The Effectiveness of Compulsory Drug Treatment: A Systematic Review

Int J Drug Policy. 2016 Feb;28:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.12.005. Epub 2015 Dec 18.

Abstract

Background: Despite widespread implementation of compulsory treatment modalities for drug dependence, there has been no systematic evaluation of the scientific evidence on the effectiveness of compulsory drug treatment.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of studies assessing the outcomes of compulsory treatment. We conducted a search in duplicate of all relevant peer-reviewed scientific literature evaluating compulsory treatment modalities. The following academic databases were searched: PubMed, PAIS International, Proquest, PsycINFO, Web of Science, Soc Abstracts, JSTOR, EBSCO/Academic Search Complete, REDALYC, SciELO Brazil. We also searched the Internet, and article reference lists, from database inception to July 15th, 2015. Eligibility criteria are as follows: peer-reviewed scientific studies presenting original data. Primary outcome of interest was post-treatment drug use. Secondary outcome of interest was post-treatment criminal recidivism.

Results: Of an initial 430 potential studies identified, nine quantitative studies met the inclusion criteria. Studies evaluated compulsory treatment options including drug detention facilities, short (i.e., 21-day) and long-term (i.e., 6 months) inpatient treatment, community-based treatment, group-based outpatient treatment, and prison-based treatment. Three studies (33%) reported no significant impacts of compulsory treatment compared with control interventions. Two studies (22%) found equivocal results but did not compare against a control condition. Two studies (22%) observed negative impacts of compulsory treatment on criminal recidivism. Two studies (22%) observed positive impacts of compulsory inpatient treatment on criminal recidivism and drug use.

Conclusion: There is limited scientific literature evaluating compulsory drug treatment. Evidence does not, on the whole, suggest improved outcomes related to compulsory treatment approaches, with some studies suggesting potential harms. Given the potential for human rights abuses within compulsory treatment settings, non-compulsory treatment modalities should be prioritized by policymakers seeking to reduce drug-related harms.

Keywords: Addiction; Compulsory treatment; Global; Policy; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mandatory Programs*
  • Program Evaluation*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome