Drug Detox Should Become Mandatory, Says Israel's Anti-Drug Authority

Drug Detox Should Become Mandatory, Says Israel's Anti-Drug Authority

For several months, Israel's Anti-Drug Authority has been pushing for mandatory treatment to deal with the nation's estimated 20,000 drug addicts. Although the plan would require changes to federal law to become reality, the idea is that any addict who qualifies for treatment under the country's health insurance would be legally obligated to enter a drug treatment program, beginning with a two-week drug detox.

The plan could take one of two forms, says the Drug Authority's director General Haim Messing, either by threatening to suspend an addict's national health insurance unless he submits to drug detox, or enacting legislation allowing such addicts to be criminally prosecuted. "It may not sound pleasant, but our goal is that anyone who can get treatment will be obliged to get it," Messing told Haaretz Magazine. "Following our request, the National Insurance Institute agreed in principle to stop payments to single addicts who refuse treatment. As for married addicts, we're still looking into it." Messing said that he was also advancing a proposal to prosecute drug abusers who refuse treatment. "There's another obligatory way - to do it by legislation.

A drug addict who refuses detoxification will face criminal charges," Messing said. A related problem that would need to be handled is that existing Israeli laws do not define what a "drug addict" is. "The issue must be defined by law," Messing said.

The idea of prosecuting people who refuse treatment appears to be a radically ramped-up version of the drug courts system which has found so much success here in the U.S., as well as in Canada, the UK and elsewhere. Under U.S. drug courts, treatment is offered to addicts who are already in the criminal justice system, offenders who have been arrested for a non-violent crime. They are offered a chance to apply for drug court, and if accepted, and successfully complete a program typically involving some kind of drug detox and longer term drug rehab, the charges against them are dropped. They often receive help with housing, job placement and other forms of assistance as well.

Failure to complete the treatment program results in the charges against them being reinstated. Meanwhile, Israel's Anti-Drug Authority is planning to open a medical center in Tel Aviv to function as an emergency room for drug addicts. "We will no longer have a situation in which someone who wants treatment won't get it," Messing said. Addicts will be able to stay at the center for a two-week drug detox program, and then be sent for continued, longer-term treatment at rehabilitation centers or community drug rehab.

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