Drug courts are promoted as a more humane alternative to incarceration for people who use drugs in the United States. But in our recent study, we found judges in New York were ordering patients to stop treatment with methadone or buprenorphine as a condition of participation in, or graduation from the drug court. This practice is unjust, ungrounded in medical evidence, and bad for patients and the public.

Methadone and buprenorphine are medicines prescribed to reduce cravings for and injection of heroin and other opioids. Medical evidence on opioid dependency shows that relapse to opioid use is generally the rule, rather than the exception, when people who are dependent on opioids stop taking them. This is especially true when they stop abruptly.

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