Module 5: Social Context & Physical Environment Models of Substance Misuse

The social context represents one of three pillars in the biopsychosocial framework critical to social work and several other disciplines/professions. Contributing to a biopsychosocial understanding of how substance use, misuse, and use disorders develop, are maintained, and change are the various social and physical environments individuals are exposed to–contexts that can be protective against or predisposing toward substance misuse (Begun, Bares, & Chartier, in press; Kendler & Eaves, 1986). In social work, this is partially reflected in adopting a person-in-environment perspective in which an individual’s development and behavior is understood only when the individual is considered within the social and physical environmental contexts. Reading for this module introduces concepts essential for understanding many of the social context and physical environment factors believed to play a role in substance use and misuse, as well as recovery from substance use disorder. This online course book includes content that both informed and was informed by the work of Begun, Bares, and Chartier (in press).

Reading Objectives

After engaging with these reading materials and learning resources, you should be able to:

  • Explain how social contexts and physical environments influence substance use, substance misuse, substance use disorders, prevention, and recovery;
  • Describe the relevance of gene x environment interactions;
  • Identify components of the social-ecological model as they relate to substance misuse;
  • Describe how social norms, stigma, and microaggression experiences influence substance use, misuse, treatment engagement, and recovery processes;
  • Identify social structure models and factors that help explain substance use and misuse and inform intervention/prevention/recovery efforts (e.g., through culture and subculture, labeling theory, deviance, the impact of “isms,” and policy);
  • Explain how family systems, peers, and significant others are involved in substance misuse, substance use disorder, and recovery processes;
  • Define key terms related to social contexts and physical environments in substance misuse.


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Theories and Biological Basis of Substance Misuse, Part 1 Copyright © by Dr. Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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