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Drug Abusers and Close Court Supervision

Posted by Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, PhD on Fri, Jan 9th 2009

Can the courts be successful if they become tougher in monitoring those who are drug addicted?
 The Study:
 The National Institute on Drug Abuse, known as NIDA
 (NIDA Notes is available on the Internet at:
 published the results on an important study involving the treatment of high risk drug abusers. High risk was defined as those who have anti social personality disorders, measure by the frequency with which they are arrested for crimes involving drugs. In addition, high risk is defined as having repeated relapses in the abuse of dangerous drugs.
 The study demonstrated the fact that those abusers required to attend court hearings every two weeks or less do better towards recovery than those who attend once every four weeks, the present rate of attendance required by most courts. In addition, this close judicial supervision includes the client seeing a probation officer, submitting urine specimens, and attending drug rehab programs.
 Those who complete the program with no infractions for six months or more have their the legal charges against them dropped and expunged from the records.
 Personal Observations:
 It is important to state at the outset that my observations about the drug addict are not meant to imply that they are "bad" or "evil" people. Rather, in my view and that of many other professionals, they suffer from a disease called addiction. This addiction profoundly affects their brains and, therefore, their ability to use good judgment. Having said this, let’s to what my observations are:
 1. Indeed, it has been my observation of patients I have treated in psychotherapy for drug addiction have a much greater chance of recovering if they are closely monitored by the courts, including having to provide urine specimens at unpredictable times, and to attend drug rehab programs.
 2. It is also my observation that the addicted persons are so extremely vulnerable to relapse that their place of residence must be changed. One error made by many inpatient treatment facilities is to discharge clients into the world without any solid place for them to go. Often times, there is a space in time between discharge and placement in the next outpatient program. What is needed is a very tightly secure place of residence for people in recovery from drug addiction. In this type of place it is important that they not be allowed out until they have reached a level of trustworthy behavior that allows them to advance from level to level until they are able to graduate. In my opinion, this locked residence should permit no visitors, phone calls or mail.
 3. Until full recovery is achieved the threat of imprisonment must hang over the heads of these addicts.
 None of this has anything to do with punishment but with making it impossible for these people to be tempted by drugs before they are strong enough to resist.
 In my view it is heart breaking for these clients and their friends and families to relive the cycle of relapse and painful disappointment when over and again.
 What are your thoughts, observations, experiences and opinions about this tragic problem?
 Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
 Reader Comments
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 Helping the Family Members Also Helps the Addicts – Lisa Frederiksen – Jan 10th 2009
 After decades of experience of living with loved ones who abuse and/or are addicted to alcohol and recently, years of research and personal recovery work from the effects of the unhealthy codependency coping skills I’d adopted, I fully agree with your comments. I also believe another key to a an addict’s long-term recovery success is having his/her family "treated" as well — namely, helping them to understand the nature of the disease of addiction, what has happened to the addict and themselves and thus their likely unintentioned "support" of the addiction, and forums in which to talk about all of it and learn new, healthy coping skills.