Substance Abuse & Public Administration

Substance Abuse & Public Administration

Article Analysis

One of the largest issues plaguing the United States is the issue of substance abuse. The application of laws and policies at the state level have created institutions of public administration that seem to be contradictory to Federal laws and are ineffectual in reducing the problem of substance abuse. In the article “Temporary Crises and Priority Changes: The Case of State Substance Abuse Systems” a failure in program efforts is outlined as the administration of state programs lack centralization and therefore focus on the problem. In an effort to manage systems at the state level administrators often allocate funds into programs that are not sufficient to handling the substance abuse problem.

For example, state administrative authorities and legislatures, here called state “actors,” decide whether to supplement federal service appropriations, how to mix multiple federal and local funding streams, and what federally funded population groups to serve heavily. State actors also mount a service system, selecting and regulating the agencies that deliver the funded services. Those delivery agencies tend to be nongovernmental local nonprofit and for-profit service “providers” (Sosin et al, 2009).

Typically, aftercare programs which receive a great deal of funding from federal and state budgets are run by private firms. The problem that stems from these firms and from administration is a complex situation in which substance abusers are routinely sentenced by state judiciaries to treatment which lands them in private facilities. The administration of actual programs spirals when one considers the different administrative needs of the programs involved in this process. Aftercare, begins in many states with alcohol and drug monitors, then probation officers, and then labs for urine testing and doctors and counselors.

As the receiver of treatment goes through the system, the individual become further removed from state involvement and deeper into the hands of private and nonprofit firms. Many of these firms are used as a main source of treatment for the substance abuser which would make one question the role that these private and nonprofit groups play in the administration of these services. Specifically, if one looks at a person who is arrested for drug possession, they typically are sent to court and then sentenced to either jail or probation by are required to attend rehabilitation or treatment. The state then typically sends the person to a community center in which they must enroll in a substance abuse treatment program. They are assigned a drug monitor and a probation officer. But at the point of treatment, the failing of the administration of benefits becomes apparent. The public administrators who are in charge of these processes are so far removed from the actual treatment that they have very little idea what is happening. The treatment which is often used in 98% the treatment facilities is Alcoholics Anonymous. This is a free treatment which the person could have been sent to in the first place. As well the actual efficacy of this program is questionable with effectiveness rates as low as 5%.

The public administration of funds and programs directed towards substance abuse are a tremendous burden on society and the national budget. One would wonder how this scenario has developed where ineffective treatment has been budgeted into social programs. This situation has occurred as a result of states trying to maximize efficiency by using private and nonprofit firms (Sosin et al, 2009). While this idea seems sound the problem is that these firms are often trying to maximize their own dollar value.

One of the serious problems with administrating these programs is that they often do not have a clear theory of administration. Because of the judicial process involved in the delivery of these benefits, the role of public administration takes an adversarial role to the individual. In fact most of the agencies involved in the administration of substance abuse policies are of judicial response (Rosenbloom and Kravchuk, 2004). On the one hand, society attempts to punish substance abusers but on the other hand it desires to treat them. This confusion of role creates policy contradictions which allow for an unfocused view of the problem. This view worsens as the administration of these programs expands further away from a centralized organization. In example, depending upon which state a person is in will determine the level of care they will receive for substance abuse. However in most cases this aftercare will be the same. Future analysis of this problem should be considered in light of the large amounts of money budgeted towards substance abuse treatment.


Rosenbloom, D.H. and Kravchuk, R.S. (2004) Public Administration Understanding Management Politics and Law in the Public Sector sixth edition

Michael R. Sosin, Steven Rathgeb Smith, Timothy Hilton, and Lucy P. Jordan Temporary Crises and Priority Changes: The Case of State Substance Abuse Systems J Public Administration Research and Theory (2009) first published online August 27, 2009 doi:10.1093/jopart/mup022

Van Noir, V. (2009) The Ineffectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous: Unconstitutional Treatment Retrieved from Yahoo January 22, 2011

Photo by thom masat on Unsplash


Triola Vincent. Tue, Mar 16, 2021. Substance Abuse & Public Administration Retrieved from

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