Approximately 9-10% of the U.S. population currently meets the criteria for substance abuse or dependence ; about 15 million have an alcohol use disorder, 4 million have a drug use disorder, and about 3 million have both alcohol and drug disorders. As you can see, substance use and misuse is very prevalent in this country, but many do not receive help because they can’t afford it or do not realize they have a problem (DiNitto& McNeece, 2008, pg. 175).
Unfortunately, many social workers tend to receive very little training in substance abuse and misuse despite 43% of the NASW members reporting that they’ve worked with people with substance abuse disorders. It is obvious that we need to provide more training and resources to social workers who will most likely come into contact with substance abuse disorders in their practice (Blackboard presentation).
Two very important characteristics goes a long way with social workers: empathy and empowerment- social workers must work with people to make them the best they can be (Merrit Hartblay).When the substance is altering a person’s quality of life,social workers help addicts find a way to fix the soul (Merrit Hartblay).
Substance abuse happens often times when someone experiences trauma and the person doesn’t get a chance to process it and instead it just festers- it’s easy to self medicate. Substance abuse also has a genetic component. “Many individuals with alcohol or drug disorders have a family history of these problems, suggesting a genetic predisposition” (DiNitto &McNeece, 2008, p. 177).
The Office of the National Drug Control Policy reports that majority of the annual drug control budget goes to law enforcement rather than treatment,prevention, and related research. However, there is no evidence that law enforcement and consequences such as prison reduces drug abuse and dependence(DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 187).
To end on a positive note, the US government is providing millions of dollars for brain research in the hopes of identifying areas for prevention and treatment. It is essential that social workers and other professionals can appropriately care for and provide effective substance abuse treatments (Straussner, 2012, p. 131).