Curriculum Guideline

Substance Misuse

Effective Date:
Course Code
SOWK 2360
Substance Misuse
Social Work
Applied Community Studies
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
60 hours
Method Of Instruction
Methods Of Instruction

Group exercises
Student discussion
Use of multimedia resources.

Course Description
Students will study several approaches to work with people with addictions and people with co-occurring disorders. Topics will include an overview of the social costs of addiction, psychopharmacology, and the impact of substance misuse/ addiction on the brain and behavior. Students will examine different theoretical models that help to explain substance misuse and addiction at the individual, family, and community level. Prevention strategies and treatment models for addictions including harm reduction and medical models are examined. Counseling models consistent with the theoretical approach of this course, including motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, and family based approaches are reviewed. The curriculum focus includes a strengths based approach to the treatment of addictions. Intersecting issues of gender, ethnic background, sexual orientation, and age are explored.
Course Content

Course content will be guided by research, empirical knowledge and best practice. The following values and principles, consistent with professional standards, inform course content.

  • Theoretical models of addictive behavior have changed over time (as evident in the literature) and these guide best practices for social workers.
  • Individual problems are related to larger family, socio-economic, and political issues.  This includes the need for both personal and social change:  the need to explore and reflect on the life of each individual (personality, gifts, needs, and motivation) and the structural context of society (class, gender, race, age, government institutions).
  • Whether beginning or experienced, practitioners need to be aware of their biases, personal history, and helping approach in working with addicted clients.
  • Social workers are best guided by knowledge of the impact of substances on the brain and a broad understanding of how the short-term and long-term consequences of substance use/misuse impact people’s lives.
  • Poverty and substance use/misuse are closely related. Socio-economic status is related closely to the procurement, access, and recovery options available to people. Those who are disenfranchised are more likely to suffer harm and be denied service options.
  • Social policy strategies for addictions need to be appropriate for diverse populations and must account for the impact of factors such as history, culture, and access to the legal, political, and social structures of society.
  • The social worker’s choice of counselling models varies depending on the needs of the individual and the emphasis of intervention.  Individual, family, and community-based approaches are implemented with these considerations in mind. 
Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  1. Explain models and theories of addictive behaviour;
  2. Compare harm reduction strategies and the medical model;
  3. Explain the impact of different drugs on brain and behavior and describe recent developments in brain and drug research;
  4. Analyze the historical and contemporary relationship between social policy and addictions with regard to treatment approaches; policy at the municipal, provincial and federal levels; the impact on marginalized people; and legal issues;
  5. Evaluate the use of therapeutic models including motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, and family systems approaches to treat substance misuse and addiction, and co-occurring disorders;
  6. Explain the intersectionality of poverty, gender, culture and other factors with substance misuse/ addiction.
Means of Assessment

This course will conform to Douglas College policy regarding the number and weighting of evaluations. Typical means of assessment may include some or all of the following: 

  • Examinations
  • Written Papers
  • Participation
  • Attendance.
Textbook Materials

Text(s) such as the following, the list to be updated periodically:

Harrison, S. & Carver, V. (2004). Alcohol and drug problems: A practical guide. Toronto: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Maiston, S., Galizio, M., Connors, G., Maheu, S., & McCarthy, A. (2013). Drug use and abuse. Toronto: Nelson.









Which Prerequisite