The opioid epidemic wrought widespread devastation across the United States, causing overdose deaths, arrests, and addiction on a massive scale. The shocking statistics are heard all too frequently: more Americans now die each year from overdoses than those who perished in the Vietnam, Afghan, and Iraq wars combined. However, local efforts to fight opioid addiction using progressive, evidence-based techniques are gaining national attention and praise.
Seattle Drug Courts Focus on Treatment, Not Punishment
Seattle has been praised repeatedly for its drug court diversion program, Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Under the LEAD program, instead of arresting drug users for possession or prostitution, law enforcement monitor for those who are nonviolent and want help and divert them to social service programs and intensive case management.
Studies have found LEAD to be incredibly successful. Researchers found that drug users assigned to LEAD were 58% less likely to be rearrested when compared to a control group without diversion. Participants were also almost twice as likely to have housing as they had been before entering LEAD and 46% more likely to be employed or getting job training. Also, LEAD is cheaper than jail, courts, and costs associated with homelessness. As a result, municipalities across the country began using the program as a blueprint, and 59 localities now offer LEAD initiatives or are in the process of setting up such a program.
Seattle Treatment Centers Offer Effective Medical Interventions
Another arena in which the local fight against opioid addiction has garnered positive attention is the medical model for treating addiction in local clinics and treatment centers. Many local centers advocate for the “medication first” model. Under this paradigm, patients have fast access to prescribed medicine that prevents withdrawal sickness. After patients are feeling better and on a plan that quashes their cravings for opiates, they work with medical staff to come up with a plan of action which can include counseling, group therapy, and a plan to lead an opiate-free life.
Buprenorphine was approved to treat opioid addiction in 2002. The medication blocks the effect of other opioids and eases withdrawal symptoms. It also lowers the danger of overdose and raises the likelihood a person will stay in treatment. In local treatment centers, patients can have access on their very first day. This is not the norm around the country. Many other treatment models focus on abstinence, emphasizing a commitment to staying clean, and either forbidding the use of medication altogether or mandating that it start much later in the treatment process.
Research has shown that buprenorphine and similar drugs reduce the risk of infectious disease transmission and criminal behavior associated with drug use, increase the likelihood that a person will remain in treatment, reduce the risk of HIV and HCV transmission, reduce criminal justice involvement, and increase the likelihood of employment following treatment.
Seattle Drug Defense Attorney
The success of these local programs demonstrates that drug addiction is most effectively treated as a public health issue, rather than a criminal justice problem. However, many arrests are still made every year and the serious consequences that a drug conviction brings can be life-altering. Former King County prosecutor Steve Karimi has an in-depth understanding of criminal law, and he will work effectively to reduce the charges against you or get them dropped altogether. Call his office at 206-621-8777 or contact us online today to get started.
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