Polysubstance Abuse and Dependence: Dangers and Treatment

Read on to find out what polysubstance abuse is, what the dangers are, along with some treatment options.

Table of Contents

What Are Symptoms of Polysubstance Abuse?

Polysubstance abuse is when someone uses more than one drug at a time, whether intentionally or unintentionally. For instance, an individual may use multiple substances to increase the effects or experience a combination of effects. Unintentional polysubstance use can also happen if a person uses “mixed” or “cut” drugs.1

If a person is struggling with a polysubstance abuse disorder, physical, behavioral, and psychological warning signs are typically present. Some common symptoms of polysubstance abuse include cravings, thinking about using, difficulty controlling one’s usage, and anxiety or depression.

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Cravings and Urges To Use

Having desires, urges, and cravings to use are symptoms of polysubstance abuse disorder. These can present as psychological and mental side effects and can impact the brain in multiple ways. Using drugs over an extended period of time alters how the brain works, leading to some of these cravings. 2

Thinking About and Planning To Use

If a person is struggling with polysubstance abuse disorder, it is common for their life to begin to revolve around substance use. Individuals will spend a great deal of time thinking about using, planning how to get more, and recovering from their use.

Difficulty Controlling Substance Use

Once a person develops a polysubstance abuse disorder, they can quickly lose control over their drug use. People with polysubstance use disorders often use more than they originally intended as well.

Anxiety, Depression, or Isolation

Abandoned hobbies, strained relationships, and sudden changes in friends can all lead to anxiety, depression, and isolation. These strained relationships and sudden changes in other areas of the individual’s life are typically a result of polysubstance usage.

Drug Dependence Diagnosis and Complications

When people talk about drug dependence, it’s common to hear the term ICD 10. The International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision (ICD-10) is a World Health Organization publication used to classify and code diseases. The ICD 10 code for history of polysubstance abuse is F19.10. 3
Previously, the polysubstance abuse ICD 9 code was 305.90. The following sections will take a deeper dive into how polysubstance abuse ICD 10 is diagnosed and the complications of this diagnosis. 4

How Is Drug Dependence Diagnosed?

Since many people struggle with multiple comorbid substance use disorders, individuals must seek out professional help to get the correct diagnoses and treatment options. Licensed clinicians utilize comprehensive assessment tools to provide accurate diagnoses that will pave the way for targeted and effective treatment. 5

Complications of Drug Dependence

Suppose a person is diagnosed with the ICD 10 code for polysubstance abuse. In that case, they’re more likely to experience an overdose, brain damage, heart complications, altered mental status, stroke, liver damage, brain injury, and seizures.

What Are The Signs of Polysubstance Abuse?

If you or someone you care about is battling a polysubstance abuse disorder, it’s essential to become familiar with the polysubstance abuse signs and symptoms.
Read on to learn more about what to look for in polysubstance abuse ICD 10:

Notable Change in Personality or Behavior: Unexplained personality, attitude, and behavior changes can be signs of polysubstance abuse. 

Losing Interest in Hobbies, Activities, Friends: Abandoning previous activities such as sports, social engagements, or hobbies can indicate polysubstance use. 

Mood Swings or Irritability: Psychological warning signs may include irritability, angry outbursts, and mood swings. 

An Increased Need for Privacy or Sneaking Around: Secretive and suspicious behaviors can be warning signs of substance use disorder. 

Depression or Anxiety: When a person is struggling with drug dependence, their mental health can deteriorate, leading to paranoia, depression, and anxiety.

Increased Injuries or Health Issues: Polysubstance abuse can lead to physical health issues and increased injuries.

Neglecting Physical Care, Personal Relationships, or Life Obligations: If an individual is in active use, their relationships, responsibilities, physical health, and obligations can go on the back burner. 

Risks of Polysubstance Abuse

Polysubstance use is dangerous for people of all ages. Some common risks or dangers for a person with a history of polysubstance abuse ICD 10 may include:

Organ Damage: If a person is diagnosed with the ICD 10 code for polysubstance abuse, they’re more likely to have liver and other organ damage as a result from substance usage. 

Negative Effects on Mental Health: For many people, substance use disorders and mental health diagnoses are co-occurring. Mental illnesses can be exacerbated by drug and alcohol use. 

Effects on Cognitive Ability: Brain injury, an altered mental state, and cognitive deficits are also associated with polysubstance use. 

Physical Health Complications: Physical health complications such as slow breathing, passing out, weak pulse, nausea, and seizures are all dangers of polysubstance abuse. 

Overdose: Almost half of all overdoses in 2019 involved polysubstance use. 

Addiction: When an individual abuses one or more drugs and develops dependence, they are generally more susceptible to addiction. 

Death: Mixing drugs can potentially be lethal. 

Dangers Associated With Polysubstance Abuse

Regardless of whether polysubstance abuse is intentional, it can be very dangerous. Some common, and potentially more severe, dangers associated with polysubstance abuse are:

Increased Severity of Side Effects: When two or more mind-altering substances are combined, the effect can be stronger and produce more severe side effects. 

Acute Health Problems: Sudden and severe acute health conditions are more likely for individuals with polysubstance abuse. 

Complications Due to Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues: People with co-occurring polysubstance abuse and mental disorders are more prone to dangerous side effects. 

Therapy for Polysubstance Abuse Treatment

If you or someone you know is struggling with polysubstance use, there are many therapy modalities that therapists or counselors can use in order to help. Some of these include:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Program

In many cases, polysubstance use, compulsive behavior, pain, and trauma are interrelated. EMDR is an evidence-based therapy that can be applied in polysubstance abuse treatment.6

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)is a therapy used to help individuals identify and address problematic behaviors and then learn how to reframe these behaviors into more positive ones. This is a short-term approach that is generally very effective for many individuals.

Somatic Experiencing Program

Somatic experiencing therapy is a body-oriented trauma therapy that can be useful for people with a history of polysubstance abuse. 7

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is an evidence-based treatment focusing on mindfulness, acceptance, and intense emotions. 8

Motivational Interviewing Program

Motivation interviewing is a client-centered approach that uses intrinsic motivation to help people address their ambivalence about polysubstance use. 9

Treatment for Polysubstance Abuse

Time is of the essence when it comes to treatment for polysubstance abuse disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling, Profound Treatment offers a wide range of treatment options to suit each individual’s recovery needs.
Polysubstance abuse icd 10

Residential Care

Residential care is a treatment program that involves the individual receiving help and medical attention from the care center, which can include medication and therapy as well. Depending on the level of care a person needs, they may need medical detoxification, inpatient residential care, or outpatient treatment.

Inpatient Care and Outpatient Care

Inpatient care gives clients a unique opportunity to take a break from their environment and focus entirely on healing and recovery, also while removing them from any potential relapse risks.
Depending on a person’s clinical needs and personal obligations, outpatient treatment may be an appropriate starting point. While this treatment option isn’t available at Profound Treatment, it can be beneficial for those who need a less structured treatment option.


Healing of the mind, body, and soul are the pillars of care at Profound Treatment. Based in Woodland Hills, California, Profound Treatment’s licensed team of clinicians specializes in EMDR, DBT, and CBT.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is available to help individuals struggling with cravings and urges to use. With an extensive menu of inclusive treatment services and therapies offered, Profound Treatment has the resources to help people from all walks of life. Contact Profound Treatment’s friendly and supportive team today to take the first step toward recovery.

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