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Article

This article presents information regarding the evolving understanding of the relationships between impulse-control disorders, compulsion-related disorders, and addictions (both substance-related and behavioral). The traditional model describing the relationship between impulse-control disorders and compulsion-related disorders is now considered overly simplistic. New research suggests that this relationship is complex, and distinctions between these disorders are not as solid as previously thought. Information about this dynamic relationship also has implications for substance use disorders and behavioral addictions.

Article

Lia Nower and Kyle Caler

Gambling disorder is a significant public health concern. The recent and continued proliferation of land-based and interactive gambling opportunities has increased both accessibility and acceptability of gambling in the United States and abroad, resulting in greater and more varied participation. However, there is currently no designated federal funding for prevention, intervention, treatment, or research, and states are left to adopt varying standards on an ad hoc basis. Social workers receive little or no training in screening or treating problem gamblers, though research suggests that a significant proportion of those with mental health and other addictive disorders also gamble excessively. Raising awareness about the nature and scope of gambling disorder and its devastating implications for families and children is a first-step toward integrating gambling into prevention, assessment and treatment education in social work. This, in turn, will increase the chances of early identification and intervention across settings and insure that social workers can lend a knowledgeable and credible voice to addressing this hidden addiction.

Article

Wayne Lindstrom

Continuing a history of inequity, private insurers have placed restrictions and limitations on coverage for mental health conditions making access to treatment services increasingly more challenging. A state-by-state advocacy movement has led to the enactment of various state laws to require mental health parity. With the Clinton Administration’s attempt at health care reform, mental health parity became part of the health reform debate and led to the passage of the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. The inadequacies of this law were partially corrected in the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which included mandated coverage for substance use conditions. The Obama Administration in 2011 included these provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which does not require compliance monitoring nor does it provide a definition for “mental health,” which leaves insurers to define it and hence determine what coverage will actually be available.

Article

Drug and alcohol use disorders, also called substance use disorders (SUD), are among the major health problems facing many countries, contributing a substantial burden in terms of mortality, morbidity, and economic impact. A considerable body of research is dedicated to reducing the social and individual burden of SUD. One major focus of research has been the effectiveness of treatment for SUD, with studies examining both medication and behavioral treatments using randomized, controlled clinical trials. For opioid use disorder, there is a strong evidence base for medication treatment, particularly using agonist therapies (i.e., methadone and buprenorphine), but mixed evidence regarding the use of psychosocial interventions. For alcohol use disorder, there is evidence of modest effectiveness for two medications (acamprosate and naltrexone) and for various psychosocial treatments, especially for less severe alcohol use disorder syndromes. An important area for future research is how to make treatment more appealing to clients, given that client reluctance is an important contributor to the low utilization of effective treatments. A second major focus of research has been the availability of medication treatments, building on existing theories of how innovations diffuse, and on the field of dissemination and implementation research. In the United States, this research identifies serious gaps in both the availability of SUD treatment programs and the availability of effective treatment within those programs. Key barriers include lack of on-site medical staff at many SUD treatment programs; restrictive policies of private insurers, states, and federal authorities; and widespread skepticism toward medication treatment among counseling staff and some administrators. Emerging research is promising for providing medication treatment in settings other than SUD treatment programs, such as community mental health centers, prisons, emergency departments, and homeless shelters. There is still considerable room to make SUD treatment approaches more effective, more available, and—most importantly—more acceptable to clients.