Published In

ATTC Messenger

Document Type


Publication Date



Substance abuse -- Treatment, Social service -- Psychological aspects, Social justice


Addiction is commonly conceptualized as a personal problem, a family problem, a neighborhood problem, a community problem, and even a social problem. But how might addiction be understood as a social justice problem?

Substance abuse problems, addictions, and addiction treatment and the related preparation of professionals to fill its treatment ranks exist within an ideological and political infrastructure. Issues of social justice are often conspicuously absent as a primary consideration of the experience of people seeking treatment (acknowledging the treatment gap that impacts some people more than others), for communities ravaged by addiction (acknowledging that some communities are affected more severely than others), or in the national discussion of addiction as a problem. And in this national discussion, addiction is viewed more as an individual—and sometimes family—problem, rather than as a social determinant of health, community safety, and public health.

This brief article suggests that there is a need for more creative, conscious, and robust evolution in our addictions treatment endeavors to increase positive outcomes equitably—and that addictions treatment practitioners have a key role to play in advancing the social justice challenges inherent to practice in this field.


Originally appeared in the August 2014 edition of the ATTC Messnger, published by the Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network.

This article and related materials may be found at

Persistent Identifier