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Drugs Tuesday, 25 May, 1999, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Drug treatment orders offer alternative to prison
Treatment may offer an alternative for drug offenders
Drug treatment and testing orders (DTTOs) were first announced in December 1997, when the government said it would spend 1m on a pilot programme to get convicted drugs offenders have treatment.

Pilot projects began in Merseyside, south London and Gloucestershire last year.

Under the orders, which are given out by the courts, offenders who do not comply risk having to return to court to be given a tougher sentence.

The aim of the orders was to reduce reoffending rates among drug users which are very high.

Many drug users resort to crime to finance their habit and up to 90% who are jailed are thought to re-offend on release.

Other similar types of pilots have been carried out which aim to reduce re-offending rates.

Prolific offenders

The charity Addaction is involved in one project in Derby.

It involves the criminal justice system, doctors and drug agencies.

Once a drug user is arrested, they are seen by an arrest referral worker.

If they are a prolific offender, they are referred to criminal justice workers who collaborate with the probation service and doctors.

The offender is assessed to see if they will be suitable for and responsive to treatment.

Steve Todd, operations director at Addaction, said research showed that even forcing people to take treatment worked.

The assessment team draw up an individual treatment plan which is put before the court.

Mr Todd said drug offenders are currently either sent to prison or given a community sentence and do not have to receive treatment.

Addaction's treatment programme involves getting the person to agree to treatment, getting them off drugs, therapy which tackles patterns of offending behaviour and aftercare.

Aftercare can include weekly meetings or other ways of providing support to people who have come off or are coming off drugs.

Part of the treatment may also include support for helping offenders get jobs.

"This is not a soft option," said Mr Todd. "We hope the DTTOs will be rolled out nationally as they will provide more time for treatment programmes to work."

He said the main difference between the government pilots and the Derby pilot was that the DTTOs lasted for longer.

He added that research showed that treatment over two to three months had an immediate effect, but treatment which lasted longer than 16 weeks could bring about lasting behavioural changes.

See also:

14 Sep 99 | Medical notes
25 May 99 | Health
25 May 99 | Drugs
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