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Does Court-Ordered Treatment Work?

Written By: Harris House

Category: Alcohol, Blog, Recovery, Recovery

Court ordered treatment

“I hereby sentence you to treatment, recovery and an addiction-free life.”

In a perfect world, people with substance abuse and addiction issues would seek out the help they need to recover before any legal issues arose. In the world in which we live, however, drug abuse often leads to the involvement of the law. The upside of this phenomenon?  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Findings show unequivocally that providing comprehensive drug abuse treatment to criminal offenders works, reducing both drug abuse and criminal recidivism.”

Here’s a closer look at how court-ordered treatment helps people move past their addictions and on with their lives.

The Treatment Imperative

A growing body of evidence attests to the fact that recovery from drug addiction depends on effective treatment and management. Does this apply when a court-ordered mandate is involved? Yes, according to the experts. Continues NIDA, “Outcomes for drug-abusing offenders in the community can be improved by monitoring drug use and by encouraging continued participation in treatment.”

Behavioral Management Principles

There are a number of reasons why treatment is successful in court-ordered cases, starting with the underlying behavioral management principles integrated into treatment.

For starters, it’s important to acknowledge that treatment is very different than forced abstinence. The dangers of withdrawal aside, forced abstinence is far from a cure. Why? Because if abstinent addicts don’t learn their triggers, they are likelier to relapse — no matter how long they’ve gone without their substance of choice.

Enter behavioral management, which eschews a punishment mindset for a rehabilitative one. Explains NIDA, “It is important to recognize and reinforce progress toward responsible, abstinent behavior. Rewarding positive behavior is more effective in producing long-term positive change than punishing negative behavior. Indeed, punishment alone is an ineffective public health and safety intervention for offenders whose crime is directly related to drug use.”

Court-ordered treatment may provide a pathway to these crucial interventions; NIDA further reveals that a significant percentage of people admitted to drug abuse treatment cite legal pressure as a major contributing factor to seeking treatment.

In other words, without the aforementioned legal pressure, some recovering addicts would have lacked the ability to procure treatment on their own. Not only that, but while people with court-ordered mandates were less motivated when they entered treatment, they were 10 times more likely to finish treatment than their non-court-ordered counterparts, according to research published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

Further proof of the effectiveness of court-ordered treatment? Those addicts who pursue rehab under legal pressure have better attendance rates and stay in treatment for more time. This is especially meaningful because the duration of treatment is critical, especially in the case of criminal justice-involved individuals.

Unique Barriers to Recovery, Unique Approach to Treatment

Research increasingly points to the need for the intervention to target the behavior. Nowhere is this apter than when it comes to drug addicts, who face a unique set of risk factors for returning to drugs and the criminal lifestyle. These potentially include toxic associates, lack of safe housing, employment difficulties, and complying with correctional supervision conditions — all of which can be stressors leading to relapse.

Court ordered treatment

Everyone’s triggers are different. Behavioral therapy acknowledges and addresses this.

When behavioral management is integrated into treatment, however, addicts are taught “to break old patterns of thinking and behaving and to learn new skills for avoiding drug use and criminal behavior,” insists NIDA. In doing so, they dig deeper to help addicts identity and avoid the things that might lead them in the wrong direction. Just how valuable is this approach? “A shift in strategy from incarcerating non-violent substance abusing offenders to providing them with court-ordered treatment in the community may help improve outcomes and reduce costs,” recommend researchers.

The takeaway for addicts and the people who love them is that while legal problems are never the desired end result, a court-ordered treatment program with a strong behavioral management component may turn out to be a critical first step toward recovery.  Contact us today to learn about Harris House’s individualized rehabilitation programs.