Medicalizing the drug war

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10 Scopus citations


Recent findings in the field of psychopharmacology pertain to the abuse of drugs and alcohol among criminal offenders and have implications for new management techniques. Drugs of abuse exert their effects on areas of the brain responsible for pleasure, providing a powerful reinforcement for drug usage. Furthermore, there is a prevalence of psychological, psychiatric and social dysfunctions that antedate drug use which are identifiable at an early age. It is suggested that drugs of abuse differentially influence users via these biological, psychological and social mechanisms, reinforcing the development of serious and chronic abuse in a vulnerable subgroup. Studies of drug abuse specially indicate that within this subgroup, antisocial behavior precedes and exacerbates drug abuse, and multiple risk factors contribute to the concomitant development of criminality and drug abuse. Early detection and comprehensive treatment of underlying disorders that may both precipitate and result from drug abuse promise to improve possibilities for prevention and reducing relapse rates. Furthermore, the inclusion of pharmacologic treatments may further enhance the success of conventional drug treatments. This article proposes that incorporating scientific data and medicalizing our approach to drug abuse is essential to win the war against drugs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-344
Number of pages22
JournalBehavioral Sciences & the Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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