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Drug Treatment: The Case for Coercion

NCJ Number
Sally L. Satel M.D.
Date Published
82 pages
With compelling data derived from numerous studies conducted over many years, the author demonstrates the effectiveness of mandated treatment for many drug abusers.
The current debate over national drug control policy is dominated by extremes. On the one side are drug warriors who seek to eradicate drug use by advancing right controls on drug production and harsh punishment for drug trafficking. On the other side are advocates of drug legalization who condemn the abolitionist strategy as costly, vindictive, and unrealistic. In its place, they propose a regime of relaxed controls plus regulation for some or all drugs. The author believes that many drug addicts must be compelled to enter drug treatment, stay the course, and graduate. She contends that coercive strategies are necessary because many drug addicts need treatment if they are to lead productive and satisfying lives and because data consistently show that drug treatment is effective. Coercive treatment refers to an array of strategies that shape behavior by responding to specific actions with external pressure and predictable consequences. Coercive drug treatment strategies are already common; both the criminal justice system and the workplace, for example, have proven to be excellent venues for identifying individuals with drug problems and then exerting leverage, from risk of jail to threat of job loss, to provide powerful incentives to start and stay in treatment. Moreover, evidence shows that drug addicts who get drug treatment through court orders or employer mandates benefit as much as and sometimes more than their counterparts who enter treatment voluntarily. The author presents a brief history of coercion in drug treatment, cites recent studies of the effectiveness of compelled drug treatment, and discusses resistance to coercion. 102 notes