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Research Review

Significant Changes in Substance Use Admissions Patterns Over Past Decade

From 1998 to 2008 there were marked changes in some patterns of substance use treatment admissions according to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Although the concurrent abuse of both alcohol and drugs has remained widespread, the proportion of treatment admissions for the coabuse of these substances has declined gradually yet significantly during this period—from 44% to 38%.

At the same time there has been a steady rise in the proportion of treatment admissions attributed to drug abuse alone from 26% in 1998 to 37% in 2008, while the proportion of admissions attributed to alcohol alone fell from 27% in 1998 to 23% in 2008.

The study shows some other important trends over the past decade in the make up of treatment admissions involving people aged 12 and older including:

· A rise in opiate admissions from 16% of admissions to 20% in 2008.
· A decline in cocaine admissions from 15% in 1998 to 11% in 2008.
· An increase in marijuana admissions from 13% in 1998 to 17% in 2008
· A rise in stimulant admissions from 4% in 1998 to 6% in 2008.

The survey also showed that admissions for substance abuse treatment among those aged 12 to 17 increased by 13% between 1998 and 2002, but declined by 10% between 2002 and 2008. In addition, 79% of adolescent treatment admissions involved marijuana as a primary or secondary substance, and 48% were referred to treatment through the criminal justice system.

Polydrug abuse was reported by 55% of all admissions in 2008. Alcohol and opiates were reported more often as primary substances than as secondary substances. Overall, 61% of all treatment admissions reported alcohol as a substance of abuse (41% as primary), and 27% of all admissions involved opiate abuse (20% as primary).

— Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration