Pursuing the Problem of Substance Abuse in Bristol, Bath and Somerset County
Tackling alcohol and drug abuse in South West England continues to be a priority of local governments. Complex substance abuse situations, which include homelessness and mental health problems, are quite common, especially in the city of Bristol. Meanwhile, the police department of Bath and Somerset County are targeting drug production and sales as a means of “early intervention”.
Now, the region is known for its large number of drug-related police seizures. Hopefully, by limiting access to drugs, especially hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine, local governments can reduce access and exposure, and slow or reverse the addiction epidemic.
How is complex substance abuse different from addiction?
Addiction is undoubtedly an intricate topic, with no one-size-fits-all definition. At Castle Craig Hospital, addiction is considered a chronic illness, and its implications are different for each person affected by it.
One person may simply not be able to control their drinking, or another becomes dependent on just one drug, but there are also many cases where people have more than one addictive habit, or have an accompanying psychological problem that contributed to, or perhaps resulted from, their addiction. These are considered to be complex cases, and in order to be treated, people need access to proper rehabilitation, medical care and professionals who are well-versed in cross-addiction and dual diagnosis.
Improving and increasing the availability of treatment options for people with complex situations, is an ongoing priority, especially in Bristol.
What is cross-addiction?
Cross-addiction refers to a diagnosis of having multiple addictions. This may be simultaneous. For example, a person who starts with only one addiction to cannabis, is later exposed to LSD, and in the end develops a dependency on both. Swapping one addiction for another is also considered cross-addiction. For example, someone with an alcohol problem can be treated and enter recovery. Although they quit drinking, they may find themselves with a prescription painkiller addiction, even after years of sobriety.
Cross-addiction can also lead those in recovery back to their original addiction. Using the example above, the person who now utilises painkillers may start drinking again, as a way to amplify the drugs’ effects.
Julie struggled with a gambling addiction. Every day after work, she would go to the casino to play poker. She often burned through an entire paycheck in less than a week, which led her to accumulate a lot of debt, because she couldn’t ask her parents for money anymore. After becoming a regular at her favourite casino, she started getting comped with unlimited free drinks. Very quickly, she developed a drinking problem as well, and found herself rushing to the casino for two reasons instead of one. This was her first cross-addiction. After an intervention, Julie entered rehab, and swore off alcohol and gambling. Much later, Julie celebrated being sober, debt-free, and the fact that she had not stepped a foot inside a casino for three years. In order to improve her financial situation, she started investing in stocks. Unfortunately, the stock market became her virtual casino, and she developed her second cross-addiction, to day-trading cryptocurrency.
What is dual diagnosis?
Dual diagnosis is another complication that makes addiction treatment so challenging. Having a dual diagnosis means that there is a psychological or mental health-related issue, unrelated to addiction, such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, or a personality disorder, accompanying the addiction(s). People can have a cross-addiction and a dual diagnosis at the same time, but they are not the same thing.
Those with a dual diagnosis need to be treated for their underlying psychological problem as well as the addiction. For example, a person may start abusing alcohol because it alleviates their PTSD symptoms. If the PTSD isn’t treated along with the alcoholism, the person will be more likely to relapse.
What are the recommended treatment options for complex addictions?
While there is no wrong way to ask for help, complex situations require more attention than standard therapy or outpatient treatment can offer. Some people may find that joining an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group is enough for them to quit, while others need the round-the-clock supervision of a residential rehab.
With dual diagnosis especially, a private residential rehabilitation centre is the best option. This is because a residential rehab will address both issues at the same time, as opposed to a fellowship, which focuses on only the addiction half, or a therapist that specialises only on the psychological aspect.
Many patients who come to rehab are not even aware that they have a dual diagnosis, until they go through a medical assessment during admission. After the initial assessment, a private rehab centre will develop a personalised treatment plan for each patient.
Dual diagnosis and cross addiction is taken seriously at Castle Craig Hospital, where qualified therapists, consultant psychiatrists and other medical professionals are always available.
A proper treatment programme will also provide its’ patients with continuing care resources, in order to reduce the risk of relapse.
Where can I find more information about treatment in Bristol, Bath and Somerset County?
Most local government websites have a section that provides contact information or links to local treatment or assistance centres for addiction. You can also look up fellowships in or near your city, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, or Overeaters Anonymous. Even if there are no meetings relating to your addiction near your home, it is not a problem to attend those of another 12-step fellowship.
Residents of Bristol can find information about local resources, such as ROADS, Recovery Oriented Alcohol and Drugs Service, and the young adult-focused BYL, Bristol Youth Links, on the Bristol City Council website.