U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Drug Courts

Special Feature
© corgarashu/Shutterstock.com (see reuse policy).


As provided in the National Institute of Justice's Overview of Drug Courts article, drug courts are specialized court docket programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems.

Adult drug courts employ a program designed to reduce drug use relapse and criminal recidivism among defendants and offenders through a variety of services. These services include risk and needs assessment, judicial interaction, monitoring and supervision, graduated sanctions and incentives, treatment, and various rehabilitation services.

Juvenile drug courts apply a similar program model that is tailored to the needs of youth with substance use disorders. Juvenile drug courts supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) help youth and families overcome the effects of substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders. Additionally, through the Tribal Juvenile Healing to Wellness Court Program, OJJDP enhances the capacity of tribal courts to respond to the substance use challenges of court-involved youth.

OJJDP’s Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Guidelines provide key objectives and a treatment-oriented approach to support young people with substance use disorders and their families. A tip sheet provides practical steps to implement the guidelines.

A third form of drug courts, family drug courts, emphasize treatment for parents with substance use disorders to aid in the reunification and stabilization of families affected by parental drug use. These programs apply the adult drug court model to cases entering the child welfare system that include allegations of child abuse or neglect in which substance abuse is identified as a contributing factor.

As reported in the November 2020 version of the Drug Courts fact sheet, over 3,000 drug courts are operating throughout the United States, half of which are adult drug courts.

The National Drug Court Resource Center, supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, provides a variety of resources for court professionals that align with best practice standards to expand and enhance court operations, as well as collect and analyze program data.

Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal sources: 

Date Modified: May 04, 2021
Date Created: August 11, 2020