Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Conclusion for Chapter 8, “Mental Health and Substance Abuse (pp. 161-191)

Mental illness and substance abuse have been individual and social problems since the founding of the country. And debates over the degree of individual and social responsibility for them have continued for at least that long. The policy pendulum has swung back and forth as we weigh individual freedom versus collective obligation. The issues are complex, and morality as well as practicality are involved. Of the many substances that are abused, some are legal and some or not. Should we decriminalize some and/or make others harder to obtain? Should everyone be subjected to drug tests? Should people with a mental illness who might harm others be denied privacy and confidentiality? Should parents be allowed to refuse to vaccinate their children if this results in the deaths of others? Are our communities safer with more guns or fewer guns? Should cyberspace be more carefully regulated? How do we reintegrate our veterans into peacetime society? What roles can social workers play in all this?

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The use and abuse of illegal substances are not just problems for specific groups in American society, as we used to think. We find these problems in all socioeconomic, racial, and religious groups. Different drugs are adopted and discarded by various groups at various times, in various places. The extent to which use is considered a problem and the extent to which abuse is prosecuted seems to depend a lot on who the users are. And in the pharmacological revolution, this issue can only get more complicated.

World Health Organization. (2004). Mental health policy and service guidance package: Mental health policy, plans and programmes. Retrieved from

Plummer, S. -B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. (Eds.). (2014). Sessions: Case histories. Baltimore: MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].

· Part 1, “The Parker Family” (pp. 6–8)

Mental Health America. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Required Media

Laureate Education (Producer). (2013). Sessions: Parker family (Episode 5 of 42) [Video file]. Retrieved from



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