23 Mar 2022


Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

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Reduction of recidivism is an important decision for the country since it goes a long way to enhance public safety. The best rehabilitation programs suitable for reducing substance abuse by offenders are those programs which offer a holistic approach when it comes to treatment. Apart from the usual issues found among other substance abusers, it is crucial to consider matters unique to criminal offenders such as criminal thinking and values. Offenders usually have several factors which contribute to their addiction different from substance abusers from the general population. Some of these factors include interpersonal problems, psychological disorders, lack of proper education and vocation skills, lack of jobs or difficulty of getting and maintaining appropriate employment and stress issues among others. All these chronic troubles contribute to self-esteem issues in offenders plus depression all of which enhances the use of the substance by the criminals.

The state of Oregon through the Offender Management and Rehabilitation Division has initiated some programs in a bid to reduce cases of future criminal activities by offenders currently incarcerated in Oregon prisons. Today, approximately 14200 inmates are being rehabilitated by the division (Oregon.Gov, 2016). Some of the programs run by the division to help offenders make a smooth entry back to the society include workforce development, dependency treatment programs, education and cognitive programs. Following the county’s commitment to improving substance abuse programs by offenders, this paper is going to tackle one of the programs; the addiction treatment program, and come up with ways of improving the substance abuse programs within the state of Oregon.

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Treatment Program Approaches

The best strategy or program which will provide the greatest reduction in chances of offenders relapsing into crime are those which involve ‘cognitive-behavioral treatment in their rehabilitation process, target known predictors of crime for change and intervene mainly with the high-risk offenders’ (Cullen &Gendreau, 2000). Such a program will lay a lot of emphasis on understanding what caused the offenders to abuse the substance to come up with the best solution for the problem. Medical treatment alone of drug addiction is not enough since it does not tackle other crucial psychological, social and behavioral problems. Other than knowing the cause or the root problem behind the substance abuse it is also important to address some of the fundamental challenges which offenders face. These challenges include things like lack of having a place to stay and how to land a job which will sustain them. This approach also provides a foundation of coming up with the best procedure for the substance abuse treatment. For instance, it has been found that detoxification should be followed by an official assessment and a recommendation of a drug addiction treatment. It is to manage withdrawal medically and prevent relapse of the substance abusers.

The first goal of drug addiction treatment of offenders is to make them reduce their dependency on the drugs, engage them and retain them where they have been engaged. It is generally achieved by according these offenders crucial services necessary for their survival in the mainstream society. Many offenders, especially those who abuse substances usually find it difficult to control their impulses, focus on a particular goal or even abide by the set boundaries in the society. As such, it is important that counseling services be extended to them where they can be properly counseled on how to re-enter the mainstream society. Other services which should be extended to offenders once released from prison include treatment of physical ailments, screening and assessment, and development of vocational skills. Also, the offenders, just before their release should be assimilated into the mainstream society by according them family visitations, reunification, and childcare. This treatment program includes the family, and other significant others of the offender and treatment are tailor made according to the offender’s cognitive and learning ability. Also, the programs have a critical role that ensures the offenders are properly prepared to re-enter the conventional society. The offenders should also be accorded with legal assistance and case management. Such a move will play a crucial part in making the offenders understand how to cooperate with authorities. 

The first goal of treatment being to engage and retain these offenders, the second goal of substance abuse treatment of offenders is to come up with ways which will foster the offenders to their engagements and further keep them. It should be noted that the right time to engage offenders to ensure maximum engagement and motivation towards treatment is after a stressful time such as after an overdose period. It is the opportune time to engage substance abusers since at this time motivation is strong. It should be ensured that there are positive incentives which accompany participation of substance abusers during treatment. A study was carried out by Broome and his colleagues (1996), to look at the relationship between background factors which led to drug dependents seeking treatment and their subsequent results. From research, those individuals who recognized that they had a drug dependency problem posted positive results regardless of their social networks and family influence or lack of. This recognition of the need of treatment was a high motivation point for the drug abusers. 

