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Mandatory Drug Treatment: Does it Work?

When it comes to treatment for drug addiction, it might seem counterproductive to attempt to force someone to go to rehab. In fact, in some cases this can lead to further complication of the issue as an addict may retreat and isolate if they feel threatened or coerced. However, because of the high association between substance abuse and crime, many drug users and alcoholics find themselves the focus of criminal court cases. Judges may require that a convicted drug offender attend a substance abuse rehab program as part of their sentencing. Unfortunately, experts in the field of addiction disagree about the effectiveness of compulsory programs. Examining their efficacy is critical to developing a more comprehensive understanding of how treatment for addiction works.

Those who oppose the imposition of mandatory drug rehab programs generally cite “choice” as the most significant factor in whether a treatment program will be effective or not. These people argue that because drug use and the behaviors associated with it are a choice, that addicts must therefore choose to get treatment on their own volition. In an article on mandatory drug treatment, J.D. Tuccille writes;

“Treatment might be offered to criminals in the same way as other medical and educational services are offered, as a means of maintaining or improving their health and changing their circumstances. But pursuing drug treatment would have to be the choice of the criminal who is responsible for his or her own actions in all circumstances.” (1)

And while it might be interesting and even useful for some to ponder these philosophical questions about drug addiction, others take a much more practical approach.

The general idea behind breaking an addiction is that an addict needs a minimum of 4 weeks away from the drug and its environs in order to break free from the cycle of dependent use. So the primary argument for the practice of mandatory treatment is that even if it’s not the addict’s choice initially to attend treatment, it’s still likely that the person will benefit from it and significantly improve their chances of staying clean and sober long term.

However, mandatory drug abuse treatment programs have a number of other functions that can help a person achieve freedom from drugs or alcohol. According to a clinical research project conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse;

” purpose was to control and rehabilitate the compulsive drug abuser by providing drug abuse treatment, monitoring drug use, and providing reasonable sanctions for program infractions.” (2)

This last point is especially important because it provides enforcement and treatment officials with incentive for the addict to work an honest treatment program and stay free from drugs.

The fact of the matter is that many people who go to a drug or alcohol rehab don’t do so by their own “choice.” Instead they do so on threat of the end of their marriage, the disintegration of their family, destruction of their career, etc. These reasons and others can effectively force a person into treatment, and the result would be the same regardless of whether the treatment is compulsory from a court or compulsory in order to not lose the most important things in life.

If you or someone you love is fighting a drug problem and needs help before it’s too late, please call the number at the top of your screen now. We’re here 24 hours per day to help guide you with a free, confidential consultation. Don’t let your treatment be mandated – take action and make your own choices right now.

(1) Tuccille, J.D. No, Mandatory Drug Treatment is Not the Answer 03/10/2010 Disloyal Opposition

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Recovery First is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed thousands... Read More