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National Institute on Drug Abuse

Principles of Drug Abuse
Treatment for Criminal
Justice Populations | A Research-Based Guide

NIH Publication No. 06-5316
Printed July 2006


National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services

Principles of
Drug Abuse
Treatment for
Criminal Justice

Drug addiction is a brain disease that affects

Drug addiction has well-recognized cognitive, behavioral,
and physiological characteristics that contribute to continued use of
drugs, despite the harmful consequences. Scientists have also found
that chronic drug abuse alters the brain’s anatomy and chemistry and
that these changes can last for months or years after the individual
has stopped using drugs. This transformation may help explain why
addicts are at a high risk of relapse to drug abuse even after long
periods of abstinence, and why they persist in seeking drugs despite
deleterious consequences.

Recovery from drug addiction requires
effective treatment, followed by management

of the problem over time. Drug addiction is a serious problem that can be treated and managed throughout its course. Effective
drug abuse treatment engages participants in a therapeutic process,
retains them in treatment for an appropriate length of time, and helps
them learn to maintain abstinence over time. Multiple episodes of
treatment may be required. Outcomes for drug abusing offenders
in the community can be improved by monitoring drug use and by
encouraging continued participation in treatment.

Treatment must last long enough to produce
stable behavioral changes.

In treatment, the drug abuser
is taught to break old patterns of thinking and behaving and to learn
new skills for avoiding drug use and criminal behavior. Individuals with

severe drug problems and co-occurring disorders typically need longer
treatment (e.g., a minimum of 3 months) and more comprehensive services. Early in treatment, the drug abuser begins a therapeutic process
of change. In later stages, he or she addresses other problems related
to drug abuse and learns how to manage the problem.

4. Assessment is the first step in treatment.

A history of drug or alcohol use may suggest the need to conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine the nature and extent of an individual’s drug problems; establish whether problems exist in other areas
that may affect recovery; and enable the formulation of an appropriate
treatment plan. Personality disorders and other mental health problems are prevalent in offender populations; therefore, comprehensive
assessments should include mental health evaluations with treatment
planning for these problems.

Tailoring services to fit the needs of the
individual is an important part of effective drug

abuse treatment for criminal justice populations.
Individuals differ in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and culture, problem severity, recovery stage, and level of supervision needed. Individuals also respond differently to different treatment approaches and
treatment providers. In general, drug treatment should address issues
of motivation, problemsolving, skill-building for resisting drug use and
criminal behavior, the replacement of drug using and criminal activities with constructive nondrug using activities, improved problemsolving, and lessons for understanding the consequences of one’s behavior. Treatment interventions can facilitate the development of healthy
interpersonal relationships and improve the participant’s ability to
interact with family, peers, and others in the community.

Drug use during treatment should be carefully

Individuals trying to recover from drug addiction may
experience a relapse, or return, to drug use. Triggers for drug relapse
are varied; common ones include mental stress and associations with
peers and social situations linked to drug use. An undetected relapse

can progress to serious drug abuse, but detected use can present opportunities for therapeutic intervention. Monitoring drug use
through urinalysis or other objective methods, as part of treatment or
criminal justice supervision, provides a basis for assessing and providing feedback on the participant’s treatment progress. It also provides
opportunities to intervene to change unconstructive behavior—determining rewards and sanctions to facilitate change, and modifying
treatment plans according to progress.

Treatment should target factors that are
associated with criminal behavior.

“Criminal thinking” is
a combination of attitudes and beliefs that support a criminal lifestyle
and criminal behavior. These can include feeling entitled to have things
one’s own way; feeling that one’s criminal behavior is justified; failing
to be responsible for one’s actions; and consistently failing to anticipate or appreciate the consequences of one’s behavior. This pattern of
thinking often contributes to drug use and criminal behavior. Treatment that provides specific cognitive skills training to help individuals
recognize errors in judgment that lead to drug abuse and criminal
behavior may improve outcomes.

Criminal justice supervision should incorporate
treatment planning for drug abusing offenders,
and treatment providers should be aware of correctional supervision requirements. The coordination of

drug abuse treatment with correctional planning can encourage participation in drug abuse treatment and can help treatment providers
incorporate correctional requirements as treatment goals. Treatment
providers should collaborate with criminal justice staff to evaluate
each individual’s treatment plan and ensure that it meets correctional
supervision requirements as well as that person’s changing needs,
which may include housing and childcare; medical, psychiatric, and
social support services; and vocational and employment assistance.
For offenders with drug abuse problems, planning should incorporate
the transition to community-based treatment and links to appropriate postrelease services to improve the success of drug treatment

and re-entry. Abstinence requirements may necessitate a rapid clinical
response, such as more counseling, targeted intervention, or increased
medication, to prevent relapse. Ongoing coordination between treatment
providers and courts or parole and probation officers is important in
addressing the complex needs of these re-entering individuals.

Continuity of care is essential for drug
abusers re-entering the community.

Those who complete prison-based treatment and continue with treatment in the
community have the best outcomes. Continuing drug abuse treatment
helps the recently released offender deal with problems that become
relevant only at re-entry, such as learning to handle situations that
could lead to relapse; learning how to live drug-free in the community;
and developing a drug-free peer support network. Treatment in prison
or jail can begin a process of therapeutic change, resulting in reduced
drug use and criminal behavior postincarceration. Continuing drug
treatment in the community is essential to sustaining these gains.

A balance of rewards and sanctions
encourages prosocial behavior and treatment

participation. When providing correctional supervision of individuals participating in drug abuse treatment, it is important to reinforce
positive behavior. Nonmonetary “social reinforcers” such as recognition for progress or sincere effort can be effective, as can graduated
sanctions that are consistent, predictable, and clear responses to
noncompliant behavior. Generally, less punitive responses are used for
early and less serious noncompliance, with increasingly severe sanctions issuing from continued problem behavior. Rewards and sanctions
are most likely to have the desired effect when they are perceived as
fair and when they swiftly follow the targeted behavior.

Offenders with co-occurring drug abuse and
mental health problems often require an integrated
treatment approach. High rates of mental health problems are
found both in offender populations and in those with substance abuse

problems. Drug abuse treatment can sometimes address depression,
anxiety, and other mental health problems. Personality, cognitive, and
other serious mental disorders can be difficult to treat and may disrupt
drug treatment. The presence of co-occurring disorders may require an
integrated approach that combines drug abuse treatment with psychiatric treatment, including the use of medication. Individuals with either a
substance abuse or mental health problem should be assessed for the
presence of the other.

Medications are an important part of
treatment for many drug abusing offenders.
Medicines such as methadone and buprenorphine for heroin addiction
have been shown to help normalize brain function, and should be made
available to individuals who could benefit from them. Effective use of
medications can also be instrumental in enabling people with cooccurring mental health problems to function successfully in society.
Behavioral strategies can increase adherence to medication regimens.

Treatment planning for drug abusing
offenders who are living in or re-entering the

community should include strategies to prevent
and treat serious, chronic medical conditions,
such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and
tuberculosis. The rates of infectious diseases, such as hepatitis,
tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS, are higher in drug abusers, incarcerated
offenders, and offenders under community supervision than in the
general population. Infectious diseases affect not just the offender,
but also the criminal justice system and the wider community. Consistent with Federal and State laws, drug-involved offenders should
be offered testing for infectious diseases and receive counseling
on their health status and on how to modify risk behaviors. Probation and parole officers who monitor offenders with serious medical
conditions should link them with appropriate healthcare services,
encourage compliance with medical treatment, and re-establish their
eligibility for public health services (e.g., Medicaid, county health
departments) before release from prison or jail.



8. 	 How long should drug abuse treatment last
for individuals involved in the criminal justice system?........ 20

PREFACE.............................................................. 9

9. 	 How can rewards and sanctions be used
effectively with drug-involved offenders in treatment?......... 21

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS........................................ 11
INTRODUCTION.................................................. 12
1. 	 Why do people involved in the criminal
justice system continue abusing drugs?............................... 15

11. 	How can the criminal justice and drug abuse
treatment systems reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS,
hepatitis, and other infectious diseases among
drug abusing offenders?........................................................ 24

2. 	 Why should drug abuse treatment
be provided to offenders?....................................................... 16

12. 	What works for offenders with co-occurring
substance abuse and mental disorders?............................... 25

3. 	 How effective is drug abuse treatment
for criminal justice-involved individuals?.............................. 16

13. 	Is providing drug abuse treatment to
offenders worth the financial investment?............................ 25

4. 	 Are all drug abusers in the criminal justice
system good candidates for treatment?................................ 17

14. 	What are unique treatment needs for
women in the criminal justice system?................................. 26

5. 	 Is legally mandated treatment effective?.............................. 18

15. 	What are the unique treatment needs of
juveniles in the criminal justice system?............................... 27


6. 	 Are relapse risk factors different in
offender populations? How should drug
abuse treatment deal with these risk factors?...................... 18
7. 	 What treatment and other health
services should be provided to drug abusers
involved with the criminal justice system?............................ 19

10. 	What is the role of medications in
treating substance abusing offenders?................................. 22

RESOURCES....................................................... 29
REFERENCES..................................................... 32


Since it was established in
1974, the National Institute
on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has
supported research on drug
abuse treatment for individuals who are involved with
the criminal justice system.
This guide is intended to describe the treatment principles and
research findings that are of particular relevance to the criminal
justice community and to treatment professionals working with
drug abusing offenders. The guide is divided into three main sections: (1) the first distills research findings on the addicted offender
into 13 essential principles; (2) the second contains a series of
frequently asked questions (FAQs) about drug abuse treatment for
those involved with the criminal justice system; and (3) the third is a
resource section that provides Web sites for additional information.
A summary of the research underlying both the principles and the
FAQs is available on NIDA’s Web site at

