Countless people across America have been helped by Drug Court, but many more have fallen victim to the harsh sentences and nearly impossible rules set by the judges. Rather than take a “pro” or “con” position, perhaps it would be beneficial for the decision makers to host and have a discussion about how best to address drug use and how best to apply (and improve) the various drug court-based programs that go by the “drug court” moniker.
Disadvantages of Drug Court Related Programs
It’s critical to understand that drug courts, though they often connect people with addiction treatment services, are not a public health approach to drug use. They exist within a criminal justice system that demands punishment of individuals for a health issue.
Incarcerating people for a relapse, regrettably is a predictable and normal part of drug treatment and flies in the face of public health principles. Denying opioid dependent individuals access to what might be the most effective drug treatment for them such as narcotic replacement therapies including methadone and buprenorphine, and then incarcerating them for failing to do well is unconscionable. Most drug courts are guilty of both.
Potentially Beneficial Changes to Drug Court Related Programs
For individuals convicted of a drug law violation, other policy responses should be available—whether probation, drug treatment or both—because research shows they are at least equally effective and less costly and because public health principles demand a health response, not a criminal justice one, to drug use absent harm or serious risk of harm (such as driving under the influence) to others. It would also be constructive if drug courts focused their resources on cases involving offenses against persons or property that are linked to a drug problem and to strive to provide better addiction treatment options for participants.
The key message we hope policymakers will take away from the ongoing opioid and drug problem is that drug courts are often not the best way to provide addiction treatment, and they can, in fact, produce negative outcomes if not appropriately applied. U.S. drug policy must continue to move toward a public health approach to drug use. That’s how authorities can do the most good for men and women with the disease of addiction at the most affordable cost.
The fact that 1.4 million Americans are arrested every year for possession of drugs for personal use is a problem that will not be solved by drug courts. Top addiction treatment centers and drug rehab facilities like the Well Recovery Center attempt to remedy this problem by offering evidenced based, individualized addiction treatment to those who choose to get help.
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Written by William Charles, Owner and Publisher of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News, and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.
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