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Uses of Coercion in Addiction Treatment: Clinical Aspects

Authors


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Department of Psychiatry, NYSPI, Substance Use Research Center, Unit 120, 1051 Riverside Dr, New York, NY, 10032. E-mail: sulliva@pi.cpmc.columbia.edu

Abstract

Coerced or involuntary treatment comprises an integral, often positive component of treatment for addictive disorders. By the same token, coercion in health care raises numerous ethical, clinical, legal, political, cultural, and philosophical issues. In order to apply coerced care effectively, health care professionals should appreciate the indications, methods, advantages, and liabilities associated with this important clinical modality. An expert panel, consisting of the Addiction Committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry, listed the issues to be considered by clinicians in considering coerced treatment. In undertaking this task, they searched the literature using Pubmed from 1985 to 2005 using the following search terms: addiction, alcohol, coercion, compulsory, involuntary, substance, and treatment. In addition, they utilized relevant literature from published reports. In the treatment of addictions, coercive techniques can be effective and may be warranted in some circumstances. Various dimensions of coercive treatment are reviewed, including interventions to initiate treatment; contingency contracting and urine testing in the context of psychotherapy; and pharmacological methods of coercion such as disulfiram, naltrexone, and the use of a cocaine vaccine. The philosophical, historical, and societal aspects of coerced treatment are considered.

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