Research on drug abuse and addiction runs the gamut from basic
science to applied studies. We now understand the basic neurobiology of many addictions, along with what constitutes more effective
treatment processes and interventions to help individuals progress
through the stages of recovery. Increased understanding of the neurological, physiological, psychological, and social change processes
involved will help us develop interventions to improve therapeutic
engagement, stabilization of recovery, motivation for change, prevention of relapse, and long-term monitoring of the substance use
problem over its course.
Scientific investigations spanning nearly four decades show that
drug abuse treatment is an effective intervention for many substance
abusing offenders. Because the goals of drug abuse treatment—to
help people change their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors—also
apply to reforming criminal behavior, successful treatment can help
reduce crime as well. Legal pressure can be important in getting a
person into treatment and in improving retention. Once in a program,
even those who are not initially motivated to change can eventually
become engaged in a continuing therapeutic process. Through this
process of change, the individual learns how to avoid relapse and to
successfully disengage from a life of substance abuse and crime.
This booklet will provide a complement to NIDA’s Principles of
Drug Addiction Treatment, A Research-Based Guide, which was
prepared to assist those dealing with drug addiction both in and out
of the criminal justice system. It relies primarily on drug abuse treatment research supported by NIDA, and focuses largely on individuals
for whom drug addiction is a debilitating disease.
Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse

NIDA wishes to thank the following individuals for their guidance and
comments during the development and review of this publication:
Steven Belenko, Ph.D.
Center on Evidence-based 	
  Interventions for Crime and Addiction
Treatment Research Institute
Peter J. Delany, Ph.D.
Division of Treatment
  and Recovery Research
National Institute on Alcohol
  Abuse and Alcoholism
Richard Dembo, Ph.D.
Department of Criminology
University of South Florida

Kevin Knight, Ph.D.
Institute of Behavioral Research
Texas Christian University
Douglas Longshore, Ph.D.
UCLA Integrated Substance
  Abuse Programs
Roger H. Peters, Ph.D.
Department of Mental
  Health Law & Policy
Florida Mental Health Institute
University of South Florida

Gary D. Field, Ph.D. (Retired)
Mental Health Alignment Work Group
Oregon Department of Corrections

This publication was written by Bennett W. Fletcher, Ph.D. and
Redonna K. Chandler, Ph.D., National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Additional guidance was provided by Jack B. Stein, Ph.D., National
Institute on Drug Abuse.
This publication is in the public domain and may be used or reproduced in its entirety without permission from NIDA or the authors.
Citation of the source is appreciated.
The U.S. Government does not endorse or favor any specific commercial product or company. Trade, proprietary, or company names
appearing in this publication are used only because they are considered essential in the context of the studies described here.
NIH Publication No. 06-5316
Printed July 2006




The connection between
drug abuse and crime is
well known.
Drug abuse is implicated in at least three types of drug-related
offenses: (1) offenses defined by drug possession or sales, (2)
offenses directly related to drug abuse (e.g., stealing to get money
for drugs), and (3) offenses related to a lifestyle that predisposes the
drug abuser to engage in illegal activity, for example, through association with other offenders or with illicit markets. Individuals who
use illicit drugs are more likely to commit crimes, and it is common
for many offenses, including violent crimes, to be committed by individuals who had used drugs or alcohol prior to committing the crime,
or who were using at the time of the offense.
In 2003, nearly 6.9 million adults were involved with the criminal
justice system, including 4.8 million who were under probation or
parole supervision (Glaze & Palla, 2004). In its 1997 survey, the
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) estimated that about 70 percent
of State and 57 percent of Federal prisoners used drugs regularly
prior to incarceration (Mumola, 1999). A 2002 survey of jails found
that 52 percent of incarcerated women and 44 percent of men met


the criteria for alcohol or drug dependence (Karberg & James, 2005).
Juvenile justice systems also report high levels of drug abuse. A
survey of juvenile detainees in 2000 found that about 56 percent of
the boys and 40 percent of the girls tested positive for drug use at the
time of their arrest (National Institute of Justice, 2003).
The substance abusing offender may be encouraged or legally
pressured to participate in drug abuse treatment. Even so, few drug
abusing offenders actually receive treatment.
The 1997 BJS survey showed that fewer
than 15 percent of incarcerated offendTreatment offers
ers with drug problems had received
the best alternative
treatment in prison. Nearly 36 percent
for interrupting the
of adult probationers who regularly
drug abuse/criminal
abused drugs prior to incarceration
justice cycle.
said they had received treatment during
their current sentences; only 17 percent
said they were currently in a drug treatment
program. Untreated substance abusing offenders are more likely to
relapse to drug abuse and return to criminal behavior. This can bring
about re-arrest and re-incarceration, jeopardizing public health and
public safety and taxing criminal justice system resources. Treatment
offers the best alternative for interrupting the drug abuse/criminal
justice cycle for offenders with drug abuse problems.
Drug abuse treatment can be incorporated into criminal justice
settings in a variety of ways. These include treatment as a condition
of probation, drug courts that blend judicial monitoring and sanctions
with treatment, treatment in prison followed by community-based
treatment after discharge, and treatment under parole or probation supervision. Drug abuse treatment can benefit from the crossagency coordination and collaboration of criminal justice professionals, substance abuse treatment providers, and other social service
agencies. By working together, the criminal justice and treatment
systems can optimize resources to benefit the health, safety, and
well-being of individuals and the communities they serve.
1. Excludes participation in self-help (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous) or drug
education, alternatives that are often provided in addition to or in lieu of treatment.



