Drug courts celebrated their 25th anniversary last year. There are some 2,800 in the U.S., serving 120,000 defendants annually. They enjoy broad political popularity and are touted as a perfect balance of treatment and punishment, a way for offenders to avoid the harsh sentences mandated by drug-war laws. Pacific Standard magazine says, however, that they embolden judges to practice medicine without a license and could put lives in danger.
The magazine reports that many drug court judges oppose the practice of maintenance therapy and require patients to become completely abstinent as a condition of participation or graduation. “They believe that maintenance simply amounts to swapping one drug addiction for another,” says Pacific Standard. “This critique betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of opioid pharmacology and addictive behavior.”