Compulsory drug treatment to reduce recidivism — evidence summary

Summary of the evidence

Evidence of ineffectiveness

Compulsory drug treatment (including drug detention facilities, short (i.e. 21-day) and long-term (i.e. 6 months) inpatient treatment, community-based treatment, group-based outpatient treatment, and prison-based treatment) was found in a systematic review without meta-analysis (Werb et al., 2016, 9 studies, N=10 699) was found to have no effect on:

  • drug use or criminal recidivism over other approaches (78% of the studies)
  • two studies (22 %) detected negative impacts of compulsory treatment on criminal recidivism compared with control arms
  • only two studies (22 %) observed a significant impact of long-term compulsory patient treatment on criminal recidivism: one reported a small effect size on recidivism after two years, and one found a lower risk of drug use within one week of release from compulsory treatment


Note: this evidence summary is only valid for the outcomes, target groups, settings and substances/patterns of use described below.

Name of response option:
Compulsory drug treatment
Desired outcome(s):
reduce recidivism
Specific substance or pattern of use:
not-drug specific