Chemical Dependency and Substance Abuse: The Disorder and Its Treatment

Online Course Materials:    ArticlesArticles    AudiosVideos   ArticlesArticles   

All materials are available as audios with transcripts.

Developed by Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

Collaboration Icon

This course is also offered as part of a Pre-licensing Savings Package of pre-requisite courses.

Note: This course does not fulfill the pre-licensing requirement for psychologists in CA. Details

General Course Description

Perhaps no other disorder cuts across so many domains and is connected with other disorders as substance abuse. In 2018, approximately 20.3 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder (SUD) related to their use of alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year, including 14.8 million people who had an alcohol use disorder and 8.1 million people who had an illicit drug use disorder. The most common illicit drug use disorder was marijuana use disorder (4.4 million people). An estimated 2.0 million people had an opioid use disorder, which includes 1.7 million people with a prescription pain reliever use disorder and 0.5 million people with a heroin use disorder. Despite its widespread occurrence, clients who come to therapy usually don’t come for that issue. Most people with substance abuse problems attempt to treat themselves, and if they come to therapy, they are often likely to present and talk about other issues. Therefore, it is imperative for the therapist to be able to identify the signs of substance abuse–both the obvious and subtle.

This intermediate level course describes the most commonly abused substances and the characteristics of each substance as well as the signs of abuse and addiction and the most effective treatment principles and therapeutic techniques. This course is comprised of 17 articles and 4 audios. Section One describes the substances, their chemical mechanisms, and their unique psychological and behavioral effects. It describes the incidence of use–geographically, by age groups, and in both the United States and Europe. Section Two outlines information on various substances to help identify their prevalence, presence, mechanisms and use trends. Section Three presents articles and podcasts (transcripts provided)describing principles and methods of substance abuse treatment for individuals and family. Section Four provides information in successful harm reduction programs. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.

Disclaimer: This course is purely educational and does not intend to serve as a license (or permission) to mental health professionals to prescribe or practice any of the approaches discussed in this course unless they fall within the scope of practice of your profession. Check with your licensing board about the scope of practice of your profession to make sure you practice within that scope.It also does not serve as a permission to title yourself in any specific way.

Educational Objectives:

    This course will teach the participant to

  • Identify a variety of drugs and addictive substances.
  • Discern differences between classes of drugs, such as opiates and hallucinogens.
  • Compare and contrast mechanisms and qualities of different drugs of choice.
  • Note health consequences and risks posed by each of the various drug classes.
  • Identify pharmacological intervention for alcohol dependence.
  • Summarize assessment tools used with those who are chemically dependent.
  • Describe a variety of treatments for alcohol and drug abuse and addiction.
  • Outline program elements that are frequently incorporated into treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Discuss the incidence of drug use.
  • Describe systemic family interventions for substance abuse.
  • Summarize Jungian perspective on addiction and addiction treatment.
  • Identify basic empirically supported principles underlying addictions treatment.
  • Describe the perspectives underlying abstinence and controlled drinking treatments.
  • Compare and contrast binge drinking and alcoholism.
  • Identify the street names and forms of various illegal or controlled substances.


  • Corrigan, P. W., Qin, S., Davidson, L., Schomerus, G., Shuman, V., & Smelson, D. (2019). How does the public understand recovery from severe mental illness versus substance use disorder? Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 42(4), 341–349.
  • Kang, D., Fairbairn, C. E., & Ariss, T. A. (2019). A meta-analysis of the effect of substance use interventions on emotion outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 87(12), 1106–1123.
  • Magill, M., Ray, L., Kiluk, B., Hoadley, A., Bernstein, M., Tonigan, J. S., & Carroll, K. (2019). A meta-analysis of cognitive-behavioral therapy for alcohol or other drug use disorders: Treatment efficacy by contrast condition. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 87(12), 1093–1105.

Course Syllabus:

  • Incidence of substance abuse broken down by age, gender, sociocultural and geographical groups
  • Commonly abused substances: cannabis, synthetic cannibinoids, cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA (“ecstasy”) heroin and alcohol
    • Chemical composition and mechanisms
    • Street names and appearances
    • Physical, emotional and behavioral effects
  • Treatment
    • Empirically supported general treatment principles
    • Harm reduction
    • Jungian treatment perspective
    • Mindfulness treatment
    • Family perspective ontreatment
    • Systemic family interventions
    • Pharmacological interventions for alcoholism
CE Badge Created with Sketch. 15 CE

Cost: $129.00

Top of Page >