Evidence-based Treatment Courts Continue to Expand and Save Lives, serving over 120,000 People in 2014

August 1, 2016 -- The drug court movement continues to expand throughout the United States, with 3,057 courts now operating in the United States, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) announced. This marks a 24 percent increase in the number of drug courts in the last five years.

A new report released today by NADCP details the expansion of drug courts and other treatment court models, including DWI courts and veterans treatment courts, as well as the latest research. The full report, “Painting the Current Picture: A National Report on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Courts in the United States,” is available here.


Marijuana Use Across the Nation

Marijuana continues to rank first among the most used illicit drugs in the United States. According to SAMHSA's 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) (PDF–3.4 MB), marijuana use was most prevalent among people age 18 to 25. Among youth, heavy cannabis use is associated with cognitive problems and increased risk of mental illness.


Orange community talks heroin epidemic


Drug Courts

Drug courts are specialized court docket programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems. Although drug courts vary in target populations and resources, programs are generally managed by a multidisciplinary team including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, community corrections, social workers and treatment service professionals. Support from stakeholders representing law enforcement, the family and the community is encouraged through participation in hearings, programming and events like graduation.

Adult drug courts employ a program designed to reduce drug use relapse and criminal recidivism among defendants and offenders through risk and needs assessment, judicial interaction, monitoring and supervision, graduated sanctions and incentives, treatment and various rehabilitation services. Juvenile drug courts apply a similar program model that is tailored to the needs of juvenile offenders. These programs provide youth and their families with counseling, education and other services to: promote immediate intervention, treatment and structure; improve level of functioning; address problems that may contribute to drug use; build skills that increase their ability to lead drug- and crime-free lives; strengthen the family’s capacity to offer structure and guidance; and promote accountability for all involved.

Family drug courts emphasize treatment for parents with substance use disorders to aid in the reunification and stabilization of families affected by parental drug use. These programs apply the adult drug court model to cases entering the child welfare system that include allegations of child abuse or neglect in which substance abuse is identified as a contributing factor. Program goals include helping the parent to become emotionally, financially and personally self-sufficient; promoting the development of parenting and coping skills adequate for serving as an effective parent on a day-to-day basis; and providing services to their children.

Other types of drug courts have emerged to address issues specific to unique populations, including tribal, driving while intoxicated (DWI), campus, reentry, veterans and mental health courts.



NESARC–III: Adults Are Drinking More Alcohol Than a Decade Ago

2002: 65.4% Past-Year Drinking, 21.5% Monthly Binge Drinking. 2013: 72.7% Past-Year Drinking, 25.8% Monthly Binge Drinking.


Adults drank more alcohol in 2012–2013 than they did in 2001–2002, according to the most recent National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). NESARC–III is a cross-sectional survey sponsored, designed, and directed by NIAAA and is the largest study ever conducted on the co-occurrence of alcohol use, drug use, and related psychiatric conditions.

To assess how drinking patterns have changed over time, researchers compared the NESARC–III data with that from Wave 1 NESARC. In both surveys, which had similar objectives and content areas, researchers assessed a large sample of U.S. adults through personal interviews conducted in participants’ homes. However, unlike Wave 1 NESARC, NESARC–III researchers collected saliva samples from participants for future DNA analyses.

Data analysis revealed that between 2001–2002 and 2012–2013, past-year drinking prevalence increased from 65.4 percent to 72.7 percent, and the prevalence of monthly binge drinking increased from 21.5 percent to 25.8 percent. Likewise, overall frequency of drinking increased from 83.5 days per year to 87.9 days per year. The authors of the study observed that these statistics, along with the increase in daily alcohol consumption (from 0.628 ounces to 0.751 ounces), indicate “a wetter drinking climate.”

One particularly striking finding was that African Americans experienced disproportionate increases in past-year drinking prevalence (from 53.2 percent to 66.1 percent) and past-month binge drinking prevalence (from 19 percent to 27.7 percent), as well as average daily volume (from 0.751 ounces to 1.033 ounces), compared with Caucasians. The authors suggest this may indicate disparities in treatment availability and/or treatment seeking.

Another notable finding was that percent increases in prevalence and overall drinking frequency were about twice as high for women as for men, prior to adjustment for sociodemographic differences. Adjusting for these differences, women demonstrated larger increases than men in all consumption measures. According to the authors, this finding may contribute to evidence of a closing gender gap in heavy drinking.

Looking ahead, scientists will continue to analyze the various waves of NESARC data to advance our understanding of drinking trends through comparison of survey results over time.


Dawson, D.A.; Goldstein, R.B.; Saha, T.D.; and Grant, B.F. Changes in alcohol consumption: United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 148:56–61, 2015. PMID: 25620731