The National Institute on Drug Abuse

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse (2016) reports that 12% of young adults age 18 to 25 reported using prescription drugs nonmedically within the past year. Additionally, young adults tend to enter treatment with higher levels of substance abuse and more anti-social behaviors, such as more illegal activities, more serious family problems, more difficulty controlling their violent behavior, and increased likelihood of pending legal action (Morse and MacMaster, 2015).

Theoretical Framework as Lens to View Intersectionality of Opiate Abuse and Young Adult Population

The intersectionality of opiate abuse and young adults naturally lends itself to the ecological and systems theory. These two theories combine to the ecosystems framework. In viewing the situation through this lens, one can examine not just the individual, but the family impact, and the larger system impact. The social worker could more accurate address the scope of the impact that opiate abuse has on not just the young adult themselves, but on all of the many ecosystems with which they are connected.

Ecological theory has a focus on inter-relational transactions between systems. Due to the interconnectedness of all of the systems impacted by this crisis, it is imperative that it be examined through this lens. Families have been impacted, school communities, medical communities, public health, substance abuse treatment facilities, pharmaceutical companies and physicians. There are so many various implications to not just how this opioid epidemic came to be, but what the best solution would be. The financial, political, interpersonal, cultural, and societal impacts of this epidemic must all be examined.

Systems theory, therefore, naturally lends itself to this as well. Systems theory examines the parts that make up the whole. This is an effective lens to view this epidemic, as there are many different stakeholders to this epidemic, and may people have been affected by it. Additionally, a solution will only be effective if the needs of all impacted systems are addressed.


The opioid epidemic is a crisis within the United States that first began nearly forty years ago. The implications of this epidemic have been widespread. The young adult population is particularly affected by this epidemic, as research shows they are the group most at risk for use and with the highest reported usage and overdose fatalities. It is imperative that this issue be examined through several theoretical frameworks so that one can develop an in-depth and well-rounded idea of the scope of this epidemic.

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The National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2022, Apr 13). Retrieved September 26, 2023 , from

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