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Posted: September 6th, 2023

Scenario: Opioid and Substance Abuse in Latin America

Scenario: Opioid and Substance Abuse in Latin America

Carla is a 26-year-old woman from Medellin, Colombia. She works as a server in a local restaurant. Her employer found her unresponsive in the restaurant’s staff room and took her to the local hospital. After she was revived with the opioid antagonist naloxone (called la naloxona in Colombia), Carla was found to have nearly overdosed on opioids. Carla admitted to hospital staff that this was part of a pattern of episodic drug use she had engaged in over the past decade of her life.

Additionally, read the World Opioid and Substance Use Epidemic: A Latin American Perspective article to get a more holistic view of the opioid crisis in Latin America.


Apply your disciplinary perspective to analyze and prioritize the major determinants of health implied by the case. In other words, defend your professional viewpoint regarding the most important factors that contribute to the health challenge. Then, in your responses, work as a group to refine those initial assessments.

In your initial post, address the following elements. Provide at least one scholarly source from the last five years to support your claims:

Identify the most important mental health considerations for this case. In other words, which mental health challenges are most relevant for understanding and addressing Carla’s case? Be sure to substantiate your claims with evidence.
Identify the most important nutritional considerations for this case. In other words, which nutrient deficiencies are most relevant for understanding and addressing Carla’s case? Be sure to substantiate your claims with evidence.
Identify the most important food safety and insecurity considerations for this case. In other words, which drivers of food insecurities are most relevant for understanding and addressing Carla’s case? Be sure to substantiate your claims with evidence.


Mental Health Considerations: Carla’s substance use disorder is a significant mental health challenge. Substance use disorders, including opioid addiction, are complex and chronic conditions that require long-term management and treatment. Factors that contribute to substance use disorders include genetic, environmental, and social determinants of health. In the Latin American context, poverty, violence, and social marginalization are among the drivers of substance abuse and addiction (Martins et al., 2020). Carla’s mental health will need to be assessed and treated as part of her overall recovery plan.

Nutritional Considerations: Malnutrition can exacerbate the physical and mental health consequences of substance use disorders. Opioid addiction can lead to decreased appetite, poor dietary choices, and nutrient deficiencies. In particular, opioid use can result in a deficiency of vitamins B and D, which can cause fatigue, weakness, and other health problems. A study in Mexico found that individuals with substance use disorders were more likely to have poor nutrition compared to the general population (Hernández-Díaz et al., 2020). Therefore, it is important to address Carla’s nutritional needs as part of her recovery plan to improve her overall health and well-being.

Food Safety and Insecurity Considerations: Poverty and food insecurity are social determinants of health that contribute to substance use disorders. The lack of access to safe and nutritious food can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes, including substance abuse. In Latin America, poverty and inequality are associated with higher rates of drug use and addiction (Martins et al., 2020). Carla’s occupation as a server suggests that she may be experiencing economic hardship, which can contribute to food insecurity. It is crucial to address food safety and insecurity in Carla’s recovery plan to support her overall health and well-being.


Hernández-Díaz, Y., García-Sánchez, R., Villalobos-Molina, R., Hernández-Castillo, R. A., López-Guarnido, O., & García-Sancho, C. (2020). Malnutrition in drug addiction: A study in a Mexican population. Nutrients, 12(8), 2247.

Martins, S. S., Sarvet, A., Santaella-Tenorio, J., Saha, T., Grant, B. F., & Hasin, D. S. (2020). Changes in US lifetime heroin use and heroin use disorder prevalences from the 2001-2002 to 2012-2013 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. JAMA Psychiatry, 77(7), 717-725.

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