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Drug Courts: Are They Really As Effective As We Think?

  • Drug Courts: Are They Really As Effective As We Think?

    Drug Courts: Are They Really As Effective As We Think?

    In the spirit of providing people with substance use disorders with treatment as opposed to incarceration, America has taken a bold liking to drug courts, which offer the best of both worlds. People who are arrested for nonviolent drug charges are able to undergo an addiction treatment program and avoid any major charges associated with their crimes. As we know, jails and prisons are notoriously poor at providing patients with adequate drug and alcohol treatment- so drug courts were intended to give people the opportunity to participate in a program which would give them the treatment they needed, while also serving as a less serve punishment.


    But in the new light of a recent Pacific Standard article, we have to wonder if drug courts are really as effective as we think they are. Following the story of a young heroin addict, who suffered from overdoses six times, we find the drug court’s solution to managing his addiction to be ineffective. Upon his release, the patient was still in withdrawal, and as a result, relapsed. Each time he relapsed he missed his appointment with his drug court counselor, and was incarcerated for a short duration of time. He again went through a partial withdrawal and relapsed each time he was released- also missing all of his appointments with the drug court. What does this say about the overall effectiveness of drug court? Any addiction professional would have deemed this particular case closed and shut: the patient clearly needed 24 hour medical monitoring- especially in his vulnerable state. The use of medically assisted drug treatment would have safeguarded this patient well, but most programs frown upon this practice.

    Even though medically assisted drug treatment has proven time and time again to better address addiction, as opposed to its abstinence based counterpart, some drug court programs force participants to sign an agreement which forces them to stop medically assisted drug treatment in favor of abstinence based programs.

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