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Is Drug Court Considered Treatment?

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LauraW has seen her adult daughter responding beautifully to a drug court team and is allowing herself to feel hopeful about some real change. She wonders, is mandated drug court enough, and can it be connsidered treatment? 

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"Hello. First I would like to say thank you for this wonderful resource. Your site has been a great help and comfort to me already.

My question is this: Is drug court considered treatment? My daughter is 34 years old and has been using illegal opioids for the past 12-13 years. She is currently on probation for the third time, having already served time in prison for drug-related crimes. She was recently sentenced to drug court for the first time and, from what I understand, will meet regularly with her counselor, probation officer, public defender and the judge. I’m hopeful that this team will be able to help her make some positive changes.

My daughter has been very co-operative and, dare I say, even enthusiastic about some of the opportunities this program offers.

I’m not sure whether I should still try to encourage her to get into a residential treatment program or just be content that she’s responding well to drug court."

Hi LauraW,

Wow! It sounds like your daughter has a renewed sense of determination to work on her substance use. That she is focused, and seems to have a positive attitude towards any programs or requirements that the courts expect her to fulfill, is very encouraging.

Consider adopting this stance

I would encourage you to 1) continue providing support for any/all of her attempts at compliance, while at the same time 2) give her some space to still struggle and learn what is going to work for her. This can help direct her and help her acquire a strong foundation in her recovery.

Is drug court considered treatment?

To answer your question, “Is drug court treatment?”, no it does not replace actual treatment. But drug court can provide invaluable encouragement, incentives and motivation to support her towards a better life path. It provides her a structure where she has to meet with counselors, her probation officer, the public defender and the judge — which can keep her working on accountability and encourage her to carefully consider future decisions.

If the courts are giving her incentives to work towards, that will be rewarding to her in the end — it's just more motivation for her to improve her situation. It's important, though, for everyone involved to allow her the space to struggle through. This recovery stuff is hard, and people are not perfect!

Stay on the lookout for "wishes" and "dips" — an incredible CRAFT tool

One thing you could do is to practice being alert: listen to her neutrally and be aware of any wishes or dips that she may express.

If you are in need of a refresher on wishes and dips, head back to the videos and exercises in Module 4 on communication (I would highly recommend watching all the videos and doing the exercises over again in Module 4 to refresh and practice; also, see the topic tag: wishes & dips).

Now (while she's got some momentum of her own) is the time to really hone those communication skills and add in rewarding positive behavior (Module 5). Be on the lookout for any hints that she may need a higher level of care — that would be a moment to suggest residential treatment or an intensive outpatient program.

Research a few options for her and suggest she give it some thought. This might sound like:

Daughter: “I'm really struggling with depression. I wish I could get beyond this and do something with my life.”

Mom: “This sounds like it's a very difficult thing to go through. I really appreciate you sharing this with me. Would it be okay if I shared a few of my thoughts with you?”

Daughter: “I guess.”

Mom: “Well, there is always residential treatment. That might give you a chance to take a break, finding a way to balance out your feelings. You could also consider an outpatient program. I've heard there are different types of programs and options, and this could get you connected to others who understand your situation.

What about a recovery house where they have a whole bunch of  services built in? It’s kind of like a one stop shop. They can support your mental health, get you connected to a recovery community center with life coaches, and give you a break to focus on just you. What do you think? Would either of these options work for you?”

Daughter: “I don’t know. I'll have to think about it.”

Mom: “Sounds good. If you need anything or want to try any of these, let me know. I love you and want to support of your efforts. I've written down the names of a few places that take our insurance. Here's the list.”

Also, if there's a stumble on her part, let her know that the judge typically will give her another chance if she does attend a higher level of treatment. Her lawyer should be able to advise her on this. But this is something you could mention to her, so that she could discuss it further with the public defender.

I hope this is helpful and I am so happy to hear that your daughter has shown the desire to move in a positive direction. Many times, that itself is half the battle. I wish you luck and hope you'll stay in touch. Please reach out with any questions we might help with and keep us updated on progress.

