The Use and Abuse of Mutual-Support Programs in Drug Courts

42 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2017

See all articles by Sara Gordon

Sara Gordon

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

Date Written: August 7, 2017


There is a large gap between what we know about the disease of addiction and its appropriate treatment, and the treatment received by individuals who are ordered into treatment as a condition of participation in drug court. Most medical professionals are not appropriately trained about addiction and most addiction treatment providers do not have the education and training necessary to provide appropriate evidence-based services to individuals who are referred by drug courts for addiction treatment. This disconnect between our understanding of addiction and available addiction treatment has wide reaching impact for individuals who attempt to receive medical care for addiction in this country, as well as for those individuals who are compelled by a drug court to receive that treatment. Instead of receiving evidence-based treatment, most drug court participants are referred to mutual-support groups and programs based largely or entirely on 12-step principles. Mutual-support groups, while well-intentioned and helpful as a supplement to evidence-based addiction treatment, are not a substitute for scientifically valid addiction treatment and should not constitute the primary form of medical assistance received by drug court participants.

This Article argues that drug and other specialty courts can be part of the transformation of the public perception of addiction, as well as the integration of addiction treatment into mainstream medicine by incorporating and endorsing evidence-based strategies for the treatment of addiction, including psychosocial and pharmacological treatments. Moreover, by adopting these treatments more readily and providing more opportunities for drug court participants to receive evidence-based treatment, drug courts can dramatically improve treatment outcomes for participants.

Keywords: Drug Treatment, Addiction, Mutual-Support Groups, Support Groups, Drug Courts, Specialty Courts

Suggested Citation

Gordon, Sara, The Use and Abuse of Mutual-Support Programs in Drug Courts (August 7, 2017). University of Illinois Law Review, 2017; UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Sara Gordon (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

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Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
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