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Societal Perspectives on Substance Use – Legal Standards in Treatment

Societal Perspectives on Substance Use – Legal Standards in Treatment

Societal views and attitudes towards substances and drugs are continuously evolving. Historically, substance use was once a part of the cultural practices of communities around the world. However, substance use in terms of purpose and aim of use has evolved as communities become more integrated. This integration has seen many cultural restrictions on substance use, such as gender and age, getting overlooked. The current social focus is on morals and health concerns with increased substance use. As learned from history, the societal view on substance use has had a significant effect on the development of federal and state regulation. The federal and state governments have continuously enacted regulations that mirror the societal focus on substance abuse. For instance, the late 70s and the early 80s and ’90s saw an increase in the prevalence and frequency of substance use across the United States, not only among adults but also among the young, high school and college students with a rise in drug-related criminal activities (Miech et al., 2021). This sparked social campaigns to control substance and drug control. The same period saw the federal and state regulations reflect on these societal concerns about substance use and criminal activities to become stricter and harsher.

Recent societal concerns are shifting from concerns over substance use connections to criminal activity to concerns over impacts on the health and well-being of users and associated inequalities, as highlighted by Muntaner et al. (2022). Additionally, the social perception of certain substances, such as Marijuana, is becoming positive. The increased acceptance and use of Marijuana, for instance, has led to the state-level legalizations of its usage across a number of states (Yu et al., 2020). Currently, efforts are pushing for the federal-level legalization of Marijuana in response to social demand. Additionally, federal and state regulations are evolving to focus on and address issues of substance-related health and social inequalities and address the ethical concerns in substance use care.

The current legal standards with regard to substance treatment are focused on confidentiality, informed consent, referrals to treatment centers, insurance coverage, release of information, certification for opioid treatment programs (OTP), and accessibility of treatment and other forms of care. The issues of confidentiality and informed consent remain a big concern in substance treatment. Federal laws such as the Certification of Opioid Treatment Programs 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) require the care providers to protect all patient information and provide restrictions against unconsent release or disclosure of patient information (SAMHSA, 2023). Additionally, the federal and state-set standards for substance use treatment, especially in OTP, require the patients to be well-informed of the treatment plan, including potential risks and available treatment options, to provide voluntary and informed consent. The laws further require that providers of substance use treatment be qualified and certified by accredited organizations as well as strictly adhere to OTP guidelines (SAMHSA, 2023). Advocacy groups are continuously pushing for more equitable access to substance use treatment and insurance coverage to address the existing disparities and inequalities in care.

In conclusion, federal and state regulations on substance use continuously evolve with the social views and perceptions on substances and substance use. The current societal focus is shifting from substance use morality to the impact of substances on health and well-being and social and economic inequalities related to substance use. In response, federal and state regulations are also evolving to implement regulations and standards of care that align with the current social perspectives.


Miech, R. A., Johnston, L. D., O’Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., Schulenberg, J. E., & Patrick, M. E. (2021). Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975-2020. Volume I, Secondary School Students. Institute for Social Research.

Muntaner, C., Gunn, V., & Prins, S. J. (2022). On Case and Deaton’s deaths of despair: implications for health inequalities research in the post-COVID-19 era. Gaceta Sanitaria, 35(5), 409–410.

SAMHSA. (2023, January 5). Statutes, Regulations, and Guidelines for Medicated-Assisted Treatment. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Yu, B., Chen, X., Chen, X., & Yan, H. (2020). Marijuana legalization and historical trends in marijuana use among US residents aged 12-25: Results from the 1979-2016 National Survey on drug use and health. BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1–10.


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Legal Standards in Treatment

Legal Standards in Treatment

Based on your understanding of the week’s materials and relevant research, address the following:
How have federal and state regulations mirrored societal focus on substance use?
What are the current legal standards regarding substance treatment? Consider legal issues such as confidentiality, informed consent, referrals to treatment centers, insurance coverage, and the release of information.

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