Social Work Exam Study Guide

By Bethany Vanderbilt on September 3, 2013

It's Hot Topics Tuesday and we have another practice question to add to your social work exam study guide.  This week we'll be looking into substance abuse.  Regardless of what setting you work in or the population that you work with, you will come across clients who are dealing with the ill effects of substance use, abuse or dependence. If you're studying for the social work exam, here's a study guide question to get you started!

socialworkexam study guide

Sample Question:

A social worker meets with a couple seeking treatment due to an increase in tension and arguments. During the assessment, the wife reports that she has been on Oxycontin since having back surgery a year ago.  When the social worker asks follow up questions, the wife admits that she has been taking more than the prescribed dose and that she gets “sick” if she misses a dose.  What should the social worker do FIRST?

A. Explore how the wife’s medication use is affecting the couple’s relationship

B. Teach the couple communication skills to manage arguments more effectively

C. Complete a comprehensive assessment of the couple’s overall functioning

D. Refer the wife for a substance abuse assessment

First, some clinical definitions: Substance Abuse A maladaptive pattern of using certain drugs, alcohol, medications, and toxins despite their adverse consequences. Substance Dependence Continued use; craving; and other cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms that occur through the use of certain drugs, alcohol, medications, and toxins. Some symptoms include being preoccupied about the substance; taking greater amounts than intended; making persistent efforts to control its use; reducing occupational and social activities; and continually using the substance despite recognizing that it is causing recurrent physical, psychological, or social problems. Tolerance and withdrawal are essential.

Oxycontin, along with morphine, heroin, codeine and many others, are all under the category of Opiods. Symptoms of Opiod Intoxication include: papillary constriction (or in extreme overdose cases, dilation), drowsiness or coma, slurred speech, and impairment in attention or memory.  Symptoms of Opiod Withdrawal include: dysphoric mood, nausea or vomiting, muscle aches, lacrimation or rhinorrhea (runny eyes or nose), papillary dilation,, diarrhea, yawning, fever, and insomnia.

It is essential, in cases where a client is exhibiting signs or symptoms of substance abuse or dependence, to facilitate a substance abuse assessment and treatment before further mental health treatment is initiated.  In most cases, this will mean a referral to a clinician specializing in the assessment and treatment of substance-related disorders.


The best answer choice is, in this case, D, since the client is reporting problems in her relationship, use of a substance, and possible symptoms of withdrawal.  A, B, and C might all be part of a viable treatment plan, but only after the substance abuse issue is addressed.

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your social work exam or MFT exam? If you're preparing for the social work exam click here- Social Work Exam Prep; if you're preparing for the MFT exam, click here MFT Exam Prep. Learn more about our exam prep at the The Therapist Development Center home page.

Looking for some more free questions to help you study? Check out our free social work exam study guide below:

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Coming up next week: Disorders Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood or Adolescence



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