either has been taken, heightening the risk of a fatal overdose. As the stimulant masks the effects of the depressant, a user’s breathing may slow down without them being able to notice until it’s too late.
The fact that meth cancels out and outlasts the dangerous physical effects of heroin results in the individual taking higher doses of heroin than they might otherwise to achieve a more intense high. These higher doses can lead to overdoses where the person experiences physical damage without feeling the discomfort, which can lead to organ damage, brain damage, or death.
In addition, a person’s heart rate may rapidly change pace, as the effects of meth outlast heroin. Their heart rate can go from very slow to very fast in a short burst of time, a change that can cause heart failure or stroke.
Simultaneously using two highly addictive substances like meth and heroin also create unique challenges to their treatment. Treatment plans for dual addictions such as these have to take each drug into account separately, as well as the combined effects of both.
Withdrawal symptoms of the two drugs also differ, which is something that needs to be addressed in the early stages of treatment.
What can be Done?
Meth-related deaths in San Francisco doubled since 2011 and more than quadrupled nationally, while, while hospitalizations related to meth jumped by 245% from 2008 to 2015. Research suggests that efforts to get doctors to cut down on prescribing opioids may have driven some users to buy meth on the street instead.
The number of heroin addicts reporting meth as a secondary substance is rising – in 2014, 14% of heroin users entering rehab in San Francisco said meth was also a problem, while in 2017, 22% said it was.
Treating polysubstance abuse is a challenge that even the most adept treatment centers. When an individual indulges in multiple drug types, the treatment plan needs to account for the effects of the drugs being used to manage withdrawal while preventing relapse. In battling the deadly combination of meth and heroin, it is paramount that treatment providers fully understand the physical effects of both of the drugs along with the body’s response to withdrawal.
Individuals using more than one drug at a time are more likely to develop both mental and physical health conditions that can interfere with treatment for substance abuse. At Windward Way, we take into account the physical and mental effects of both drugs during treatment to provide the very best possible chance for people to avoid relapse and move into a world free of dependence on both heroin and meth.
If you or someone you love is suffering through a dual addiction, we want you to know that help is here. Abusing and combine meth and heroin can not only affect health and well-being in the short-term but can cause severe cognitive, physical, and psychological effects with long-term use. Our completely individualized programs can lead you to a successful recovery full of fun, adventure, and meaning.
Please contact our team by giving us a call at (855) 491-7694.