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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Drug Abusers and Close Court Supervision

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jan 9th 2009

 Can the courts be successful if they become tougher in monitoring those who are drug addicted?

The Study:

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, known as NIDA
(NIDA Notes is available on the Internet at:
published the results on an important study involving the treatment of high risk drug abusers. High risk was defined as those who have anti social personality disorders, measure by the frequency with which they are arrested for crimes involving drugs. In addition, high risk is defined as having repeated relapses in the abuse of dangerous drugs.

The study demonstrated the fact that those abusers required to attend court hearings every two weeks or less do better towards recovery than those who attend once every four weeks, the present rate of attendance required by most courts. In addition, this close judicial supervision includes the client seeing a probation officer, submitting urine specimens, and attending drug rehab programs.

Those who complete the program with no infractions for six months or more have their the legal charges against them dropped and expunged from the records.

Personal Observations:

It is important to state at the outset that my observations about the drug addict are not meant to imply that they are "bad" or "evil" people. Rather, in my view and that of many other professionals, they suffer from a disease called addiction. This addiction profoundly affects their brains and, therefore, their ability to use good judgment. Having said this, let's to what my observations are:

1. Indeed, it has been my observation of patients I have treated in psychotherapy for drug addiction have a much greater chance of recovering if they are closely monitored by the courts, including having to provide urine specimens at unpredictable times, and to attend drug rehab programs.

2. It is also my observation that the addicted persons are so extremely vulnerable to relapse that their place of residence must be changed. One error made by many inpatient treatment facilities is to discharge clients into the world without any solid place for them to go. Often times, there is a space in time between discharge and placement in the next outpatient program. What is needed is a very tightly secure place of residence for people in recovery from drug addiction. In this type of place it is important that they not be allowed out until they have reached a level of trustworthy behavior that allows them to advance from level to level until they are able to graduate. In my opinion, this locked residence should permit no visitors, phone calls or mail.

3. Until full recovery is achieved the threat of imprisonment must hang over the heads of these addicts.

None of this has anything to do with punishment but with making it impossible for these people to be tempted by drugs before they are strong enough to resist.

In my view it is heart breaking for these clients and their friends and families to relive the cycle of relapse and painful disappointment when over and again.

What are your thoughts, observations, experiences and opinions about this tragic problem?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD


Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Answering Jill - Allan N Schwartz - Jan 27th 2009

Hi Jill,

The article you could not find should be available at:

The crimes involving drugs have to do with stealing things such as: money, jewelry, anything, so that they can be sold and the money used to buy more drugs. After being repeated caught by police and arrested I guess they get the unfortunate designation "anti social personality disorder." I was just repeating the article. In my view, these people are mostly just unfortunate people who have what I consider to be the disease of addiction.

The main point I am making about the courts being useful and that research seems to have documented is that, under close court scrutiny many of these "patients" improve because they are tightly controlled until the addictive phase passes.

I do not believe that addiction patients should ever be in jail even if they have stolen and robbed. My view is that they are in desparate need of treatment but sometimes only the courts are able to control their addiction because they cannot control it themselves.

I would be interested in reading your views as well as those of other readers.

Dr. Schwartz

A question for Dr. Schwartz - JILL - Jan 27th 2009

Dr. Schwartz,

I could not find the study but I would like to ask you about this part of your essay.

"High risk was defined as those who have anti social personality disorders, measure by the frequency with which they are arrested for crimes involving drugs. In addition, high risk is defined as having repeated relapses in the abuse of dangerous drugs."

What "crimes involving drugs" are included?  "Crimes involving drugs" could be as simple as buying, possessing, selling or even testing positive for drugs.    If they were crimes involving a victim, were the drugs the cause of the crime or was their anti social personality the cause? 

Did they differentiate between drug abuse and drug use when they identified those who "relapsed"?  

Of course drugs can impair judgement as can alcohol.  Would you agree then that if drug use and drug abuse are deemed equivalent then alcohol use and alcohol abuse should be deemed equivalent as well?  I mean after all, a drug is a drug is a drug, is it not?  Ironic isn't it that to be arrested for a "crime involving alcohol" requires a crime with a victim, while merely possessing, buying, selling or ingesting a drug is a "crime involving drugs" No victim required.

You made the comment:  "Until full recovery is achieved the threat of imprisonment must hang over the heads of these addicts."

 Do you support putting people in prison for the "crime" of possessing or ingesting a drug or are you speaking of those who possess or ingest a drug and then commit crimes against others?  Should the punishment for a crime against others be harsher if the criminal has ingested a drug?

Would you then support putting people in prison who possess or ingest alcohol if they do not commit a crime against others?  If not, why?

Thank You 



Helping the Family Members Also Helps the Addicts - Lisa Frederiksen - Jan 10th 2009

After decades of experience of living with loved ones who abuse and/or are addicted to alcohol and recently, years of research and personal recovery work from the effects of the unhealthy codependency coping skills I'd adopted, I fully agree with your comments. I also believe another key to a an addict's long-term recovery success is having his/her family "treated" as well -- namely, helping them to understand the nature of the disease of addiction, what has happened to the addict and themselves and thus their likely unintentioned "support" of the addiction, and forums in which to talk about all of it and learn new, healthy coping skills.

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