Cailyn Green, Empire State University – Defining Polysubstance Use in Adolescents

How can researchers compare findings if not everyone is on the same page?

Cailyn Green, assistant professor of addiction studies at Empire State University, examines the health effects of teen substance use.

Cailyn Green, MS, Ph.D., CASAC is the Assistant Professor of Addiction Studies at the State University of New York, Empire State College. She has been a part of the SUNY academic team since 2014.

She earned her BA degree in psychology from Wester New England University, her MS degree in forensic mental health from Sage Graduate School and her Ph.D. in criminal justice with a specialization in addiction science from Walden University. Dr. Green is also a Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor in New York State. Dr. Greens area of expertise is supporting clinicians who work in the addiction field to best serve their clients. She spent her hands on clinical time working directly with the recently incarcerated population.

Defining Polysubstance Use in Adolescents

The term polysubstance is when a client is using more than one substance. I conducted a meta-analysis literature review to raise awareness of the current terminology inconsistency. While it is understood that this term can be referring to any number of combinations of substances, there is no set standard on the time frame in which these substances are ingested. Does it mean multiple substances in the body at once, multiple substances used in a specific time frame? If so, what is this time frame? A day, a week, a month, a year? This lack of a standard definition creates difficulty when comparing research in this niche field. Specifically, when speaking about adolescents, knowing what this time frame is can help in clinical situations as well as research situations.   

The methodology for this research was a literature review. This research consisted of 4 peer-reviewed and published journal articles in different journals. These peer reviewed articles were focusing on adolescents within the past 2 years.   

The first review was on an article written by researcher Oldham and their colleagues in 2020. They identified polysubstance use in adolescents ranging from 11-15 years old as being defined as ingesting multiple substances between the years of 2003-2014. This is quite a large period compared to researcher Tan and their colleagues in 2020, who identified polysubstance use as using multiple substances simultaneously in their high school population of participants. Researcher Lanza and colleagues in 2021 defined polysubstance use in young adults in 11th grade of high school by using multiple substances within the past 30 days. Researcher Pearson and colleagues also identified polysubstance use as adolescents using multiple substances within the past 30 days in 2021. There are huge differences in how these peer reviewed journal articles define polysubstance use in adolescents.   

With the field lacking a consistent definition of polysubstance use in adolescence, researchers are unable to compare findings across published works.  

No Responses