All the best,




In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)

  1. Hello again everyone,

    My daughter continues her journey with drug court and a methadone treatment program. Last week, her counselor suggested residential treatment and for the first time, my daughter is receptive to the idea.
    She is 34 years old, so not on my insurance plan. I cannot afford to pay out of pocket, but she has medicaid through the state of AZ ( it’s called AHCCCS or “Access” here). She’s on her own as far as finding a facility that’s covered by her plan. She was given a short list of resources , but it wasn’t very helpful — many of the places listed are only for men.
    Do you have any pointers for finding a complete list of residential treatment options covered by medicaid? I’ve done a lot of searching online, but have only come up with a few phone numbers for my daughter. While I know this is ultimately her responsibility, I want to be supportive.

    Thank you in advance for any ideas you can share.

    Laura W

  2. Hello again Laurie and everyone. I thought I would add an update.

    I’ve been making a conscious effort to allow my daughter to figure out what will work for her recovery. She continues to be cooperative with her probation officer, and she’s participating regularly with counseling. She likes to cook, so I’ve been rewarding her with little gift cards for the grocery store, and she really likes that.

    I’m listening for wishes and dips, and they’re getting easier to recognize.

    Last night, while visiting, my daughter told me that she’s decided to go with a methadone treatment program. Her probation officer is all for it, even set up the intake appointment, and has been very positive and encouraging. The only problem right now is that my daughter’s boyfriend is also an opiate user, and is not seeking recovery, so the P.O. strongly advised my daughter to move out.

    She’s asked to move back home with me and my husband (her Dad). I tried to remember what I’ve been reading about responding rather than reacting impulsively. I told her that she would be welcome, but I would like to wait until she’s fully signed up/ actively committed to the methadone treatment.
    I can’t help wondering if I said the right thing.

    I’ve been looking for info here on the AIR site to get a good idea of how methadone works, what are the success rates among fentanyl users, etc.
    I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic. Any and all feedback is most welcome.

    Thank you again for this excellent resource,
    Laura W

    1. Thank you for writing in again, LauraW. Congratulations to you and your husband for all of your good work! So glad you’ve been so active on the site and with CRAFT.

      Your daughter decided on her own to start a methadone program. Her probation officer is very encouraging of this decision.

      Methadone is the heavy lifter among medications for opioid use (see the Medication Assisted Treatment tag —MAT is now called Medication for Opioid Use Disorder or MOUD).

      Methadone is the heavy lifter among medications for opioid use; it’s an active opioid that eliminates the urge and stops painful opioid withdrawals. The “success” of methadone, in terms of reducing/stopping use and preventing overdose, is well established. Clients commit less crime and are more likely to work. Methadone is a very old medication in the arsenal. As for its success with Fentanyl users, the prescriber can continually increase the dose, until your daughter is comfortable and no longer craving even these very strong opioids…..

      Read my full response to LauraW here:

  3. Hi Laurie,
    Thank you so much for addressing my concerns in this article. Your answer definitely gave me some much needed clarity.

    My husband and I have made a conscious effort to use more positive communication with our daughter in the past several months. I truly believe that this has contributed to her compliance & co-operative attitude toward drug court.

    What I really need to work on is giving her that “space to struggle through”. I’ve just recently read and learned about the difference between reacting and responding. What a huge, eye-opening lesson for me– and it ties in nicely with your advice about giving space.

    I’ve noticed that when I react too quickly, I tend to make my daughter’s problems my own.
    Conversely, when I take the time to step back and respond more thoughtfully, our interactions are more positive.
    I’m more at peace when I acknowledge her in a way that allows her that space to struggle and grow. I just have to practice so that “responding” becomes my default, rather than “reacting”.

    This is hard stuff. I’ll take all the encouragement I can get–and your reply gave me both encouragement and hope.

    I took your advice and re-watched the videos for Modules 4 & 5. I’ll continue to work on my communication and listening skills, and be on the lookout for “wishes and dips”–a whole new concept for me. My next step will be to make a list of rewards.

    Thank you, again. I will definitely keep in touch!