Drug Testing on Arrest

There’s an oft used  saying – the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, but expecting different results. Well, when it comes to drug addiction and crime, that vicious cycle has been on repeat for far too long. But now, Essex Police have a new approach that’s actually making a positive difference.

Testing on Arrest: A Catalyst for Change?

Here’s how it works: if officers believe drugs played a role in an alleged crime, or if someone is arrested for acquisitive crimes like theft or burglary, that person gets tested for Class A drugs like cocaine, crack, and heroin. Since the program launched last April, a staggering 1,508 out of 2,764 tested detainees – over half – came back positive.

Rather than just locking them up again, these individuals are being referred to drug treatment specialists for assessment and support. Chief Superintendent Simon Anslow explains:

“Drug testing on arrest is helping people turn their lives around by providing them with the support they desperately need to beat their addiction. People who may not otherwise have accessed help are being given the opportunity to do so.”

Breaking the Chains of Addiction

And it’s not just about treating the substance abuse. These programs take a holistic approach, connecting people with services for housing, mental and physical health, domestic abuse support – anything they need to rebuild their lives.

One 52-year-old man, arrested for drug offenses, tested positive for cocaine and heroin. In addition to addiction treatment, he was also linked to a doctor for health concerns, mental health counseling, financial assistance, and social services. A 43-year-old shoplifter was not only referred for her cocaine use but also given resources for domestic abuse, parenting support, and her diagnosed personality disorder.

As Chief Supt. Anslow puts it: “Drug testing on arrest can help people out of the cycle of re-offending and into treatment. Often it can be a gateway to other support services which will help them improve their lives.”

An Ounce of Prevention

Of course, not everyone needs intensive rehabilitation. For some on the verge of problematic drug use, a little education and reality check can work wonders. Anslow says that teaching people about the harms of drug and alcohol misuse can have a good effect and stop them from continuing down a bad path.

A young woman in her twenties, who drug screened positive for cocaine after a public disturbance, got diagnosed with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder – something she’d never received support for before. Now she’s getting the specialised care she needs.

A Collaborative Approach

Essex Police are partnering with treatment providers across the county to make this possible, including Phoenix Futures, Inclusion Visions, and Forward Trust. Because here’s the thing – arresting people over and over doesn’t solve the root issue. But intervening with compassion, support, and a true desire to help people get their lives back on track? That’s how you break the cycle for good.

So kudos to Essex Police for having the guts to try something different. If just sharing a few success stories can inspire more programs like this elsewhere, that’s a big win against drugs and crime. Sometimes a little creativity and understanding is all it takes to turn someone’s life around.

Photo: “Arrested” by Anthony Cunningham for Zoom Testing

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

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