Pubdate: Tue, 25 Jul 2006
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2006 The Seattle Times Company
Author: Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


CHICAGO -- In its first report aimed at improving how the 
criminal-justice system deals with drug addicts, the National 
Institute on Drug Abuse offered 13 guidelines Monday for what works 
- -- and what doesn't.

The key is understanding that drug addiction is a brain disease that 
affects behavior, and that it requires carefully monitored, 
personalized treatment, including access to medication such as 
methadone after the drug offender is released into society, the institute said.

"What does not work? Putting a person who is addicted to drugs in 
jail for five or 10 years and thinking that will cure him with no 
treatment," said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the anti-drug-abuse 
agency, part of the National Institutes of Health. "The likelihood of 
that person relapsing is very high."

The guidelines urge a mix of traditionally liberal and conservative approaches.

The institute argues that prisons and court-ordered treatment 
programs don't use methadone and other addiction medications enough. 
At the same time, the guidelines support pressuring offenders into 
treatment as a condition of probation and advocate urine testing 
during treatment to track and prevent relapses.

"The criminal-justice system offers an extraordinary opportunity to 
help people with drug problems," Volkow said.

Every $1 spent on drug-treatment programs also saves the nation an 
estimated $4 in crime costs, she said. The annual estimated cost to 
the U.S. for drug crimes is $107 billion.

The drug treatments Cheryl Cline started in an Illinois prison after 
using crack cocaine for nine years probably saved the 29-year-old's 
life. This week, she is marking her third drug-free year, and her 
life has been turned around.

While she was using, Cline said, she lived in an abandoned building 
or a car, and she shoplifted to support her addiction. Today, she 
works as a waitress, has reunited with her family and is studying to 
be a drug counselor.

"I'd like people to know that everybody deserves an opportunity for 
treatment" said Cline, who lives in Aurora, Ill. "Prison is one of 
the best places to do it, because you are confined. You have nothing 
but time on your hands."

Maia Szalavitz, a drug-policy expert not involved with the report, 
said the guidelines are excellent. Methadone is rarely used in the 
criminal-justice system despite evidence that it helps people 
addicted to opioids such as heroin, she said.

"If these guidelines help addicts in the justice system to get more 
sensitive and appropriate care, they will be highly useful," said 
Szalavitz, a senior fellow at the media watchdog group Statistical 
Assessment Service. "But if systems are not put in place to ensure 
that the system rewards treatment excellence and drops harmful and 
ineffective methods, they won't do much."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman