Substance use by social workers and implications for professional regulation
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Purpose. This study explores the prevalence and patterns of substance use among Canadian social workers. Legalisation of cannabis is forthcoming in Canada in 2018 and it is anticipated that professional regulatory bodies will be pressed to consider implications for their members. Methodology. An online survey collected data about demographics and substance use prevalence and patterns. Statistical analysis involved pairwise comparisons, binary logistic regression models, and logistic regression models to explore correlations between substance use and demographic and work-related variables. Findings. Among the n=489 respondents, findings indicate that past-year use of cannabis (24.1%), cocaine (4.5%), ecstasy (1.4%), amphetamines (4.3%), hallucinogens (2.4%), opioid pain relievers (21.0%), and alcohol (83.1%) are higher than the general Canadian population. Years of work experience and working night shift were significant predictors of total number of substances used in the past year. Use of a substance by a person when they were a student was highly correlated with use when they were a professional. Discussion. Prevalence of substance use among social workers was found to be higher than the Canadian population; potential due to the anonymous nature of data collection. Originality. This study has implications for social conceptualisations of professionalism and for decisions regarding professional regulation. Previous literature about substance use by professionals has focussed predominantly on implications for increased surveillance, monitoring, and disciplinary action. We contend that since substance use among professionals tends to be concealed, there may be exacerbated social misconceptions about degree of risk and when it is appropriate to intervene.
Kiepek, N., Harris, J., Beagan, B., & Buchanan, M. (2019, June). Substance use by social workers and implications for professional regulation. Drugs and Alcohol Today, 19(2), 147-159. doi: 10.1108/DAT-08-2018-0040