The courts offer probation to offenders in lieu of a prison term. Many offenders, sometimes called defendants, use drugs or prescriptions illegally. Substance abuse may have been the cause for their criminal behavior, even if they were not specifically granted probation for a drug offense. Probation departments usually monitor most defendants for substance abuse.
Most people who fail drug tests must start by attending a self-help group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous. These programs may assist offenders in remaining substance-free by providing accountability and support.
Some defendants cannot stay "clean," even with attendance at self-help groups. The probation officer will direct these offenders to attend a more structured outpatient treatment program. Classes usually meet in the evenings, from one to four nights a week, depending on the program and may last as long as 18 months. Probationers are responsible to pay program fees, which are based on an ability to pay.
Some offenders need residential or in-patient treatment programs, where they live for up to 18 months, depending on the facility.
The probation officer will mandate self-help groups, outpatient programs or residential treatment with increased substance abuse, depending on the offender's specific issues and history. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 to 60 percent of of substance abusers suffer at least one relapse. The addicted person may need to attend treatment several times to remain substance-free.
Random drug testing helps the probation officer know if the defendant is still using drugs. Sometimes the probation officer will perform the urinalysis test at the offender's monthly office visit, or rarely, in the defendant's home. On other occasions, the probation officer will send the offender to a drug-testing facility periodically. At these facilities, the probationer must provide identification. Sometimes, the offender must pay to take the test. In other cases, the offender is assigned a color and calls into the lab each morning to find out if his color is up that day. He may need to test every other day or once in three weeks, but the randomness of the testing monitors further substance abuse.