Free Research Paper On Substance Abuse In The United States

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Abuse, Violence, Bullying, Substance, Drug Abuse, Sociology, Workplace, Services

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2021/02/21


Substance abuse is one of the current issues in social welfare. As a social problem, substance abuse makes it hard for individuals to realize their full potential. It refers to the dangerous use of psychoactive substances such as illicit drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. Individuals abuse these substances for complicated and varied reasons. The abuse of psychoactive substances can result in dependence syndrome. The individuals who suffer from the substance abuse problem have a strong desire to take the substances mentioned above, difficulties in controlling their use and increased tolerance. For long, the social workers have worked with individuals, who abuse substances. They assess and treat these individuals through services such as social rehabilitation, group and individual therapy, crisis intervention, training in everyday living skills, and many more. The spending for substance abuse treatment by various governments around the world has been increasing due to the rise in the use of psychoactive substances. For instance, in 2001, the substance abuse and mental health treatment in the US amounted to $104 billion, representing 7.6% of all the health care expenditure (Mark, Coffey, Vandivort-Warren, Harwood, King, & MHSA, 2005). For this reason, the present paper delves into the issue of substance abuse in the United States.

History of substance abuse in US

The substance abuse issue is not a new concept in the United States. In essence, substance abuse has continuously been an influential force in the society. Drug-seeking behavior has primarily been a part of the American life since its earliest existence. During the early years, most substance use by the settlers in US was of tobacco or alcohol. Substance abuse in the United States can be traced back to the 1700’s. During this period, the public could buy over-the-counter medications. The tobacco smoking during 1840-1890 increased to 26 per capita while beer drinking at the same time reached 2.17 gallons per capita (Brown Jr, 1981). The per capita consumption of opiates in the pre-Civil War era increased rapidly. However, the use of opium in the United States became much more widespread and common during the nineteenth century. By the end of this century, opiate use had become a grave health issue in the America. The Civil War soldiers became addicted to opium and tobacco as their use had become widespread among them. Heroin and morphine were the other drugs that people abused during this period.
The hippie movement, which was marked by the desire for self-improvement, self-discovery, and a connection to something greater, came into being in the 1960s. The movement had an immense influence on the United States culture. The hippie movement satisfied their desires with lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), which was made illegal later. In the same period, the increased mistrust between the citizens and US government thanks to Vietnam War further increased the use of the drug in America as some individuals started disobeying the laws. In addition, several soldiers fighting in the Vietnam war developed a dependency to heroin after being introduced to it. With the advancement in technology, more drugs were discovered and manufactured, opening up more avenues to substance abuse.

Substance abuse community Profile

Substance abuse represents a considerable and widespread public health concern in the US. Ideally, the problem of substance abuse in the country occurs in both males and females. The US has the highest substance abuse level of any developed nation. A large percentage of the population in the US has tried cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, or other illicit drugs. Substance abuse is common among the younger people, refugees and immigrants, and adults. Alcohol is the most abused substance by the younger people in the country followed by tobacco and marijuana. The youths engage in substance abuse due to peer pressure. The refugees and immigrants have always been under depression and physical trauma, great stress, and anxiety (Gfroerer & Tan, 2003). In addition, these groups of individuals suffer from social isolation, racism, language barriers, deportation fear, discrimination, and loss of status. They turn to substance abuse, which to them acts as a coping mechanism. There has been an increase in substance abuse among the Americans aged between 30 and 44 years who grew up in the wake of 1970s drug epidemic (Schulden, Thomas, & Compton, 2009). Adolescence is a definite period for the start of substance abuse in the United States. The problem is also common among the community members experiencing homelessness. Many of these people experience numerous barriers to getting housing while suffering from substance addiction.

