What Is a Drug Court?

Question: What Is a Drug Court?


Drug courts are specialized courts which deal with drug-related offenses. Recognizing the need for treatment services rather than simply punishment for drug offenders, drug courts promote the community monitoring and treatment of people who commit drug-related crimes, rather than imprisoning them.

Drug courts are a fairer way of responding to the growing problem of drug use in our communities.

Because the courts recognize the need for treatment rather than punishment, people are given support when they need it most.

Drug courts are also a cost-effective way of responding to drug-related crime. Jail is more expensive than treatment, and much less effective in rehabilitating offenders. They also reduce costs to victims (and reduce the overall number of victims), and welfare costs after treatment is completed.

They also encourage people to complete treatment, as a requirement of the court. This can make being caught for a drug-related crime a positive incentive to turn your life around.


  • Drug courts provide an integrated approach of legal, healthcare and social systems.
  • Drug courts recognize that drug offenses are not simply crimes to be punished -– they are an indication of a complex set of problems affecting an individual, who needs help to become a law-abiding citizen.
  • Drug courts may offer help in terms of job skill training, family/group counseling, and many other life-skill enhancement services, as well as substance abuse treatment.
  • Drug courts provide a more effective way of managing drug-related offenses than regular courts.
  • Research has shown that drug courts substantially reduce crime by lowering re-arrest and conviction rates among drug court graduates well after program completion.


  • There are not enough drug courts. While currently around 2,000 drug courts are in the United States, there are 3,143 U.S. counties.
  • Drug courts vary according to local capacity.


National Association of Drug Court Professionals. “Facts on Drug Courts Accessed 19 Feb 2009.

National Drug Court Institute. “Drug Courts: A National Phenomenon.” Accessed 19 Feb 2009.

National Drug Court Institute. “Drug Court Benefits.” Accessed 19 Feb 2009.

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