Does treatment really work?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

This is the seventh story in a 13-week series that focuses on drug addiction in Butler County. This is also the first of three stories that will focus on substance abuse treatment.

On May 9, Gov. Don Siegelman awarded a $1.08 million grant to the Alabama Department of Corrections for a substance abuse treatment program. The goal of the program is to ensure that ex-inmates do not relapse into drug abuse by treating them before they return to society.

&uot;Drug abuse has a close association with other types of crime,&uot; said Siegelman. &uot;This grant provides additional drug treatment for inmates and reduces the chances that they will return to drugs or commit other crimes to support their habit upon release.&uot;

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Douglas J. Marlowe, J.D., Ph.D., director of the Section on Criminal Justice Research at the Treatment Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania said that 67 – 75 percent of state inmates, and 33 percent of federal inmates have a history of a repeated habit after being released. &uot;Eighty percent of U.S. jail and prison inmates were intoxicated at the time of the offense, and 80 percent also have a futherance of a drug habit after serving time,&uot; he said at the spring conference of the Addiction Studies Program for Journalists.

The state Department of Corrections also reported similar results. They reported, &uot;Approximately 80 percent of the 6,500 inmates taken into the prison system annually have a history of drug abuse. About 3,200 inmates enter prison with a drug addiction.&uot;

Correction officials also report that &uot;successful drug treatment reduces crime, homelessness, health care costs, risky sexual behavior and the chances that an ex-inmate will return to prison.&uot;

Marlowe said that although some approaches to treatment have worked with ex-inmates, others haven’t.

He said that 85 percent of criminals relapse in one year and that 55 percent re-offend and that 70 percent of drug users re-offend at some point. &uot;If we treat them in prison, only 25 percent receive treatment, and criminal recidivism (a return to previous unlawful activity) is reduced from 55 percent to 45 percent. But, it generally has no effect on a relapse to drug abuse,&uot; he said.

Marlowe also discussed &uot;intermediate sanctions,&uot; that is, intensive supervised probation, house arrest, electronic monitoring and boot camp. &uot;Recidivism doesn't go up, and it doesn’t seem they are getting any better. Boot camp research shows no improvement,&uot; he said. &uot;In addition, most of these programs do not involve treatment. Probation and parole officers are good at monitoring, but not good at treatment.&uot;

A third program used the basis of referral as treatment. &uot;Of those that do show up, 40 percent drop out within three months, and 90 percent drop out within 12 months. The waiting lists also are long which lessen the chances of a client showing up,&uot; said Marlowe.

The program recently implemented through grants was made available by the U.S. Department of Justice, and will be administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.