Abstinence drug courts don’t help opioid addicts

This year, a member of Minnesota’s state legislature plans to propose a bill that would encourage opiate treatment centers to consider an alternative to abstinence-based care. The Huffington Post reports that Sen. Chris Eaton, whose daughter died of a heroin overdose in 2007, recognizes that addicts often need the help of certain medications. As a drug attorney in Minnesota would know, many drug courts require random testing and disallow the use of certain medicines, despite their efficacy.

Drug court qualifications

In order to go to drug court in Minnesota, a defendant must have been charged with a lower level controlled substance crime and must have a substance abuse problem. The goal of going to drug court is to improve the lives of those with addiction by providing meaningful treatment. Drug court is typically offered as an alternative to a harsh prison sentence.

According to the Minnesota Judicial Branch, participants in drug courts are monitored for abstinence through random, frequent and observed testing. Those who test positive for any drug may face additional sanctions and legal repercussions.

The debate around medicating addicts

Sen. Eaton’s efforts are just the start of the battle to effectively help opioid addicts. The federal government, which funds a number of drug courts across the country, has decided to financially support only facilities that allow medication-assisted treatments. Medications such as Suboxone help to eliminate the cravings that an addict experiences. When used correctly, the drug does not cause intoxication, which is why the medical industry largely supports it.

As a drug attorney in Minnesota knows, there are, however, several challenges when it comes to getting addicts access to Suboxone, such as the following:

  • Only doctors certified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration can prescribe the medication.
  • Doctors may not prescribe the medication to more than 100 patients.
  • Many drug courts consider the medication to be a drug that breaks their abstinence policy

Unfortunately, as treatment programs continue to refuse medication for addicts, many suffer fatal relapses.

The fatal mistake of abstinence treatment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than 16,000 people across the country died in 2013 due to an overdose of opioids. The Huffington Post published an article in which one judge in Kentucky who demands abstinence treatment noted that many of the defendants she sees relapse between 10 and 15 times, and a large number of them wind up back in jail. An analysis of the area found that the majority of people who died from opioid overdoses had just left jail or had experience with an abstinence-based program.

In order to provide meaningful, lasting treatment for opioid addicts, it is imperative that drug courts and rehabilitative facilities take into account the most effective tools and medications available. Anyone with questions regarding this matter should consult with a drug attorney in Minnesota.

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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