Newsbrief: California's Proposition 36 Generating Big Increases in Drug Treatment 10/17/03

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A five-year tracking study funded by the National Institutes of Drug Abuse and implemented by the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute's Integrated Substance Abuse Program has found a big jump in admissions to treatment programs in five major California counties since California voters approved the "treatment not jail" Proposition 36 in November 2000.

The study of the first year of Prop. 36, from July 2001 to July 2002, saw admissions to drug treatment programs jump by 27% in Kern County, 21% in Riverside County, 17% in Sacramento County, and 16% in San Diego County. Only San Francisco County failed to show an increase, but it already had an extensive diversion and treatment program before Prop. 36 was adopted.

The study does not draw conclusions about the success of drug treatment programs in preventing crime or drug abuse, but it did find that drug programs have problems dealing with people with severe drug habits or multiple problems, such as a dual diagnosis of mental illness and drug abuse. Other complications included homelessness or disability. Most people in treatment were in outpatient programs, the researchers found. Most people diverted into treatment were male first-offenders with full-time jobs. Methamphetamine and marijuana users were more likely to participate, while heroin users and injection drug users were less likely, the study found. [Ed: The apparently significant number of marijuana offenders sentenced to treatment is an indication that many people who are not addicted are being sent to treatment by the criminal justice system.]

The goal of the NIDA-funded study is to identify the best ways of treating drug users who would have been sent to prison had Prop. 36 not been enacted.

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