The Effectiveness of Substance Abuse Treatment with Young Offenders

6. Conclusion

6. Conclusion

Clearly, as noted throughout this document, although much research has been conducted on substance abuse and crime in general, much less has been aimed at exploring effective treatment strategies withyoung offenders. Despite these concerns, the available literature certainly suggests that some programs are effective when delivered under certain conditions (Anglin & Hser, 1990; Hiller et al., 1999a; Lurigio, 2000; Sealock et al., 1997). However, it is evident that practitioners can incorporate several strategies into their program delivery protocol that will enhance the therapeutic potential of the intervention. To end this report, a summary checklist of issues that should be consideredby program administrators when developing adolescent substance abuse treatment programs is provided based on the most robust findings reviewed in the literature to date.

6.1 Checklist for delivering effective substance abuse treatment to young offenders

6.1.1 Client characteristics

  • ensure high-risk individuals receive the most intensive treatment services;
  • ensure program content and delivery style take into consideration the demographics of the treatment group including age, race/ethnicity, and gender;
  • assess the potential psychopathology of program clients and address this before, or at the very least, during treatment;
  • assess client motivation and develop strategies to minimize the probability of program attrition through linking clear and observable rewards and punishments to program participation; and,
  • identify and target substance abuse problems for intervention as early as possible.

6.1.2 Program development

  • target multiple need areas within the treatment strategy including family relationship (e.g., affection, communication) and structural (e.g., monitoring and supervision practices of the parents) variables, academic and vocational performance, and antisocial peer group involvement;
  • deliver programs as much as possible within community settings to ensure maximum skill transfer - if residential treatment is the only available option, ensure that aftercare and advocacy/brokerage services are used to buffer the effects of treatment;
  • deliver programs in financially supported correctional settings with low staff turnover and an atmosphere supportive of rehabilitation;
  • identify and target protective or strength factors;
  • provide program services for an extended period to ensure penetration of program content;
  • incorporate elements of relapse prevention into the treatment protocol;
  • match clients to appropriate programs; and,
  • ensure a systematic and targeted treatment protocol is also developed to address concerns surrounding HIV/AIDS.

6.1.3 Program Integrity

  • ensure the program is based on a specific, theoretical model;
  • train workers in program delivery and provide trained supervision;
  • develop printed program materials describing program goals and content;
  • monitor staff performance; and,
  • select staff on key interpersonal or skill factors.

6.1.4 Program evaluation

  • use a classical experimental design with random assignment to conditions (e.g., treatment versus comparison groups) to evaluate the program on a regular basis;
  • assess program effectiveness across several target areas including reductions in delinquency, primary drug use, and familial, academic, and peer-related problems; and,
  • conduct process evaluations more frequently in order to capture the how and what of program delivery.
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