Service techniques to people suffering from the problem of substance abuse

The social workers are mandated to evaluate and treat the individuals suffering from substance abuse. These workers are not expected to specialize in psychoactive drugs. They are only required to be familiar with the basics. In addition, they should be capable to raise the matter sensitively with the individuals they work with, as well as, examine and explain the available options for the individuals needing support. There are various service techniques that social workers offer to people, groups, families, and communities suffering from the problem of substance abuse. Firstly, the social workers offer substance abuse counseling services to people, groups, families, and communities and help them overcome and conquer the dependencies on psychoactive substances. Apart from offering the counseling services, a social worker can offer social rehabilitation services to help those suffering from the problem of substance abuse. The addiction to psychoactive substances can cause severe problems to a person’s physical and mental health (Galvani & Forrester, 2009). The social rehabilitation services help in reducing dependency and rehabilitating the person suffering from substance abuse.
The social workers also train the drug and alcohol addicts in everyday living skills. Moreover, they offer behavioral treatments to the people suffering from this problem and, as a result, help in modifying the behaviors and attitudes related to substance abuse. The behavioral treatments also facilitate the increase in healthy life skills among the addicts. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the types of behavioral treatments that the social workers use. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps the patients know, avoid, and deal with the circumstances in which they are likely to abuse alcohol and drugs (Butler, Chapman, Forman, & Beck, 2006). Furthermore, they help improve the overall functioning of families with adolescents with substance abuse problem by multidimensional family therapy.
The social workers employ a number of social work theories when providing service techniques to people, groups, families, and communities suffering from the substance abuse problem. Ideally, these theories guide them when offering different services to the addicts and addicts’ families. A good understanding of social learning theory makes the social workers explain how the individuals suffering from substance abuse can learn from those who are already rehabilitated through observing and imitating their behaviors (Payne, 2002). The understanding of the systems theory makes the social workers persuade the family and community members help in resolving the problem. The psychosocial theory helps the social workers explain the human development stages to the alcohol and drug addicts. As a result, the addicts identify where they messed up in their lives and take the necessary correctional actions. The other social work theories used by the social workers include the rational choice theory, transpersonal theory, and psychodynamic theory.

Factors that affect the delivery of services related to the problem of substance abuse

There are a number of factors that affect the delivery of services related to the problem of substance abuse. The philosophy of a person controls everything that he/she does in life. Ideally, one’s philosophy is one’s destiny as it determines how everything will appear in the end. Different people have different philosophies. For this reason, the philosophy of the person suffering from the problem of substance abuse determines if that person is going to understand the services offered to him/her by a social worker. A good philosophy in an addict would facilitate the delivery of services while a bad philosophy hampers the delivery of services to the addict.
A purpose is the other factor that affects the delivery of the services related to the problem of substance abuse. A good understanding of the reasons for offering substance abuse services to the addicts facilitates the delivery. For this reason, the social workers should understand the motive for offering services well before embarking on the process to facilitate the success of the delivery. In addition, the social workers should make the persons suffering from the problem of substance abuse understand the anticipated outcome.
The other factor that affects the delivery of services related to the substance abuse problem is location. The location where the treatment and prevention processes are to be undertaken matters a lot as it determines whether the social worker is going to achieve the goal of transforming the addict or not. If the services are to be delivered in a location with poor living conditions, it becomes difficult for the social workers to succeed in their missions because substance abuse in such a location is the order of the day. In essence, it is very hard to convince the addicts to desist from abusing drugs in such locations.
Major funding also affects the delivery of services related to the substance abuse problem. The success of different services to be offered to the substance abuse addicts requires adequate financing from the relevant authorities. The alcohol and drug addicts need proper medications and guidance services for them to be rehabilitated. For this reason, the success of the entire process depends on the source of financing available.
The other factor that affects the delivery of services related to substance abuse problem is technology. Technology is necessary as it eases the delivery of services. The addicts that require medications require technology. In addition, technology is required for transportation and communication among the people suffering and the social workers.
Finally, the executive board has a great impact on the success of the delivery of services related to the problem of substance abuse. The executive board of a rehabilitation agency is supposed to make applicable policy guidelines to aid the social workers when undertaking their mandate.

