People with addiction

6 June 2016

Persons with addiction remain one of the major groups that the social workers encounter frequently. Social workers play instrumental roles in helping individuals, families, educational institutions, workplaces and communities to address addictions. Addiction affects people from diverse backgrounds, and helping professionals in virtually every area of practice encounter people with these problems.

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This essay discusses addiction in generic terms, and the methods that social workers can employ to address addiction-related cases. The first section entails a brief introduction as outlined above. The second section occasions an overview of addiction. The third section would briefly discuss some methods employed by social workers to help people with addiction. The final section presents a summary of the issues discussed and the author’s conclusion. THE CONCEPT OF ADDICTION; an Overview.

The concept of addiction itself remains a “troubled spot” in intellectual discourse in respect of attaining a standardised and universal definition as noted by Goodman (1990). Helping professionals often argue as to what actually constitutes addiction whilst the general public employ the term to describe compulsive behaviour or any impulse-control disorder (DiNitto and McNeece, 2007).

For the purposes of this essay, addiction would be defined as “a process whereby a behaviour, that can function both to produce gratification and to provide escape from internal discomfort, is employed in a pattern characterised by loss of control and continuation despite significant negative consequences” (Goodman, 1990). By implication, this definition lays much emphasis on compulsion (loss of control), consistency and dependency. This has a consequence on the nature of therapy helping professionals prescribe for their clients.

Addictions to alcohol and drugs may be common in everyday practice but the public may also use the term to describe impulse-control disorders or compulsive (repeated) behaviours such as gambling, sex, internet use, and shopping even though others would strongly object to calling all these problems addictions (DiNitto and McNeece, 2007). Whichever way one may decide to classify these behavioural patterns, they have the potential to affect a person’s capacity to meet their obligations at work, school, or
home; they may lead to legal problems and in general threaten the very existence of the client’s life (use of alcohol or drugs in hazardous situations such as driving)

Social workers employ several approaches and methods in helping people with addiction. In this section, I discuss some of the general techniques and approaches that are commonly used to help people with addiction. These approaches are however not exhaustive in themselves and may not address all addictive problems. The first step toward dealing with addiction rest with the client and it is always important for helping professionals to take note.

Social workers may help a client affirm his/her position towards making a change by taking clients through a basic assessment session. This would involve asking the clients the “hard questions”, such as the readiness of the client to change his/her ways of dealing with stress, friends and contemporaries, leisure activities and the client’s way of thinking about himself/herself. This represents the first and the most important step before the process to change begins. It is always useful to agree with the client on how the decisions taken at this stage would be implemented. This could mostly be followed with the motivational enhancement therapy (Miller and Rollnick, 2002).

This involves helping the client weigh the advantages and disadvantages of changing in order to further resolve any element of resistance to change on the part of the client. For instance keeping a track record of the clients alcohol intake or drug use; listing the pros and cons of quitting as against continuing; listing the things that are important to the client such as the client’s partner, career or even health and the potential things that can prevent the client from changing. Most clients are likely to admit at this stage that they have a huge challenge than they may have previously thought.

Social workers could also employ the community reinforcement approach. This mostly seeks to alter the client’s environment in order to reduce the use of substance and improve wellbeing (Meyers and Miller, 2001). This may even include helping the client to find a job or change jobs, utilizing spouse or partner assistance, and even a network of families working to ensure that change takes place. Specifically, family and friends would help client through routines and exercises identified by the client and the helping officer as if they were actually fighting addiction too.

The intensity and nature of addiction to substances such as drugs and alcohol may require that the victim remains destructed from activities that could jeopardise his/her ability to break free from addiction. This approach would particularly motivate the client to work effectively towards recovery in the consciousness of support from family and friends alike.

Finally, there is the need to identify a strategy to deal with relapse which is always possible in most cases. This is very important giving that most clients make more than one serious attempt before they abstain from drugs, alcohol, sex etc. Social workers employ relapse prevention approaches to help client deal with triggers and cravings. This may involve breaking up with old friends, avoiding bars etc. This is normally enforced with building a drug-free life such as picking a new hobby, pet or volunteering in your community and joining relevant community groups that would facilitate an alcohol-free or a drug-free life.

This essay has discussed addiction in its generic terms. It must be noted that most of the approaches to dealing with addiction would not effectively fit all addictive behaviours. It is always important for the social worker to think of other approaches that have not been mentioned in this essay when dealing with other addictive cases.

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