The answer to this perplexing question spans basic neurobiological,
psychological, social, and environmental factors.
The repeated use of addictive drugs eventually changes how the
brain functions. Resulting brain changes, which accompany the transition from voluntary to compulsive drug use, affect the brain’s natural
inhibition and reward centers, causing the addict to use drugs in spite
of the adverse health, social, and legal consequences. Craving for
drugs may be triggered by contact with the people, places, and things
associated with prior drug use, as well as by stress. Forced abstinence
without treatAddictive Drugs Cause
ment does not
Long-lasting Changes in the Brain2
cure addiction.
Abstinent individuals must still
learn how to avoid
relapse, including
those who have
been incarcerNormal
Cocaine Abuser
Cocaine Abuser
ated and may have
(10 days of
(100 days of
been abstinent for
a long period of
Potential risk factors for released offenders include pressures from
peers and even family members to return to drug use and a criminal
lifestyle. Tensions of daily life—violent associates, few opportunities for legitimate employment, lack of safe housing, even the need

Source: Volkow et al., 1992, 1993.

Why do people involved in the criminal
justice system continue abusing drugs?

2. PET scans showing glucose metabolism in healthy brain and cocaine-addicted
brains. Even after 100 days of abstinence, glucose metabolism has not returned to
normal levels.



to comply with correctional supervision conditions—can also create
stressful situations that can precipitate a relapse to drug use.
Research on how the brain is affected by drug abuse promises to
help us learn much more about the mechanics of drug-induced brain
changes and their relationship to addiction. Research also reveals that
with effective drug abuse treatment, individuals can overcome persistent drug effects and lead healthy, productive lives.

Why should drug abuse treatment
be provided to offenders?
The case for treating drug abusing offenders is compelling. Drug
abuse treatment improves outcomes for drug abusing offenders and
has beneficial effects for public health and safety. Effective treatment
decreases future drug use and drug-related criminal behavior, can
improve the individual’s relationships with his or her family, and may
improve prospects for employment.
Outcomes for substance abusing individuals can be improved when
criminal justice personnel work in tandem with treatment providers on drug abuse treatment needs and supervision requirements.
Treatment needs that can be assessed after arrest include substance
abuse severity, mental health problems, and physical health. Defense
attorneys, prosecutors, and judges need to work together during the
prosecution and sentencing phases of the criminal justice process
to determine suitable treatment programs that meet the offender’s
needs. Through drug courts, diversion programs, pretrial release programs conditional on treatment, and conditional probation with sanctions, the offender can participate in community-based drug abuse
treatment while under criminal justice supervision. In some instances,
the judge may recommend that the offender participate in treatment
while serving jail or prison time or require it as part of continuing correctional supervision postrelease.

How effective is drug abuse treatment
for criminal justice-involved individuals?
Treatment is an effective intervention for drug abusers, including
those who are involved with the criminal justice system. However, the


effectiveness of drug treatment depends on both the individual and
the program, and on whether interventions and treatment services are
available and appropriate for the individual’s needs. To amend attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that support drug use, the drug abuser
must engage in a therapeutic change process. Longitudinal outcome
studies find that those who participate in community-based drug
abuse treatment programs commit fewer crimes than those who do
not participate.

Are all drug abusers in the criminal justice
system good candidates for treatment?
A history of drug use does not in itself indicate the need for drug
abuse treatment. Offenders who meet drug dependence criteria
should be given higher priority for treatment than those who do not.
Less intensive interventions, such as drug abuse education or selfhelp participation, may be appropriate for those not meeting criteria
for drug dependence. Services such as family-based interventions
for juveniles, psychiatric treatment, or cognitive-behavioral “criminal
thinking” interventions may be a higher priority for some offenders,
and individuals with mental health
problems may require specialized
services (see FAQ Nos. 6 and 12).
Outcomes can be
Low motivation to participate in
improved when criminal
treatment or to end drug abuse
justice personnel
should not preclude access to
work in tandem with
treatment if other criteria are
treatment providers.
met. Motivational enhancement
interventions may be useful in these
cases. Examples include motivational
interviewing and contingency management techniques, which often
provide tangible rewards in exchange for meeting program goals.
Legal pressure that encourages abstinence and treatment participation may also help these individuals by improving retention and catalyzing longer treatment stays.
Drug abuse treatment is also effective for offenders who have a history of serious and violent crime, particularly if they receive intensive,
targeted services. The economic benefits in avoided crime and costs


to crime victims (e.g., medical costs, lost earnings, and loss in quality
of life) may be substantial for these high-risk offenders. Treating them
requires a high degree of coordination between drug abuse treatment
providers and criminal justice personnel to ensure that treatment and
criminogenic needs are appropriately addressed.

