Addictions and community services workers, known collectively as social workers, have generally spearheaded the management of addiction disorders. While they do not treat the person with drug dependence directly, they connect the clients with the services they need to restore them to good health. Social workers also provide mental health services to support addiction treatment.
The need for social workers in Canada is especially high because of its ongoing problem with illicit drug use, particularly involving opioids such as fentanyl and heroin. About half of all Canadians report using an illicit drug such as cannabis, hallucinogens, ecstasy, and cocaine, and it is more common among males and those between the age of 20 and 24.
However, an addiction problem may not necessarily be just about drug or substance abuse. An addiction can refer to any obsessive behavior that can affect the physical and mental health of the client such as food or gambling addiction. These can ruin a person’s life just as effectively as any illegal drug.
This article looks at the role played by social workers in addiction recovery. It is about how social workers provide drug dependent people and their families with the care and treatment they need.
Role in addiction treatment
A social worker assigned to work with people suffering from addiction disorders focus on giving clients and significant others support to manage the problems associated with addiction. This includes physiological and psychological effects that a social worker must recognize and address, and this requires rigorous training to acquire an understanding of physiology, biology, medical treatments, psychiatry, and psychology.
As a highly trained professional, a social worker has to be objective and compassionate at the same time. A good social worker will know when to push an issue and when to let it go because they understand the underlying issues of addiction disorders and how these affect behavior.
In most cases, a social worker will provide first responder type of assistance by:
- Assessing the environment
- Developing a treatment plan
- Providing counselling for the client and family members
A social worker will try to address addictive behavior on the ground, and when appropriate, refer the client to other social service providers. A social worker might work for a public or private organization, or work as a solo practitioner. Whatever the case, the social worker is there to direct traffic, so to speak, of the social service and health care systems available to ensure the client gets the help they need.
Among the responsibilities of a social worker dealing with addiction are:
- Help families of the clients understand and deal with the problem through counselling or intervention
- Provide counselling for a married couple dealing with addiction
- Address homelessness and assist in housing
- Address the issue of job loss and financial problems
- Refer clients to the appropriate social service or health care support
- Monitor the clinical treatment of the client to make sure they get the medical help they need
- Advocate for clients
The need for addictions and community services workers will be around for as long as people engage in obsessive behavior. An effective social worker takes on many roles because they understand that mental health, behavior, and physical desires intertwine in complex ways that can lead to addiction disorders. A social worker has to manage a case as the circumstances dictate to break the cycle of addiction and put clients on the road to recovery.
Learn more about careers in community services by browsing through MSM Unify’s courses and articles on social work.