Polysubstance abuse is highly prevalent in New Jersey and it involves the simultaneous use of
multiple substances. Polysubstance abuse raises the risk of overdose and poses a greater
danger to physical and mental health. Consequently, detoxification is the starting point of
treatment, and, in New Jersey, outpatient detox is an effective alternative to inpatient detox as it
helps integrate the home environment into treatment. The Center for Network Therapy has 3
detox facilities in New Jersey – West Orange, Middlesex and Freehold – offering Outpatient
Detox since 2013.

Why do Individuals Abuse Multiple Substances at Once?

One of the key reasons is to enhance the high from using one substance – for example co-
abusing benzodiazepines with opiates helps to achieve a higher high.

Adolescents and young adults abuse multiple substances due to peer pressure and the urge to
experiment – prevalence is higher among adolescents and young adults.

Sometimes people use multiple substances to counter withdrawal symptoms from one
substance by using another – anxiety from opioid withdrawal may lead to abuse of

Some medications to address mental health issues are not effective – consequently,
Individuals suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD or bi-polar disorder.

It is quite possible that New Jersey leads the nation in the concurrent co-abuse of multiple
substances. This is because NJ lies at the crossroads of the drug trade to New York after
emanating the southern borders. Towns such as Red Bank, Colts Neck, Morristown, Short Hills,
Bedminster, Summit, Westfield, Long Branch, and Mendham are particularly affected.

Examples of Polysubstance Abuse:

  1. Using cocaine, a stimulant, after binging on alcohol to counter alcohol’s central nervous
    depressant effects, to enable continued consumption of alcohol.
  2. Benzodiazepines along with opiates to obtain a higher high.

Common Substance Use Disorders.

Substance use disorders are characterized by compulsive use of substances despite negative

  • Alcohol use disorder (AUD) – excessive drinking and a pattern of alcohol consumption
    resulting in impairment or distress. NIAAA defines heavy drinking as follows: for men,
    consuming five or more drinks on any day or 15 or more per week and for women,
    consuming four or more on any day or 8 or more drinks per week. Heavy alcohol use
    leads to dependence and withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped abruptly.
  • Opioid use disorder (OUD) is the problematic use of opioids – it includes prescription
    painkillers such as oxycodone, percocet, tramadol and illegal drugs like heroin and
    fenatnyl. Although some of these medications are prescribed to treat severe pain, it can
    lead to dependence.
  • Cocaine is a stimulant and cocaine use disorder is compulsive use of cocaine despite
    health and legal issues. There is no official detox protocol for cocaine so coming off of
    cocaine becomes difficult.
  • Cannabis use disorder is defined by problematic use leading to impairment throughout
    various aspects of life. Although cananbis is increasingly being viewed as a harmless
    substance and efforts are underway to categorize cannabis as less harmful than other
    drugs, it is not the case as it can lead to psychosis.
  • Methamphetamine use disorder is the misuse of methamphetamine with accompanying
    physical and mental health issues.
  • Benzodiazepine is offifically used to treat various psychological issues such as anxiety
    and insomnia. But abuse is not uncommon in New Jersey. Benzo use disorder is the use
    and abuse of prescription medications like Klonopin, Valium or Xanax leading to
    addiction and dependence.

Causes of Polysubstance Abuse.

Polysusbtance abuse is likely more prevalent in New Jersey as compared to other
regions in the nation. Development of polysubstance abuse could be caused by:

  1. Biological Factors: Genetic predisposition and altered brain chemical composition might
    raise susceptibility to polysubstance abuse.
  2. Psychological Factors: Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, or trauma can cause
    individuals to seek self-medication with several substances.
  3. Environmental Influences: Polysubstance abuse might be connected to exposure to
    substance abuse in the household or social circle and access to alcohol and drugs.
  4. Social Pressures: Peer pressure, societal norms, and cultural influences may bring about
    polysubstance abuse, especially for young people.
  5. Co-occurring Disorders: The complex nature of the conditions places individuals at increased
    risk for polysubstance abuse with associated mental health disorders and drug abuse issues.

Polysubstance Detox

Addressing polysubstance abuse requires addressing the root cause and supporting
behaviors. The starting point is always detox, and detox from polysubstance abuse is
much more complicated that detox from a single substance.

Firstly, detox from polysubstance abuse takes longer than detox from a single
substance. The reason is that individuals have to weaned off from one substance before
attempting to detox them from another substance. It is also more complicated as
withdrawal from multiple substance have to be managed at the same time.

Psychotherapy, such as Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI),
dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) along with various other psychotherapeutic methods might
help individuals address the root causes and develop coping methods.

Fortunately for New Jersey residents, the Outpatient Detox option is available, as the
Center for Network Therapy pioneered the outpatient detox modality of care for all
substances of abuse and has been providing outpatient detox since 2013.

Click here for treatment and support for dealing with polysubstance abuse and recovery.


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