5. Is legally mandated treatment effective?

Often the criminal justice system can apply legal pressure to
encourage offenders to participate in drug abuse treatment; or treatment can be mandated, for example, through a drug court or as a
condition of pretrial release, probation, or parole.
A large percentage of those admitted to drug
abuse treatment cite legal pressure as an
important reason for seeking treatment.
Legal pressure can
Most studies suggest that outcomes for
increase treatment
those who are legally pressured to enter
attendance and
improve retention.
treatment are as good as or better than
outcomes for those who entered treatment
without legal pressure. Those under legal
pressure also tend to have higher attendance
rates and to remain in treatment for longer periods, which can also
have a positive impact on treatment outcomes.

Are relapse risk factors different in
offender populations? How should drug abuse
treatment deal with these risk factors?

Often, drug abusing offenders have problems in other areas. Examples include family difficulties, limited social skills, educational and
employment problems, mental health disorders, infectious diseases,
and other medical problems. Treatment should take these problems
into account, because they can increase the risk of drug relapse and
criminal recidivism if left unaddressed.
Stress is often a contributing factor to relapse, and offenders who
are re-entering society face many challenges and stressors, including reuniting with family members, securing housing, and complying
with criminal justice supervision requirements. Even the many daily


decisions that most people face can be stressful for those recently
released from a highly controlled prison environment.
Other threats to recovery include a loss of support from family
or friends, which incarcerated people may experience. Drug abusers returning to the community may also encounter family, friends,
or associates still involved in drugs or
crime and be enticed to resume a
criminal and drug using lifestyle.
Returning to
Returning to environments or
environments associated
activities associated with prior
with drug use may
drug use may trigger strong
trigger cravings and
cravings and cause a relapse. A
cause a relapse.
coordinated approach by treatment
and criminal justice staff provides
the best way to detect and intervene
with these and other threats to recovery. In any case, treatment is
needed to provide the skills necessary to avoid or cope with situations
that could lead to relapse.
Treatment staff should identify the offender’s unique relapse risk
factors and periodically re-assess and modify the treatment plan as
needed. Generally, continuing or re-emerging drug use during treatment requires a clinical response—either increasing the “dosage” or
level of treatment, or changing the treatment intervention.

What treatment and other health
services should be provided to drug abusers
involved with the criminal justice system?

One of the goals of treatment planning is to match evidence-based
interventions to individual needs at each stage of drug treatment. Over
time, various combinations of treatment services may be required.
Evidence-based interventions include cognitive-behavioral therapy to
help participants learn positive social and coping skills, contingency
management approaches to reinforce positive behavioral change, and
motivational enhancement to increase treatment engagement and
retention. In those addicted to opioid drugs, agonist medications can
also help normalize brain function, and antagonist medications can
facilitate abstinence. For juvenile offenders, treatments that involve



in the criminal justice system?

While individuals progress through drug abuse treatment at
different rates, one of the most reliable findings in treatment
research is that lasting reductions in criminal activity and drug abuse
are related to length of treatment. Generally, better outcomes are
associated with treatment that lasts longer than 90 days, with the
greatest reductions in drug abuse and criminal behavior accruing to
those who complete treatment. Again, legal pressure can improve
retention rates.
A longer continuum of treatment may be indicated for individuals
with severe or multiple problems. Research has shown that participation in a prison-based therapeutic community followed by community-based treatment after release can reduce the risk of recidivism to
criminal behavior as well as relapse to drug use.
Early phases of treatment help the participant stop using drugs and
begin a therapeutic process of change. Later stages address other
problems related to drug abuse and, importantly, help the individual
learn how to self-manage the drug problem.
Because addiction is a chronic disease, drug relapse and return to
treatment are common features of an individual’s path to recovery, so
treatment may need to extend over a long period of time and across
multiple episodes of care. It is also the case that those with the most
severe problems can participate in treatment and achieve positive


No treatment
No treatment

Complete–no aftercare
Complete & aftercare


Source: Butzin, et al., 2005.

How long should drug abuse
treatment last for individuals involved


Proportions of Months Not Using Drugs

the family and other aspects of the drug abuser’s environment have
established efficacy.
Drug abuse treatment plans for incarcerated offenders can anticipate their eventual re-entry into the community by incorporating
relevant transition plans and services. Drug abusers often have mental
and physical health, family counseling, parenting, educational, and
vocational needs, so medical, psychological, and social services are
often crucial components of successful treatment. Case management
approaches can be used to provide assistance in obtaining drug abuse
treatment and community services.



Year 1

Years 2–3

Years 4–5

Years After Work Release

How can rewards and sanctions
be used effectively with druginvolved offenders in treatment?

