Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2022

Degree Type

Capstone - Open Access


Sheila McAdams


This work is a collection of substance use and addiction research gathered in order to assess substance abuse treatment and services in regard to equity and inclusion. The history of the U.S. government’s approach to substance use policy has led to stigma, criminality, and marginalization between groups in our community. Youth and families of all demographics are looking for ethical, informed mental health and substance use services to provide the best outcomes. Stigmatizing language, overly marketed tobacco and alcohol products, restrictive policy, and rigid law-enforcement tactics promoting the criminality of both adults and juveniles for possession, trafficking, and operating under the influence, have shaped society’s perception of substance abuse and addiction as negative and problematic. The advancement of science and technology, along with shifting social norms, have slightly shifted the government’s tolerance for select substances and added the options of treatment to supplement detention. It is the mission of hundreds of non-profit organizations, professional associations, and research institutions to provide data and resources to build addiction and substance abuse awareness in communities. Evidence-based treatments providing a risk and resilience approach have been received as best practices by many researchers. Like many of the United States’ social movements, substance use and addiction advocates work to destigmatize language and attitudes towards the issue as well as bring diversity, equity, and inclusion into its resolution. Youth and families deserve the right to receive appropriate treatment services no matter their social status or demographic. Data that supports inequity and disparity between communities should be evaluated in order to create new socially and culturally informed recommendations. Connections between populations disproportionately affected across social systems can be made and ultimately deserve a social policy that addresses and resolves all traces of structural inequality.