Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Lani Nelson-Zlupko

Second Advisor

Lina Hartocollis

Abstract

Twenty-three million people over the age of 12 meet criteria for a substance use disorder. Drug overdose is currently the number one cause of injury-related death in the US. From 1999 to 2017, almost 218,000 people died from overdoses related to opioids. In 2017, opioid overdoses were five times higher than they were in 1999. The financial cost of substance abuse in the US is estimated at $700 billion annually. Evidence-based approaches have been shown to improve outcomes, yet substance use treatment has the lowest rates of utilization of evidence-based practices of any health care discipline.

Graduate level education has been shown to increase the use of evidence-based practice. However, most states require low educational requirements for substance abuse counselors. This gap in education negatively impacts the use of evidence-based practice and is linked to many ethical issues in the field.

Many studies have looked at the role of education in the use of evidence-based practices but little is understood regarding the multiple barriers substance abuse counselors experience. A mixed-methods study was conducted to investigate these barriers to higher education among substance abuse counselors in New York State. In a total of 124 participants, a significant correlation was observed between counselor’s willingness to pursue a graduate level degree and their beliefs in evidence-based approaches versus traditional 12 step ideology. Material and philosophical institutional support were significantly correlated with intentions to further one’s education. Based on these findings, recommendations for treatment and policy are provided.

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