The systematic application of behavioral management principles
underlying reward and punishment can help individuals reduce their
drug use and criminal behavior. Rewards and sanctions are most likely
to change behavior when they are certain to follow the targeted behavior, when they follow swiftly, and when they are perceived as fair.
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. Nonmonetary rewards such as social recognition can be as
effective as monetary rewards. A graduated range of rewards given
for meeting predetermined goals can be an effective strategy when
used in conjunction with behavioral management approaches such
as contingency management. In community-based treatment, contingency management strategies may use voucher-based incentives
or rewards, such as bus tokens, to reinforce abstinence (measured


by negative drug tests) or to shape progress toward other treatment
goals, such as program session attendance or compliance with medication regimens. Contingency management is most effective when the
contingent reward closely follows the behavior being
Graduated sanctions, which invoke less
punitive responses for early and less
It is important
to recognize and
serious noncompliance and increasingly
reinforce progress
severe sanctions for more serious or
toward responsible,
continuing problems, can be an effecabstinent behavior.
tive tool in conjunction with drug testing.
The effective use of graduated sanctions
involves consistent, predictable, and clear
responses to noncompliant behavior.
Drug testing can determine when an individual is having difficulties with recovery. The first response to drug use detected through
urinalysis should be clinical—for example, an increase in treatment
intensity or a change to an alternative treatment. This often requires
coordination between the criminal justice staff and the treatment provider. (Note that more intensive treatment should not be considered a
sanction, but rather a routine progression in healthcare practice when
a treatment appears less effective than expected.)
Behavioral contracting can employ both rewards and sanctions. A
behavioral contract is an explicit agreement between the participant
and the treatment provider or criminal justice monitor (or all three)
that specifies proscribed behaviors and associated sanctions, as well
as positive goals and rewards for success. Behavioral contracting can
instill a sense of procedural justice because both the necessary steps
toward progress and the sanctions for violating the contract are specified and understood in advance.

What is the role of medications in
treating substance abusing offenders?
Medications can be an important component of effective drug abuse
treatment for offenders. By allowing the body to function normally,
they enable the addict to leave behind a life of crime and drug abuse.
Opiate agonist medications, which work by replacing neurotransmit-


ters in brain cells that have become altered or desensitized as a result
of drug abuse, tend to be well tolerated and can help an individual
remain in treatment. Antagonist medications, which work by blocking
the effects of a drug, are effective but often are not taken as prescribed. Despite evidence of their effectiveness, addiction medications
are underutilized in the treatment of drug abusers within the criminal
justice system. Still, some jurisdictions have found ways to successfully implement medication therapy for drug abusing offenders.
Effective medications have been developed for opiates/heroin and
• Opiates/Heroin. Long-term opiate abuse results in a desensitization of the brain’s opiate receptors to endorphins, the body’s
natural opioids. Methadone replaces these natural endorphins,
stabilizing the craving that otherwise results in compulsive use of
heroin or other illicit opiates. Methadone is
effective in reducing opiate use, drugrelated criminal behavior, and HIV risk
Medications can
behavior. Buprenorphine is a partial
be an important
agonist and acts on the same recepcomponent of
effective addiction
tors as morphine (a full agonist), but
treatment for
without producing the same high, level
of dependence, or withdrawal symptoms. Suboxone is a unique formulation
of buprenorphine that contains naloxone, an
opioid antagonist, which limits diversion by causing severe withdrawal symptoms in those who inject it to get “high,” but has no
adverse effects when taken orally. Naltrexone, an opiate antagonist,
blocks the effects of opiates.
• Alcohol. Disulfiram (also known as Antabuse) is an aversion therapy
that induces nausea if alcohol is consumed. Acamprosate works by
restoring normal balance to the brain’s glutamate neurotransmitter
system, helping to reduce alcohol craving. Naltrexone, which blocks
some of alcohol’s pleasurable effects, is also FDA-approved for
treatment of alcohol abuse.



How can the criminal justice and drug
abuse treatment systems reduce the spread
of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other infectious
diseases among drug abusing offenders?

It is critical for the criminal justice and drug abuse treatment systems to be involved in efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and
other infectious diseases, which occur at higher rates among drug
abusers in the criminal justice system than among the general population. The prevalence of AIDS has been estimated to be approximately
five times higher among incarcerated offenders than the general
population, and rates of HIV are also higher than in the general population. In addition, individuals in the criminal justice system represent
a significant portion of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis cases
in the United States. Although most infectious diseases are contracted
in the community and not in correctional settings, they must be treated
in the correctional setting once diagnosed.
Infectious diseases among offenders who are re-entering or living
within the community present a serious public health challenge. While
incarcerated, offenders often have access to adequate healthcare,
which offers opportunities for integrating
strategies to address medical, mental
health, and drug abuse problems.
The prevalence of AIDS
Offenders with infectious diseases
is five times higher
who are returning to their comamong incarcerated
munities should be linked with
offenders than the
medical care
general population.
prior to release. Community health,
drug treatment, and criminal justice
agencies should work together to offer
education, screening, counseling, prevention, and treatment programs
for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases to offenders in or
returning to the community. Drug abuse treatment can decrease the
spread of infectious disease by reducing high-risk behaviors such as
needle sharing and unprotected sex.
The need to negotiate access to health services and adhere to
complex treatment protocols places a large burden on the addicted


offender, and many offenders fall through the cracks. Untreated or
deteriorating medical or mental health problems increase the risk of
relapse to drug abuse and to possible re-arrest and re-incarceration.

