The Fix, one of the Internet’s most popular and widely read rehab and recovery websites, recently release the results of a six-month long study regarding what current and former rehab facility patients liked, didn’t like and what they found to be most important in their paths to recovery. The survey revealed plenty of information that one would find unsurprising – such as “quality of treatment” being named as the most important factor in choosing a facility – however, it also exposed a few growing problems in the addiction community. Paramount of these is the increasing trend of patients being admitted to rehab centers for poly-substance abuse.
Defined as the use of three or more addictive substances within the past 12 months, poly-substance abuse is affecting more people than ever before, with more than 17% of respondents to the study stating that they sought or were seeking treatment for more than one substance – and, according to experts, it’s possible that this number is lower than it should be, as many people don’t consider prescription drug abuse comparable to street drugs, so might not report it. In fact, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released even more startling results from their survey in June, which showed that 56% of people seek help for an addiction to more than one substance.
Experts can’t pinpoint exactly why poly-substance abuse has increased, but suggested that it could be due to the mobility of American society or instant gratification, as some addicts will use whatever is available to get high, even if it’s not the “drug of choice.” But while the reasons for poly-substance abuse are a bit fuzzy, it’s important to understand some facts about this disease and treatment.
- There are different types of poly-substance addicts. Some addicts, known as “pattern” users, are combination drugs users who consciously take drugs together, for example addicts who “speed-ball” (mixing heroin and cocaine) and alcoholics who use drugs habitually only after reaching a certain level of intoxication. Another type of poly-substance addicts consist of alcoholics who seek treatment for an injury or ailment, and become addicted to drugs prescribed by physicians.
- Multidrug use is the norm for younger people. It is not unusual for young people abusing one substance – like alcohol – to use it in conjunction with another – like marijuana. An anonymous rehab facility surveyed reported that 33% of adolescents treated at its facility were poly-substance abusers. Studies have also found that many older multidrug addicts began using “starter” drugs at young ages and added others as their usage increased.
- Poly-substance abuse is linked to mental health disorders. Like any type of addiction, poly-substance abuse is a form of self-medicating and to cope with other issues, such as depression, psychosis and bipolar disorder.
- Treatment can be complicated. Treating any addiction can be difficult, so, as one can imagine, treating multiple addictions at once can be even more complicated. People suffering from poly-substance addiction should seek professional help in a medically monitored facility where their mental health and addictions can be properly evaluated, and detox supervised.