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Polysubstance Abuse In Teens


abusing drugs and alcohol - example of polysubstance abuse

Johns Hopkins Medicine asserts, “substance abuse is the medical term used to describe a pattern of using a substance (drug) that causes significant problems or distress.” Teenagers that engage in polysubstance abuse typically misuse two or more substances at the same time or alternate between two or more substances. Every teen is different, and each young person will react distinctly when foreign substances are introduced to his or her system. According to the University of Michigan, mixing drugs can bring unpracticable consequences. Teenagers who engage in polysubstance abuse are entirely unaware of the array and severity of adverse effects that could result. Polysubstance abuse can be incredibly dangerous and exponentially increases a young person’s risk of overdose. 

Most Abused Substances

There are a variety of both legal and illicit substances that are frequently abused by teenagers. The substances that are most often abused, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) include the following:

  • Marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Methamphetamines 
  • Cocaine
  • Hallucinogens
  • Inhalants
  • Opiates 
  • Prescription medicines (e.g., stimulants, anxiety medication, pain pills, etc.)

Polysubstance abuse occurs when a young person abuses two or more of the above substances simultaneously. American Addiction Centers asserts “Although polysubstance abuse often refers to abuse of multiple illicit drugs, it is also inclusive of prescription medications used in nonmedical circumstances.” Teenagers that engage in polysubstance abuse do so to accomplish a more significant feeling from the effects of taking multiple substances. 


The treatment process for a teenager struggling with polysubstance abuse is the same as any other substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment. It begins with undergoing detox, which cleanses the body of all abused substances. After successfully completing detox, continuing the recovery process by attending a formal substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program is highly recommended. Several options are available that cater to young people in need of treatment for polysubstance abuse. At Pacific Teen Treatment, we offer a residential treatment program that utilizes a variety of therapeutic approaches. Some of the treatment modalities we incorporate into our treatment plans include talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), expressive arts therapy and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Pacific Teen Treatment works with each of its residents to create a tailored and unique treatment plan, catering specifically to each teen’s personal and nuanced recovery needs. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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