What works for offenders with co-occurring
substance abuse and mental disorders?
It is important to adequately assess mental disorders and to address
them as part of effective drug abuse treatment. Many types of cooccurring mental health problems can be successfully addressed
in standard drug abuse treatment programs. However, individuals
with serious mental disorders may require an integrated treatment
approach designed for treating patients with co-occurring mental
health problems and substance use disorders. Although not readily
available, specialized therapeutic community “MICA” (for “mentally ill
chemical abuser”) programs are promising for patients with co-occurring mental and addictive problems.
Much progress has been made in developing effective medications
for treating mental disorders, including a number of antidepressants,
mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. These medications may be critical for treatment success with offenders who have co-occurring mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or
psychosis. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can be effective for treating
mental health problems, particularly when combined with medications. Contingency management can improve adherence to prescribed
medications, and intensive case management may be useful for linking severely mentally ill individuals with drug abuse treatment, mental
health care, and community services.

Is providing drug abuse treatment to
offenders worth the financial investment?
In 2002, it was estimated that the cost to society of drug abuse was
$180.9 billion (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2004), a substantial portion of which—$107.8 billion—is associated with drug-related
crime, including criminal justice system costs and costs borne by
victims of crime. The cost of treating drug abuse (including research,



What are unique treatment needs for
women in the criminal justice system?
Although women are incarcerated at far lower rates than men, the
number and percentage of incarcerated women have grown substantially in recent years. Between 1985 and 1995, the number of men in
prisons and jails doubled, while the number of incarcerated women
tripled. Women in prison are likely to have a different set of problems
and needs than men. Surveys indicate that female offenders used
more drugs more frequently prior to incarceration than males, and
a higher percentage of females (54 percent compared to 50 percent)
had used drugs in the month before committing their offense. In
addition to being more likely to have a substance abuse problem,
approximately 50 percent of female offenders are likely to have histories of physical or sexual abuse. Women are also more likely than
men to be victims of domestic violence. Past or current victimization
can contribute to drug or alcohol abuse, depression, post-traumatic
stress disorder, and criminal activity. Female offenders are also
more likely to have mental illnesses, employment problems, and
childrearing responsibilities.


Substance abuse, mental health, and health problems
and treatment in a sample of incarcerated women (N=60)
Note: Graph shows lifetime percentages except for multiple drugs, alcohol, and
cocaine, which are the percent reporting use in the 30 days prior to incarceration.
Any drug problem
Multiple drugs
Any mental health
Reproductive health

Source: Staton, et al., 2003.

training, and prevention efforts) was estimated to be $15.8 billion, a
fraction of these overall societal costs.
Drug abuse treatment is cost effective in reducing drug use and
bringing about associated healthcare, crime, and incarceration cost
savings. Positive net economic benefits are
consistently found for drug abuse treatment
across various settings and populations. The
The largest
largest economic benefit of treatment is
economic benefit
seen in avoided costs of crime (incarceraof treatment is
tion and victimization costs), with greater
seen in avoided
economic benefits resulting from treating
costs of crime.
offenders with co-occurring mental health
problems and substance use disorders. Residential prison treatment is more cost effective
if offenders attend treatment postrelease, according to research. Drug
courts also convey positive economic benefits, including participantearned wages and avoided incarceration and future crime costs.

Substance abuse Tx
Mental health Tx
Psychotropic medications







Treatment programs serving both men and women can provide
effective treatment for their female clients. However, gender-specific
programs may be more effective for female offenders, particularly those
with histories of trauma and abuse. Female offenders are more likely
to need medical and mental health services, childcare services, and
assistance in finding housing and employment. Following a comprehensive assessment, women with mental health disorders should receive
appropriate treatment and case management, including victim services
as needed. For female offenders with children, parental responsibilities
can conflict with their ability to participate in drug treatment. Regaining or retaining custody of their children can also motivate mothers to
participate in treatment. Treatment programs may improve retention by
offering childcare services and parenting classes.

What are the unique treatment needs
of juveniles in the criminal justice system?
In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number
of juveniles with substance abuse problems involved in the criminal
and juvenile justice systems. From 1986 to 1996, drug-related juvenile


incarcerations increased nearly threefold. In 2002, about 60 percent of
detained boys and nearly half of the girls tested positive for drug use.
The number of juvenile court cases involving drug offenses more than
doubled between 1993 and 1998, and 116,781 adolescents under the
age of 18 were arrested for drug violations in 2002. One study found
that about one-half of both male and female juvenile detainees met
criteria for a substance use disorder (Teplin et al., 2002).
Juveniles entering the criminal justice system can bring a number of
serious issues with them—substance abuse, academic failure, emotional disturbances, physical health issues,
family problems, and a history of physical or sexual abuse. Girls comprise
Effective treatment
nearly one-third of juvenile arrests,
of juvenile substance
a high percentage reporting some
abusers often requires
form of emotional, physical, or sexual
a family-based
abuse. Effectively addressing these
treatment model.
issues requires their gaining access to
comprehensive assessment, treatment,
case management, and support services
appropriate for the age and developmental
stage. Assessment is particularly important, because not all adolescents who have used drugs need treatment. For those who do, there
are several points in the juvenile justice continuum where treatment
has been integrated, including juvenile drug courts, community-based
supervision, juvenile detention, and community re-entry.
Families play an important role in the recovery of substance-abusing
juveniles, but this influence can be either positive or negative. Parental
substance abuse or criminal involvement, physical or sexual abuse by
family members, and lack of parental involvement or supervision are
all risk factors for adolescent substance abuse and delinquent behavior. Thus, the effective treatment of juvenile substance abusers often
requires a family-based treatment model that targets family functioning and the increased involvement of family members. Effective
adolescent treatment approaches include Multisystemic Therapy, Multidimensional Family Therapy, and Functional Family Therapy. These
interventions show promise in strengthening families and decreasing
juvenile substance abuse and delinquent behavior.



