Choose a particular population of individuals with substance abuse problems. This could be as big as ‘people who abuse cocaine’, or it could be ‘drug abuse among college students’. Your population could be identified by gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, or disability, or by people who’ve had a common experience, such as combat veterans.
1. Write an introduction explaining why this population is of concern to you. This might be because of a personal experience, or it might be that you read something about it, and it interested you, but you need to include the reasons why social workers and other professionals should be interested in this population. You might think, ‘Well, it’s because they’re people and we help people’ and that’s true enough, but think about arguments that might convince conservative politicians as well. For example, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is trying to require a drug test before people get Medicaid; that means that detox and treatment wouldn’t be available to addicted unemployed people. What sort of case do you think Gov. Walker would listen to, regarding the benefits of treating addicted people?
2. Evidence-based practice: access at least 5 descriptions of programs that are effective in helping your population? Is inpatient better than outpatient? For veterans, you might want to look at whether VA run programs are better than civilian-run programs? Are co-ed programs better than single-sex programs? Think about your population, and identify the questions that would be most important for them- you don’t have to answer each of these questions, you may be able to come up with better questions! But imagine you’re advising someone who’s going to start a treatment program- what’s the advice you’d be giving him about what works, and what doesn’t work, based on existing programs? This is the biggest chunk of the paper.
3. Based on your reading about programs that work, what ideas would you want to try if you were going to open a program? This is your imagination at work. There’s been a lot of evidence about how a 30 day inpatient treatment program is highly effective…so why don’t we put every addict into a 30 day program? Think about why, and then brainstorm ideas around the obstacles. Suppose you discover, as domestic violence shelters have discovered, that addicts hesitate to go into inpatient treatment, because they have no one with whom they can leave their pet. What would be your solution to that problem? It may seem trivial, but think about it: if you wanted to get sober, but all your friends were using and abusing, would you leave your pet with them and just hope that they’d remember to feed it, and they wouldn’t hurt it?
4. Summary about what you learned about what works. How should existing programs be changed to better meet the needs of addicts?