Drug courts are excellent community resources that help to connect addicts who break the law with the treatment they need rather than simply jailing them for their offenses.
These courts are so effective in assisting people in getting help rather than allowing them to get stuck in a cycle of drug use, arrest, and imprisonment that they are becoming more and more common across the country.
But not all drug courts are servicing their addicted population in a way that makes sense to the federal government. According to the Huffington Post, drug courts that refuse to allow offenders to utilize medicated detox options like Suboxone may have to contend with the federal government. Because the federal government provides a hefty amount of funding for these courts, they believe that their policies in regard to medication in detox should be adhered to, and any courts that refuse to fall in line may lose their funding. What’s their policy? They believe that if medications like Suboxone are warranted, there is evidence to suggest that they are effective and therefore should be utilized.
Is the federal government entitled to this action? And should they be working to ensure that opiate addicts have access to Suboxone if they need it?
Where the Money Comes From
When it comes to rights, the federal government absolutely has the right to determine whether or not a program that receives federal funding should continue doing so – in fact, the federal budget might be in less trouble if current allocations were more frequently investigated for efficacy and adherence to policy. In this case, some “offenders” are being harmed when they are told that they can no longer take a detox medication that may be working for them or that they are not allowed to take advantage of a medication that could help them to stay clean and sober.
Michael Botticelli is the acting director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. He said that the decision to intervene in drug courts will “show that if you are getting federal dollars that you need to make sure that people, one, have access to these medications [and two], that we’re not basically making people go off these medications, particularly as a participant of drug court.”
The drug czar’s office will be working with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to ensure that the new program has the widest possible impact.
Pamela Hyde is an administrator at SAMHSA. She said: “We’ve made that clear: If they want our federal dollars, they cannot do that. We are trying to make it clear that medication-assisted treatment is an appropriate approach to opioids.”
Why would a court require that an addicted offender stop taking a medication that was helping him or her to stay sober? For some, it’s a matter of risk and principle. Even helpful medications like Suboxone or methadone have the potential for abuse, and some courts may be concerned that they are supporting addicts who are taking advantage of the system and staying out of jail while continuing to stay high.
Said one drug court judge in Kentucky, a state that currently requires all its participants to be off all detox medications: “It sounds terrible, but I don’t give them a choice. This is the structure that I’m comfortable with.”
The judge went on to say that her choice is based on experience. She has routinely see the defendants that come through her court relapse up to 15 times, many of them failing in their attempts to utilize drug court to its fullest potential and ending up back in jail.
Unfortunately, evidence supports the fact that medications like Suboxone in combination with therapies, relapse prevention, and other support are often the best possible means to a long-term recovery and may be one of the best weapons against relapse. It’s also apparent that more overdoses occur in addicts after they have been in jail or have spent time in an abstinence-based program before they were ready.
Botticelli believes that it is a lack of understanding or awareness that may be behind these choices in some drug courts. He said: “We have highly effective medications, when combined with other behavioral supports, that are the standard of care for the treatment of opiate addiction. And for a long time and what continues to this day is a lack of – a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about these drugs and particularly within our criminal justice system.”
Learning more about the best possible methods of treatment for addiction is not just a necessity for those who are sitting on the bench of drug courts. Families living with an addicted loved one will better be able to help their family member if they understand the options available in treatment and how best to identify the right combination of services for their loved one.
Though there are not medications available for detox for every drug of choice, in the case of opiate addiction (e.g., dependence upon drugs like heroin or prescription painkillers), Suboxone and methadone are two potential options. Additionally, personal therapy as well as support groups and a range of holistic treatment measures combined with relapse prevention and other coping skills can help the addicted person not only stop taking their drug of choice safely but also to learn how to avoid a return to active addiction.
What is the right combination of services for your addicted loved one? The answer to that question will vary based on your family member’s specific circumstances, needs, and goals. It is universal, however, that when addiction is an issue, professional treatment is the best solution.