The American justice system now increasingly relies on drug courts to help offenders rehabilitate. With more than 2,600 drug courts in operation across the country, many offenders can now avoid prison, as long as they can meet strict legal conditions. Unfortunately, for some offenders, those conditions often include a ban on methadone treatment, even if medical evidence suggests this is potentially harmful. Learn more about drug courts' policies towards methadone treatment, and find out what this could mean if you face prosecution.
The benefits of drug courts
Drug courts have been available to offenders in the United States for around 20 years. What's more, evidence shows that this legal option can reduce drug abuse and drug-related crime, while saving the American taxpayer significant sums of money. A drug court program can include counseling, monitoring and group support activities.
Seventy percent of seriously addicted offenders who volunteer to appear in one of these drug courts complete the recommended program, and 75 percent of these people do not re-offend. Nonetheless, experts estimate that drug courts in the United States only have the capacity to deal with 10 percent of the offenses that take place. What's more, these courts will not always recommend an outcome that best supports an offender.
How methadone treatment helps addicts
It's extremely difficult to beat an addiction to opioid drugs like heroin. For many addicts, methadone offers one of the few alternatives that can help them successfully kick the habit. Methadone is a synthetic medication that helps users cope with pain and can also treat addiction to opiates like heroin.
Long-term addicts must continue to take opiates simply to avoid the terrible symptoms that occur during withdrawal. Ironically, heroin addicts don't continue to take drugs to get high. The opiate simply keeps them alive. Methadone is an alternative to this dangerous lifestyle. It takes extensive support, self-control and determination to beat heroin addiction, and many addicts would fail without methadone treatment.
Unfortunately, many drug courts don't agree.
How some drug courts view methadone treatment
Judges in many drug courts do not accept medical evidence that shows the benefits of methadone treatment. In many cases, these judges believe that methadone is an easy way out and that the addict can only show remorse through complete abstinence. Despite these policies, scientific evidence shows that addicts generally relapse when forced to stop taking drugs abruptly.
One of the biggest challenges that addicts face is the inconsistency in policy applied in each drug court. Research shows that some courts will allow methadone treatment, while others will only allow this type of therapy for fixed periods. Some judges may impose harsher restrictions on offenders who ask for methadone treatment, while others will simply outright refuse this treatment method.
Curiously, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals' policy statement supports methadone and buprenorphine maintenance programs as effective treatment options for addicts. Nonetheless, adherence to this policy varies between courts
How an attorney can help
A drug defense attorney can help you navigate the drug court process to make sure you get the best possible outcome.
Your attorney can help you understand if you are eligible for drug court. For example, it's important to remember that the drug court system is available to any offender with a proven substance abuse problem. As such, you don't need to commit a drug-related offense to benefit from this option.
An experienced attorney can help you negotiate your case with prosecutors to get access to a drug court. It's vital that you continue to meet the conditions of the drug court throughout the program, and your attorney can make sure you don't inadvertently make a mistake that could jeopardize your success.
What's more, your attorney can help you appeal to the judge to get permission to continue with methadone treatment as part of the program. A skilled lawyer can present evidence from comparable cases to help influence the judge's decision. What's more, your attorney can negotiate other concessions and compromises that you can make in exchange for this right.
Drug courts can help people with addiction problems avoid prison, but it isn't always easy to get access to a methadone treatment program. For more about this topic, talk to a drug defense attorney in your area.