The types of professional training and licenses/certifications required of substance abuse professional workers

The substance abuse professional workers require good training because of the nature of their job. For one to become a substance abuse professional worker, he/she is required to have at least a high school certificate. With every education level, there are jobs for these professionals. For instance, a graduate with a bachelor’s degree might qualify as a rehabilitation or counseling aide. The individuals who desire to get a state license as a behavioral disorder and substance abuse counselors should hold a master’s degree. The certificate-holders can get the jobs requiring only competency, as well as, minimum experience. In some states, substance abuse professional workers are required to hold at least a high school diploma, a year experience in treating the problem of substance abuse in the recommended practice areas, and 125 hours of training. For a person to legally function as a substance abuse professional worker, he/she should be a licensed psychologist or certified social worker (Fisher & Harrison, 2000). Such a person should also be an NAADAC Certification Commission/ICRC Certification Commission substance abuse counselor, and drug and alcohol abuse counselor licensed by NAADAC.
A social worker begins by meeting the clients and interviewing them to determine the severity and type of substance abuse. He/she then helps the clients come up with care plans or treatment plans based on their abilities, needs, and severity and type of the problem. Afterward, he/she conducts periodic reevaluations of care plans or treatment plans by meeting with the client.


One of the substance abuse rehabilitation agencies in the United States is Hope Haven. The agency has succeeded in providing a broad range of support for the people who require outpatient and residential services. Since 1973, Hope Haven has been offering affordable, evidence-based, effective drug and alcohol treatment services. Hope Have’s Day Report and Treatment (DART) program and Marquette Chemical Dependency Service (MCDS) program have facilitated the provision of quality social services in a Christian environment. The DART program assists the drug abusing offenders through offering inclusive case management, alcohol and drug, and mental health services. The MCDS program offers drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment services to the residents.
The issue of substance abuse started around 1700s in the United States. It is most common in refugees and immigrants, youths, and people experiencing homelessness. The current society has not succeeded in responding to this problem and has for a long time continued paying a substantial cost for its rise. It is imperative for all the society members to help the fight against alcohol and drug abuse to save the country. The government should emphasize in the alcohol and drug prevention and education to lowers levels of learning. Schools ought to focus their attention on drug and alcohol education to the adolescents and children to assist in prevention and treatment. The parents should prevent their children from engaging in activities that encourage them to abuse alcohol and drugs. In addition, the social workers need to up their game in the fight against substance abuse.

The relation of social justice to substance abuse and NASW Code of Ethics

The substance abuse addiction is commonly conceptualized as a social problem. For this reason, the substance abuse addiction is understood as a social justice problem. In essence, the addictions, treatment, substance abuse problems, and interrelated preparation of experts to fill its treatment positions exist in a political and an ideological infrastructure. The NASW Code of Ethics guides social workers in their daily activities. It requires the social workers to grant everyone including the addicts their social, political, and economic rights and opportunities. Social justice underscores everything that social workers do just like NASW Code of Ethics. Thus, both social justice and NASW Code of Ethics guide the social workers in their daily operations.


Mark, T. L., Coffey, R. M., Vandivort-Warren, R., Harwood, H. J., King, E. C., & MHSA, S. E. T. (2005). US spending for mental health and substance abuse treatment, 1991-2001. Health Affairs-Millwood Va Then Bethesda MA-, 24, W5.
Brown Jr, L. S. (1981). Substance abuse and America: Historical perspective on the federal response to a social phenomenon. Journal of the National Medical Association, 73(6), 497.
Schulden, J. D., Thomas, Y. F., & Compton, W. M. (2009). Substance abuse in the United States: findings from recent epidemiologic studies. Current psychiatry reports, 11(5), 353-359.
Galvani, S., & Forrester, D. (2009). Social work and substance use: teaching the basics. Higher Education Academy, Social Policy and Social Work (SWAP).
Fisher, G. L., & Harrison, T. C. (2000). Substance abuse: Information for school counselors, social workers, therapists, and counselors. Allyn and Bacon.
Payne, M. (2002). Social work theories and reflective practice. R. Adams, L. Dominelli & M. Payne Social Work. Themes, Issues and Critical debates, 123-138.
Gfroerer, J. C., & Tan, L. L. (2003). Substance use among foreign-born youths in the United States: does the length of residence matter? American Journal of Public Health, 93(11), 1892-1895.
Butler, A. C., Chapman, J. E., Forman, E. M., & Beck, A. T. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: a review of meta-analyses. Clinical psychology review, 26(1), 17-31.

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