Drug Rehab 2022 Round 1 – The Opioid Crisis

Name: Aja Knott

The Opioid Crisis

The Opioid Crisis by Aja Knott

As an aspiring social worker, understanding the depths of social inequities is always on my radar. Among those, addiction reveals itself to be immensely prevalent in our society and western culture. Specifically, recent research surrounding drug overdose rates demonstrate that the opioid crisis is still at large. Specifically, research done at the University of Washington’s Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Unit illustrates alarming data in fentanyl overdoses. Social workers can hold one of the keys that unlocks resources and assistance for those touched by the growing fentanyl crisis. By examining emerging overdose rates, we can explore the structures that uphold these social inequities and how social work can help.

New research discoveries highlight the ways that fentanyl contributes to the opioid crisis. In the state of Washington, comparative drug research has been done to analyze opioid overdose rates (Banta-Green & Williams, 2021). Among that research, it was noted that fentanyl overdoses roughly doubled in just four years. However, unlike other kinds of opioid overdoses, fentanyl-related death rates were similar between younger and older groups. As described in that research, these findings regarding age are specifically startling since, “…the mortality rate for most causes of death is substantially higher for older populations” (Banta-Green &Williams, 2021, p. 2). This research also suggests that illicit fentanyl’s likeness to other pills can create a snowball effect of increased abuse. These examples present alarming issues in the realm of public health. Fentanyl overdoses have the potential of becoming more severe due to accessibility and affordability. Paired with being highly addictive and easy to misinterpret, this opioid shows that it can claim the lives of anyone, regardless of age and other behavioral factors. 

To combat fentanyl issues on a micro level, using a psychiatric rehabilitation approach can get to the root of one’s addiction. When addicts are sent to a rehabilitation facility, the goal focuses on withdrawal stability. Social workers skills in helping addicts in treatment, as well as outside treatment, can help addicts remain sober. By bringing a family therapy approach and merging it with cognitive behavioral therapy, the issue of communal unawareness can be addressed. Involving families can heal the wound of addiction and promote community integration in terms of drug knowledge.

Those facing the stigma centered around drug use can also deter rehabilitation efforts. Programs like the CDC Rx Awareness Campaign (2020), can break the stigma around opioid use by showing real anecdotes about those who fell victim to fentanyl dependency. These programs also aid in community awareness and could compliment cognitive therapy by inspiring users to seek help. As an aspiring macro social worker, facilitating similar community-based education initiatives within varying communities would be my mission.

Social workers participating in policy advocacy is essential. Issues such as these are multifaceted and intersect with other social problems, such as socioeconomic disadvantages and race. For example, provided by the American Addiction Centers (2021), it was explained that, “…one study found that blacks and Hispanics were less likely to complete addiction treatment largely due to differences in socioeconomic status…”. As a macro level social worker, pushing for policy revision in the accessibility of healthcare would be a goal of mine in combating the fentanyl crisis. Social workers work closely with marginalized groups, and can collaborate with government officials to create opportunities for addiction treatment and harm reduction programs.

A collaborative approach between social workers, community leaders, and government officials is the key. My mother battled with dependency to opioids. The examples provided are some of the limitations I watched my own mother face in her numerous recovery attempts, and there were many times I desperately wanted to reach out to someone to ask for help. I now realize that I can be that someone. Social workers hold a unique place in this social structure, as they are flexible in individualized care, communal integration skills, and a deep understanding of flawed social structures and insight regarding how to fix them. With that, social workers can hold one of the keys that unlocks resources and assistance for those touched by addiction.


American Addiction Centers. (2021, November 19). Barriers to Addiction Treatment: Why Addicts Don’t Seek Help. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/treatment-barriers

Banta-Green CJ, Williams J. Dramatic increases in opioid overdose deaths due to fentanyl among young people in Washington State. Seattle, WA: Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute, University of Washington, December 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, October 13). About the Campaign. https://www.cdc.gov/rxawareness/about/index.html