Many resources are
available on the Internet.
The following are
useful links:
General Information
NIDA Web site:
Inquiries about NIDA’s research on drug abuse treatment and the
criminal justice system: Division of Epidemiology, Services and
Prevention Research (301) 443-6504
General Inquires: NIDA Public Information Office (301) 443–1124

Federal Resources
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

National Institute of Justice (NIJ)

The Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)

National Institute of Corrections (NIC)

Federal Bureau of Prisons
Substance Abuse Treatment

National Criminal Justice Reference Service

Bureau of Justice Assistance Residential
Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT)



Other Resources

Screening and Assessment—Adults

Drug Strategies

Re-Entry Policy Council

University of Washington
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute


American Society of Addiction Medicine

TASC (Treatment Accountability
for Safer Communities)

National Drug Court Institute


Researchers in the Institute of Behavioral Research at TCU have
developed a number of useful instruments to screen individuals for
drug use, to identify problem areas and determine client service
needs, and to track progress through treatment.
There are also tools to measure the program’s need for training
and to help program directors and staff improve the quality of treatment. These measurement tools, which are listed below, can be found
through the Web site listed below, at right.

Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
Statistics on Drugs and Crime

TCU Drug Screen II (TCUDS)
(Available in English and Spanish)

Office of Applied Studies, Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

TCU Survey of Program Training Needs
(PTN-S and PTN-D for Criminal Justice)
TCU Survey of Organizational Functioning

Research Centers and Programs


Institute of Behavioral Research, Texas Christian
University (TCU) Assessment Instruments

NIDA Criminal Justice Drug Abuse
Treatment Studies (CJ-DATS)

Institute of Behavioral Research at Texas
Christian University (IBR-TCU)

UCLA Integrated Substance
Abuse Programs (ISAP)

University of Delaware
Center for Drug and Alcohol Studies (CDAS)

University of Maryland
Bureau of Governmental Research

TCU-CJ-CESI (Client Evaluation of Self at
Intake) Pretreatment Survey of Correctional
Populations (Available in English and Spanish)

CJ-CEST Survey of Correctional Populations
(Client Evaluation of Self and Treatment)
(Available in English and Spanish)
Criminal Thinking Scales (CTS)
Chestnut Health Systems Global
Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN)

Treatment Research Institute - The
Addiction Severity Index (ASI)

University of New Mexico Center on Alcoholism,
Substance Abuse, and Addictions

Screening and Assessment—Adolescents

Rutgers University Center for Mental Health
Services & Criminal Justice Research

Overview of screening and assessment tools

Urban Institute

Economic Resources

The National Center on Addiction and
Substance Abuse at Columbia University

Drug Abuse Treatment Cost
Analysis Program (DATCAP)


Butzin, C.A.; Martin, S.S.; and Inciardi, J.A. Treatment during transition from
prison to community and subsequent illicit drug use. Journal of Substance Abuse
Treatment 28(4):351–358, 2005.
Glaze, L.E. and Palla, S. Probation and parole in the United States, 2003.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 2004.
Karberg, J.C. and James, D.J. Substance dependence, abuse, and treatment of
jail inmates, 2002. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice
Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005.
Mumola, C.J. Substance abuse and treatment, state and federal prisoners, 1997.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 1999.
National Institute of Justice. 2000 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring: Annual Report
(pp. 135–136). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice
Programs, 2003.
Office of National Drug Control Policy. The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the
United States, 1992–2002. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President, 2004.
Staton, M.; Leukefeld, C.; and Webster, J.M. Substance use, health, and mental
health: Problems and service utilization among incarcerated women. International
Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology 47(2):224–239, 2003.
Teplin, L.A.; Abram, K.M.; McClelland, G.M.; Dulcan, M.K.; and Mericle,
A.A.  Psychiatric disorders in youth in juvenile detention. Archives of General
Psychiatry 59(12):1133–1143, 2002.
Volkow, N.D.; Hitzemann, R.; Wang, G.J.; Fowler, J.S.; Wolf, A.P.; and Dewey, S.L. 
Long-term frontal brain metabolic changes in cocaine abusers. Synapse 11:184–
190, 1992.
Volkow, N.D.; Fowler, J.S.; Wang, G.J.; Hitzemann, R.; Logan, J.; Schlyer, D.; Dewey,
S.; and Wolf, A.P.  Decreased dopamine D2 receptor availability is associated with
reduced frontal metabolism in cocaine abusers. Synapse 14:169–177, 1993.


For More Information
For more information about other research-based
publications on drug abuse and addiction, visit NIDA’s Web site
at, or call the National Clearinghouse
for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800–729–6686.