Thursday, December 25, 2008

New York Times: Drug Treatment May Not Work

The single most important thing I learned in Family Court is that drug treatment doesn't work, as suggested by this recent New York Times article...

Everyone wants it to work, and many governmental systems depend on it working, but statistics show that treatment, per se, is ineffective in the long run. This includes both "talking cures" like Alcoholics Anonymous and chemical treatments, like Nicorette gum.

There are only two things that can change addiction: (1) Changing the environment in which it occurs, such as taking a child away from his drug-addicted family, (2) The person suffering so much pain from the real effects of his addiction that he decides on his own to change. Any other "treatment" is ineffective in the long term.

Treatment can appear to be effective in the short term. For example, an addict in drug court will clean up his act knowing that a judge is watching him and he will be thrown in jail if he tests dirty. But as soon as the supervision ends, his relapse rates are no different that if he had never gone through the program.

The implications of this are huge. It means that vast sums of goverment money are being wasted on ineffective programs. It also means that if you have a drug addicted friend or relative, there isn't a lot you can do to help them. No third party treatment program is going to fix the problem for you. There are things you can do, but they are often radical or unpleasant: change the environment, or let the addict fall on his face.

This was the general topic of my Family Court newsletter in March 2008: Words Don't Work.

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