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Vol. LVIII, No. 18
September 8, 2006

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NIDA Recommends Treating Drug Abusers To Save Money, Reduce Crime

The National Institute on Drug Abuse released a report on July 24 showing that effective treatment for drug abusers in the criminal justice system can reduce recidivism, save communities money and reduce crime. The report, Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations, outlines 13 proven components for treatment of drug abusers, leading to lower rates of criminal activity and cutting societal costs. For example, every dollar invested in addiction treatment yields a $4 to $7 reduction in drug-related crime.

The report was unveiled by NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow at a national press conference in Chicago that highlighted innovative criminal justice substance abuse programs, including a pilot project to train judges about the neuroscience of addiction so they can be better prepared to place addicted defendants in adequate treatment programs.

NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow unveils new report on
drug abuse treatment for criminal justice populations.
Cheryl Cline, former offender in recovery from drug addiction, shares her experience.

"Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations summarizes more than three decades of research in terms of understanding the effects of drugs on the brain and the effects of treatment in the criminal justice system," said Volkow. "Its purpose is to help merge the cultures of public safety and public health and address an extraordinarily important problem." She was joined by several former drug-abusing offenders whose lives have dramatically changed because of successful treatment programs.

"Treatment saved my life," said Cheryl Cline, 29. "Without the counseling programs of the Illinois prison system, I would not be here today, celebrating 3 years of sobriety — happy, healthy and not only a person that I can be proud of, but one that my parents can be proud of too." After addiction to crack cocaine led to her arrest and a sentence of 4 years in prison, Cline entered an intensive drug treatment program and is now living drug-free and is dedicated to helping others with substance-abuse problems.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley expresses support for the new NIDA recommendations.

The report recommends recognition that drug addiction is a disease of the brain that affects behavior, that recovery requires effective individualized treatment and that continuity of care is critical for drug abusers re-entering the community after incarceration. The publication also includes answers to frequently asked questions about addiction as a chronic disease; co-occurring mental, emotional and environmental conditions that make relapse likely upon return to society; components of treatment programs; cost-effectiveness of treatment; and the role of medication in treating offenders with substance abuse.

The publication will be marketed extensively to more than 175,000 organizations and individuals, including criminal justice administrators, prison and correctional staff, drug abuse treatment providers, policymakers, state and local health departments, epidemiologists and researchers, public health and safety professionals and schools of public health and criminal justice.

Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations can be obtained from NIDA's web site or by calling 1-800-729-6686. The web site also contains two slide presentations, criminal justice-related fact sheets and congressional testimony and links to additional resources.

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