In This Article Alcohol and Drug Abuse Problems

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Handbooks and Guides
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Bibliographies
  • Image Collections
  • General Treatments for Substance Use Disorders
  • Clinical Guidelines

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Social Work Alcohol and Drug Abuse Problems
Kenneth R. Yeager
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0039


Alcohol and drug abuse is an equal opportunity affliction. As a universal phenomenon, the abuse of mood-altering substances manifests multiple and related problems across cultures, ages, gender, races, and religions. Although the thread of addiction is traceable throughout the history of humankind, progress toward identification of a root cause continues to elude the scientific community. Alcohol and drug abuse are linked to a number of social challenges, including, but not limited to, chronic illness, domestic violence, child abuse, crime, homelessness, aging, and mental health. People abuse substances such as drugs, alcohol, and tobacco for varied and complicated reasons that are not always immediately apparent. What remains painfully clear is the price individuals, families, cities, countries, and society at large all pay. The aftermath of substance abuse is significant and exerts a cost in both dollars and pain and suffering that is difficult to quantify. Primary care physicians, community agencies, hospitals, and emergency departments are inundated with the aftermath of substance abuse, and all provide care and support for both the direct damage to physical health and the psychological trauma experienced by the substance-dependent person and those people around him or her.

Introductory Works

There are a variety of models and views on the treatment for and approach to the management of alcohol and drug abuse. Perspectives range from preventive models to models that require abstinence from all mood-altering substances. Many assume a biological basis, while others adhere to a behavioral component. Moderation, harm-reduction, maintenance, abstinence, prevention, and willingness to change are all common themes when addressing substance abuse. Change is essential to all addiction treatment processes, and DiClemente 2003 serves as a foundation for understanding change. Campbell 2007 details the history and politics of alcohol and drug addiction research, areas in which every practicing or aspiring clinician should be informed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website can assist direct care providers in anticipating questions that patients and families may ask. Manzardo, et al. 2008 is an updated classic on dealing with the consequences of alcohol abuse. Miller and Carroll 2006 uses practice-based experience to lead a discussion on the nature and causes of alcohol and other drug problems, and Thorburn 2005 examines the stigma surrounding addiction.

  • Campbell, Nancy D. 2007. Discovering addiction: The science and politics of substance abuse research. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

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    An introductory work that brings to life the history of alcohol and drug research through archival reports, interviews with addiction researchers, and reviews of research and experimental protocols.

  • US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol.

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    Provides important epidemiologic facts and answers frequently asked questions.

  • DiClemente, Carlo C. 2003. Addiction and change: How addictions develop and addicted people recover. New York: Guilford.

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    This clearly written and easily understood guide for practitioners serves as a foundation for understanding the change processes based on DiClemente’s transtheoretical model. It also explains how addiction progresses within the individual and the family. It is a must read for new and seasoned professionals alike.

  • Manzardo, Ann M., Donald W. Goodwin, Jan L. Campbell, Elizabeth C. Penick, and William F. Gabrielli. 2008. Alcoholism, 4th ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Provides a classic overview of alcohol abuse and dependence. The text has been updated with early–21st-century information on the impact of alcohol on physiological function. It provides sound advice on the natural consequences of alcohol abuse for the individual and his or her family.

  • Miller, William R., and Kathleen M. Carroll, eds. 2006. Rethinking substance abuse: What the science shows and what we should do about it. New York: Guilford.

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    Miller and Carroll represent the best of the critical thinkers in the field of substance abuse. Critical thinking drives explanations of developmental, neurobiological, genetic, behavioral, and social-environmental perspectives of substance abuse.

  • Thorburn, Doug. Alcoholism myths and realities: Removing the stigma of society’s most destructive disease. 2005. Northridge, CA: Galt.

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    This interesting book examines common myths and the resulting stigma surrounding alcoholism. Thorburn seeks to dispel myths through critical examination of identification of alcohol problems, diagnosis, treatment planning, issues of comorbid complicating factors, and relapse prevention.

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