Blending Perspectives and Building Common Ground: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Understanding Addiction, Substance Abuse Treatment, and Recovery

 

Substance abuse is a major public health problem that affects millions of people and places enormous financial and social burdens on society.  It destroys families, damages the economy, victimizes communities, and places extraordinary demands on the education, criminal justice, and social service systems.  To understand the connections between substance abuse problems and the child welfare system, it is important that substance abuse and the medical, social, and economic problems that are associated with the use and misuse of alcohol and other drugs, as well as addiction to these drugs, be clearly understood.

 

The Spectrum of Substance Use, Abuse, and Addiction

The use of alcohol and other drugs is a multifaceted phenomenon, varying with the individual's level of use and the dysfunction he or she experiences as a result of his or her use.  The range includes the following:

Drug experimentation
The use of alcohol or illicit drugs at any time for experimentation.  While in and of itself experimentation may not appear to be abusive, even a single episode of experimentation can result in harm to self or to others.  For example, the use of alcohol or other drugs at all during pregnancy could result in harm to the fetus, the experimental use of alcohol or other drugs while driving can result in harm to the user as well as others, or a child may be injured when left unsupervised while a parent is intoxicated.  Also, if experimental use continues or serves as a gateway to additional use, as often it does, patterns of alcohol and other drug abuse may develop.

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