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While the United States is beginning to re-evaluate their approach to drug addiction, shifting to more of a treatment-based strategy rather than incarceration, some other countries are taking this approach to the extreme.

Court-Mandated Treatment

Russia, for example, has passed legislation allowing the court system to mandate treatment- meaning those arrested for drug-related crimes can be forced to go to treatment. Studies have shown that putting nonviolent drug offenders in jail does little to nothing in terms of rehabilitation and reduction in drug use or drug-related activity. This is one reason that the United States is becoming more open to harm-reduction strategies that try to help addicts rather than locking them up in non-therapeutic institutions. But like Russia, many countries have taken it a step farther. Court-mandated treatment is becoming more and more frequent; in some places, people are given the option of incarceration or treatment. In others, treatment is entirely compulsory- patients don’t have to give consent, and have no say in the type or duration of treatment, which can last anywhere from a month to several years.

What’s the Problem?

In many countries, the “treatment facilities” patients are sent to are not run by medical professionals, but by law enforcement officials or military, and several studies have shown that these facilities also do little to nothing to alleviate symptoms of addiction or drug dependence. Also, it turns out that many of these facilities are wrought with human rights violations per United Nations guidelines, including detainee abuse and inhumane living conditions. In agreement with the authors of a recent study of these facilities, the senior adviser to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently addressed the UN, stating that this extreme level of mandated treatment needs to be set aside, and that instead, countries should “implement voluntary, evidence-informed and rights-based health and social services in the community”.

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