NIDA Unveils Landmark Report on Prison and Drug Addiction
> 7/24/2006 2:55:00 PM

Today, the AP has reported, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released an immensely important guide on drug abuse treatment in a punishment setting. The report uses 13 guidelines (found after the jump) to explain what works and what doesn't work.

It could be argued that the failure to properly handle the rampant drug abuse of many of our country's criminals has been the single largest failure of the criminal justice system. No matter the crime for which they were initially imprisoned, most addicts and drug abusers will relapse back to drug use without proper treatment while in jail. This failure compounds in on itself, when that same ex-convict begins using again and is forced to turn to crime. The connections between crime and drug abuse run deep and wide. But by helping to address the initial disorder, the prison system can begin to become a solution to a problem instead of a reactionary punishment for anti-social behavior.

Maybe the most important of the 13 guidelines is the first, which states simply that "Drug abuse is a brain disease that affects behavior." This distinction firmly emphasizes the relationship between drugs and addicts. It also sets the stage for the remainder of NIDA's guidelines, which should serve, if followed, to drastically change the way that prisons handle drug addicts. Hopefully, this new focus will be one that translates to a new level of success.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse's research-based guidelines for drug treatment in the criminal justice system
  1. Drug addiction is a brain disease that affects behavior.
  2. Recovery from drug addiction requires effective treatment, followed by management of the problem over time.
  3. Treatment must last long enough to produce stable behavioral changes.
  4. Assessment is the first step in treatment.
  5. Tailoring services to fit the needs of the individual is an important part of effective drug abuse treatment for criminal justice populations.
  6. Drug use during treatment should be carefully monitored.
  7. Treatment should target factors that are associated with criminal behavior.
  8. Criminal justice supervision should incorporate treatment planning for drug abusing offenders, and treatment providers should be aware of correctional supervision requirements.
  9. Continuity of care is essential for drug abusers re-entering the community.
  10. A balance of rewards and sanctions encourages prosocial behavior and treatment participation.
  11. Offenders with co-occurring drug abuse and mental health problems often require an integrated treatment approach.
  12. Medications are an important part of treatment for many drug abusing offenders.
  13. Treatment planning for drug abusing offenders re-entering the community should include strategies to prevent and treat medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and tuberculosis.

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