Published in the Spring 2009 issue of SSA Magazine

This article is a sidebar of the "In Treatment" article

-Carl Vogel

Researchers and policymakers are exploring the intricacy of substance abuse and its treatment for many populations, not just for women. For example, for more than a decade, the Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment (IDDT) process has been promoted by leading federal and state agencies to help individuals with both substance-use issues and severe and persistent mental illness.

The mix of therapeutic, organizational, and fiscal complexity of providing treatment for both issues at once, however, has kept the program from reaching as far as its architects and advocates would like. "It's the state of the art for people with co-occurring disorders, but there are so many moving parts. And there are issues about cost and even just keeping it running," says Stan McCracken, a senior lecturer at SSA who has worked with many agencies throughout Illinois to institute IDDT.

On the other hand, not every subgroup has as robust a system for identifying and attending to its needs. At-risk youth who have been exposed to community violence, for instance, are twice as likely to have used marijuana or alcohol than at-risk peers who have not, according to research published by Dexter Voisin, an associate professor at SSA, and co-authors in a 2007 article in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. By understanding the common effects of first-hand experience with violence outside the home, Voisin says practitioners can have a better grip on how to help.

"We did not find a notable increase in the use of crack, ecstasy, or amphetamines. That suggests that these young people are seeking a soothing effect, rather than a stimulant," points out Voisin, who teaches a doctoral course on models of prevention at the School. "If exposure to community violence was on the radar screen of more social workers who work with youth, that could be very useful information to help find appropriate treatment."