A history of substance abuse is also quite common among the populations seen by paroling authorities, but the reasons for substance abuse disorders, their severity, their relationship to criminal activities, and potential strategies for addressing them are quite varied.

Understanding Models of Addiction

Defining Screening and Assessment

Screening is a process for evaluating the possible presence of a particular problem.

Assessment is a process for defining the nature of that problem, determining a diagnosis, and developing specific treatment recommendations for addressing the problem.

Throughout much of the last century, scientists studying both mental illness and drug abuse labored in the shadows of powerful myths and misconceptions about the nature of mental illness and addiction. When science began to study addictive behavior in the 1930s, people addicted to drugs were thought to be morally flawed and lacking in willpower.  Those views shaped society's responses to drug abuse, treating it as a moral failing rather than a health problem, which led to an emphasis on punitive rather than preventative and therapeutic actions (National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 2006).  This is what can be called the "moral model" of addiction.  Science has since conducted enough research on substance abuse to understand that it has complex biological, psychological, and social aspects and is, as the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) concludes, a brain disease that affects behavior.  NIDA's publication on the Principles of Drug Abuse Treatment for Criminal Justice Populations provides the following characterization of addiction as (NIDA, 2006):

It is fair to say, then, that the scientific and public policy community have moved past the moral model of addiction, to an understanding that there are biological, psychological, and social dimensions to addiction, all of which should  be addressed in treatment and management strategies. 

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of Mental Illnesses

The Effectiveness of
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