The Social Construction of Co-Dependency in the Treatment of Substance Abuse

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Co-dependency has become an important concept in the treatment of substance abuse, yet there is still disagreement about what it means. The meaning of co-dependency is important because it shapes public perceptions of helping behavior and affects the treatment that persons with addictions receive. However, some observers have criticized co-dependency, arguing that the concept is gender-biased, denigrates women, and blames innocent victims of substance abuse. This investigation examined the social construction of co-dependency in the treatment of substance abuse by asking substance-abuse counselors three questions: (a) what do they mean by co-dependency, (b) to what extent does co-dependency mean women, and (c) to what extent do they agree. The findings suggest that co-dependency is a reliable social construction that substance-abuse counselors use to describe persons of both genders.