FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQS) About Drug Abuse Treatment for People Involved with the Criminal Justice System.
Reprinted from “Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations” by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (in the Public Domain) by Thomas A. Wilson, MA, LCPC & CEO of Tom Wilson Counseling and Telehealth Center.
6. Are relapse risk factors different in offender populations? How should drug abuse treatment deal with these risk factors?
Often, drug abusing offenders have problems in other areas. Examples include family difficulties, limited social skills, educational and employment problems, mental health disorders, infectious diseases, and other medical issues. Treatment should take these problems into account, because they can increase the risk of drug relapse and criminal recidivism if left unaddressed.
Stress is often a contributing factor to relapse, and offenders who are re-entering society face many challenges and stressors, including reuniting with family members, securing housing, and complying with criminal justice supervision requirements. Even the many daily decisions that most
people face can be stressful for those recently released from a highly controlled prison environment.
Other threats to recovery include a loss of support from family or friends, which incarcerated people may experience. Drug abusers returning to the community may also encounter people from their lives who are still involved in drugs or crime and be enticed to resume a criminal and drug using lifestyle.
Returning to environments or activities associated with prior drug use may trigger strong cravings and cause a relapse. A coordinated approach by treatment and criminal justice staff provides the best way to detect and intervene with these and other threats to recovery. In any case, treatment is needed to provide the skills necessary to avoid or cope with situations that could lead to relapse.
Treatment staff should identify the offender’s unique relapse risk factors and periodically re-assess and modify the treatment plan as needed. Generally, continuing or re-emerging drug use during treatment requires a clinical response—either increasing the amount or level of treatment, or changing the treatment intervention.