Handbook of Drug Control in the United States

By James A. Inciardi | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Legal Coercion and Drug Abuse Treatment: Research Findings and Social Policy Implications

M. Douglas Anglin and Yih-Ing Hser

Discussions about drugs and social policy designed to resolve drug abuse problems are filled with hyperbole and speculation, regardless of whether the discussion occurs within governmental agencies, in the media, or in public ( Goldberg & Meyers 1980). Philosophical positions taken by the discussants, whether from personal conviction or for public consumption, often disregard empirical data and analyses as well as theoretical interpretations. A particularly obfuscating belief is that legal solutions or enacted legal measures by themselves will produce significant change in the world's current drug situation. Given that the legal efforts in the United States for over sixty years have had limited social effect and that production, distribution, and consumption of illicit drugs throughout the world has actually increased, this perspective is untenable ( Drug Abuse Council 1980). Although many solutions have been proposed, no consensus has consistently emerged as to what alternative strategies should be undertaken ( Eldridge 1962; Lindesmith 1965; Duster 1970; Meyers 1980; Trebach 1982).

One concept that has repeatedly surfaced as a strategy for reducing drug demand is to combine legal coercion with drug treatment efforts as a dual approach with both rehabilitation and social control elements. Such approaches, with different degrees of emphasis on either element, have recurred as social policy for most of the present century. Examples include the morphine maintenance clinics established by some communities in the 1920s, the federal narcotic treatment farms situated at Ft. Worth and Lexington in the 1930s, the 1960s experiments with civil commitment in California and New York and at the federal level, and the present system, commencing in the 1970s, of criminal justice system reliance on community drug treatment programs as alternatives to incarceration or as adjuncts to legal supervision.

The civil commitment programs of the 1960s were designed to provide legal coercion into inpatient treatment, which included vocational and educational development and a strong program of aftercare with continual monitoring for

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