A one-size fits all, lock-them-up approach to dealing with substance abuse in the courts did not make sense, the chief clerk at the country’s only drug treatment court has said.
Tom Ward, chief clerk of Dublin District Court, told an international conference in Killarney that there needed to be “a leap of faith” in the business community to give reformed addicts a chance.
The Drugs Treatment Court (DTC), set up on a pilot basis in 2001, had seen only 14% of referrals actually graduate from the 18-month treatment and education programme. However, levels of offending for those who passed through most of the three stages of the programme fell dramatically, a review of one group showed.
Mr Ward appealed against ostracising and labelling of drug-users who turned their lives around.
He wants to see the number of treatment courts, common in Canada, the US and Scandinavia, increase in Ireland.
Many of those accepted by the treatment centre have low levels of literacy.
“The school element is essential. It means they are fully engaged and their horizons are expanded,” said Mr Ward.
The 150 delegates at the European Cities Against Drugs mayors Conference, co-hosted by Killarney Town Council and Staffanstorp, Sweden, also heard how there was far too much “medicalisation of normality”.
Psychiatry had strayed into all areas of life. There was a reduction in tolerance of individual difference and even children’s development was being misinterpreted and “diagnosed,” said Allen Francis, formerly of Duke University in the US said.
Diagnoses of autism had reached the stage of epidemic in recent years, yet humans did not change that quickly. One study in Canada has shown that children who were youngest in the class, especially boys, were likely to be diagnosed as having attention deficit disorder (ADD) — when in fact they were just developing at their natural rate.
For people who were really ill there was too little help, Mr Francis said.
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