Drug Treatment

Drug law enforcement efforts receive ample funding each year while drug treatment options remain shamefully underfunded. Many people who seek help for their problematic drug use are unable to access treatment, encountering insurance barriers, months-long wait lists, or programs that don't meet their needs. Far too many people are only able to access drug treatment as a result of an arrest or criminal conviction.

Our Priorities

A sad consequence of the drug war's neglect of drug treatment programs is that many people who want help are unable to access it, and those who do are often limited to an abstinence-only, 12-step model that works for some, but not everyone. 
Most of these treatment modalities fail to address the legal, financial, vocational, custodial, and psychosocial dimensions of life often adversely affected by problematic drug use, leaving the person seeking treatment empty-handed when it comes to addressing these issues.

Funding and research
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) advocates for increased federal and state funding for drug treatment and research than can help determine which treatment models are the safest and most effective. We believe that judgment-free, individualized treatment should be available to people at all stages of the recovery spectrum. 

Replacement therapies
We advocate for well-researched, proven treatment strategies, such as methadone and buprenorphine, and for prescription heroin assisted treatment and other treatment models that have been successful abroad but are not yet permitted in the United States. 

Treatment instead of incarceration
DPA favors alternatives to incarceration for people with drug convictions and has supported several treatment-instead-of-incarceration ballot initiatives. No one should have to have an arrest or criminal record in order to get the health care they want. 

We believe strongly that treatment is a health service and are committed to protecting drug treatment from being co-opted by the criminal justice system. Further, we believe that no one should be convicted of a crime for what they put into their bodies, absent harm to others.

While providing treatment to those who seek help is an essential aspect of smart, effective drug policy, mandating treatment for anyone caught using or possessing any illicit drug is counterproductive. We believe that distinguishing between problematic and non-problematic drug use is extremely important, and no one should be forced into drug treatment if they do not need or want drug treatment.

Let's Quit Abusing Drug Users: A TEDMED Talk by Dr. Carl Hart

Carl Hart, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University, offers a provocative, evidence-based view of addiction and discusses how it should impact drug policy.

Tuesday: Maryland House of Delegates to Hold Groundbreaking Hearings on Two Harm Reduction Bills

One Bill Creates a Safe and Supervised Space for People to Use Drugs; The Other Would Establish a Pilot Program to Treat Opioid Dependence with Poly-Morphone Therapy

Proposals are Part of Groundbreaking Package of Harm Reduction Drug Policy Bills That Would Also Decriminalize Small Amounts of All Drugs and Provide Treatment-at-Need in ER’s and Hospitals

Tuesday at 1pm, the Maryland House of Delegates will hold legislative hearings on two progressive legislative proposals aimed at treating drug use as a health issue. House Bill 1212 permits the establishment of safe consumption programs, which allow individuals to consume controlled substances in a safe space, provide sterile equipment, and connect patients to treatment, medical care, and other social services.


Delegate Dan Morhaim, 410-841-3054
Lindsay LaSalle, 510-679-2315
Tony Newman, 646-335-5384

Vermont Governor Calls for Legalizing Marijuana in State of the State Address

Gov. Shumlin Declares Drug War a Failure and Calls for Expanded Overdose Prevention and Treatment Access

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin called on lawmakers to pass legislation legalizing and regulating marijuana in his final State of the State address today. He also declared the drug war a failure and expressed desire to continue emphasizing a health-based approach to drug policy by expanding treatment and overdose prevention programs, as well as by removing the stigma associated with drug use and addiction.


Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Bill Piper 202-669-6430

Illinois House Overrides Governor's Veto of the Heroin Crisis Bill in a Step toward Rebuilding Illinois' Failed System

Springfield, IL- In a vote of 105-5, the Illinois House of Representatives voted to override Governor Rauner’s amendatory veto of HB1, the Heroin Crisis Bill, which was filed in response to the growing problem of opioid overdose and addiction in Illinois. The bill had previously passed unanimously in the Illinois House and nearly unanimously in the Illinois Senate.


Kathie Kane Willis: (312) 341-4336
Tommy McDonald: (510) 338-8827

Harm Reduction and Human Rights: Strategies on Expanding Harm Reduction Through Human Rights

May 20, 2015

Watch the recording now!

Harm reduction services and syringe exchange are more than just a prevention strategy. Access to these vital services enables HIV testing, linkage to care and other critical health/social services, as well as affirming the human rights and dignity of people who use drugs.

White House Opiate Overdose Program Announced Today is One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Advocates: Public Health Goals Are Positive, But Overreliance on Law Enforcement Destined to Fail

Obama Administration Urged to Take More Meaningful Steps to Treat Drug Use as a Health Issue

Washington, D.C. – The Obama Administration announced a new program today to fund “public health-public safety partnerships” to address the heroin and prescription opioid crisis.  The new program would hire 15 drug intelligence officers and 15 health policy analysts to work within High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) programs.  The drug intelligence officers are expected to gather information on trafficking patterns and trends for street-level law enforcement.


Tony Newman 646-335-5384
Bill Piper 202-683-2985

Bill to Encourage Medication Assisted Treatment Like Methadone and Buprenorphine for Drug Court Participants Passes the New York State Senate

Advocates Urge the Governor to Sign the Bill and Embrace Evidence-based, Public Health Approaches to Addressing Opioid Use and Overdose

Albany —  Yesterday, the New York State Senate passed legislation supporting the use of medication assisted treatment in drug courts. The bill -- S.4239-B (Murphy) /A.6255-B (Rosenthal) -- passed the Assembly with overwhelming support last month.


Kassandra Frederique (646) 209-0374
Matt Curtis 646-234-9062

Testimony of Ethan Nadelmann in Support of a Heroin-assisted Treatment Pilot Program in Nevada

April 7, 2015

On April 7, 2015, Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, presented oral testimony in support of sections 11-20 of SB275 at a hearing of the Nevada State Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee. Nadelmann also submitted complementary written testimony. SB275 would create a four-year heroin-assisted treatment pilot program—the first in the United States. Heroin-assisted treatment is a feasible, effective, and cost-saving strategy for reducing drug use and drug-related harm among long-term heroin users for whom other treatment programs have failed.

TODAY: Nevada State Senate to Hold the First-ever Legislative Hearing in the U.S. on Heroin-assisted Treatment

International Experts to Testify on Incontrovertible Scientific Evidence Demonstrating Heroin-assisted Treatment is a Feasible, Proven, and Cost-Effective Intervention

Today, the Nevada State Senate will hold the first-ever legislative hearing on heroin-assisted treatment. Senate Bill 275, which would establish a four-year pilot program, will be heard in the Revenue and Economic Development Committee at 3:30 p.m. today.

Heroin-assisted treatment, also known as heroin maintenance, is an effective, and cost-saving strategy for reducing drug use and drug-related harm among long-term heroin users for whom other treatment programs, like residential rehabilitation or methadone, have failed.


Lindsay LaSalle 510-847-8064
Tommy McDonald 510-338-8827

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