At this second level of substance abuse treatment, coercion can be employed though tactically. Coercion involves the use of sanctions such legal requirement for one to go for treatment or lose the custody of their children or use of incentives to encourage the participation of offenders in the program. Drug abusers may be faced with the option of seeking treatment or go to jail. If one is found driving under the influence of narcotics, he or she should be forced to undergo a psycho-educational class to keep their driving license. This method of treatment has however reported different results. One should be very careful when they decide to employ the strategy in the treatment program. According to a review done by Anglin and associates (1998), general results were that coercion was sufficient, though the results were not equivocal. From the review of 11 treatments which involved coercion, five reported for coercion, four reported zero difference, and two reported against coercion. Many participants in the study revealed that they would have joined the treatment program even without the coercion. A small percentage, especially those who were cocaine addicts posted that were they not coerced into taking up the treatment, they would not have joined the treatment program.

It should, however, be noted that despite the fact that lack of motivation from the patient’s side could render the treatment ineffective, these patients can develop motivation during the treatment program. In fact, one way to measure whether a program is effective is by measuring the capacity of a treatment program to retain those patients who were coerced into joining the treatment program. The only challenge with coercion is that it increases resistance from offenders in joining the program, but once they enter the program, they tend to be committed to it. Also, coercion should not have a punishment bearing to it. Many of those programs which have deviated from psychological warfare physical punishment regarding coercing offenders to join treatment programs have no effect on offender’s criminality. 

The Most Favorable Option Available

Following the above-stated conditions required when considering a treatment program for substance abuse by offenders, the most favorable treatment option or program is ‘Multi-systemic Treatment’ (Cullen &Gendreau, 2000). This treatment program conforms to all the principles which will ensure that offenders are engaged, retained and stay motivated in their quest to reduce dependency on drugs and hence reduce chances of relapsing into criminal activities. These treatment programs always prioritize the criminals who are addicted to drugs and have shown signs of re-offending. Once the group is identified, they are usually separated from the general prison population and taken into therapeutic settings where they are rehabilitated. In such a therapeutic community they are taught to be responsible and accountable for their personal and their neighbor’s change. The treatment is often focused on changing how the offenders think, their beliefs, values, and behavior through several interventions such as the development of life skills and role play. An essential integral part of this treatment is the inclusion of family members and any other significant other of the offenders. Other members of the community such as people from social services and faith-based organizations are also involved in the treatment program to provide all the necessary assistance required. Once offenders complete their treatment program, they are then allowed to rejoin the community though under supervision till they are strong enough to stand on their own. 


Owing to the unique factors which influence offenders to start abusing substances, a fine and proper treatment program is required to guarantee their treatment which will minimize recidivism. Apart from medical management and treatment of addiction to various substances, the treatment program should be tailor made to suit the different needs of the offenders. The key strategy to follow while coming up with a treatment program includes cognitive-behavioral treatment, targeting of known predictors of crime for change and intervening mainly with the high-risk offenders. Also, other support services should be accorded to these offenders. As such treatment program of substance, abuse offenders requires a holistic approach and the best treatment program for them is the Multi-systemic Treatment.'


  Anglin, D., Prendergast, M., and Farabee, D. (1998) “ The effectiveness of coerced treatment for drug-abusing offenders. ” Paper presented at the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Conference of Scholars and Policy Makers, Washington, DC, March 23–25, 1998.   

Broome, M., Knight K., Hiller, L & Simpson, D. (1996) ‘Drug treatment process indicators for probationers and prediction of recidivism’.  Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. 13(6):487–491

Cullen, F & Gendreau,P (2000) ‘ Assessing Correctional Rehabilitation: Policy, Practice, and Prospects’ Journal Of Policies, Processes, And Decisions Of The Criminal Justice System. 3: 109-175

Oregon.Gov (2016). DOC Offender Management and Rehabilitation . Retrieved from https://www.oregon.gov/DOC/OMR/pages/index.aspx

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