Ledger

Our Research


Background—the emerging science of addiction genetics may provide important, new insight into what are clearly profound and apparently intractable problems of drug addiction and drug-related offenses, and the need to vastly improve drug treatment. However, the pressure to make substantive progress in addressing drug use disorders may contribute towards the misinterpretation and misuse of drug addiction genetic scientific findings and information. In order to guard against the temptation to oversimplify the complex etiologies of drug addiction for criminal justice purposes, it is critical that the ethical, legal and social implications of the use of drug addiction genetic information in criminal justice settings be carefully examined.

Project Aims—over the project period between 2007-2011, members of the project team will be engaged in activities that are grouped under 4 specific aims. These are—

Specific Aim 1: Assess the current state of law and ethics pertaining to illicit drug addiction screening, testing and treatment, and evaluate the prospects for the use of drug addiction genetic information in criminal justice settings

  • We will employ traditional legal research and analytical methods in this activity. Data on federal and state laws related to the use of individuals’ drug addiction information for criminal justice purposes will be obtained from (i) statutory law (i.e., the official compilation of the laws that have been enacted by each of the states and by the federal government through their legislative bodies); (ii) regulations (administrative laws or rules promulgated by each of the states and by the federal government through their regulatory authorities or agencies); and, (iii) case law (legal cases decided by through state and federal courts that are published in the official legal reporters, starting with relevant cases decided at the highest appellate level). Collected data and analyses will be compiled into a publicly accessible database

Specific Aim 2: Measure current knowledge and information needs among criminal justice professionals regarding drug addiction science, including genetics

  • This study will involve the use of focus groups and a survey of criminal justice professionals whom we expect to have significant interests in developments related to drug addiction genetics. The sample will include drug court judges, probation and parole officials, correctional officials, and correctional health officials. These criminal justice professionals are vested with the legal authority for making a wide range of discretionary decisions about sanctions, drug use testing and drug abuse treatment to which offenders are subject, including when and which offenders are tested for drug use; the type of drug abuse treatment to which offenders are provided access; to whom and for what purpose information about offenders’ drug addiction is disclosed; and determining by what criteria offenders are deemed drug abusers or drug addicted for criminal justice programming. In making these determinations, drug addiction genetic information may become yet another source relied upon by these criminal justice professionals

Specific Aim 3: Convene and host a special advisory panel and stakeholder conference to present, review and discuss points to consider regarding the ethical, legal and social implications of the use of drug addiction genetic information in criminal justice settings

  • In Year 3 of the project we will host a conference to disseminate our study findings to both public and professional audiences. Members of the project team will present research findings and other scientific data obtained through the studies conducted under Aims 1 and 2. Experts outside the project will be invited to present scientific data from their own activities. The conference will provide stakeholders with the opportunity to discuss ethical, legal and social issues that drug addiction genetics will pose

Specific Aim 4: Develop, disseminate and evaluate educational, resource and reference materials regarding the use of drug addiction genetic information in criminal justice settings

  • Here we will develop an array of online materials pertaining to drug addiction genetics and the use of drug addiction genetic information within the criminal justice context. These include a legal database, conference proceedings, educational modules and reference guides. These will be made available to drug addiction and/or genetic researchers, review boards, drug addiction treatment professionals, court and criminal justice officials, and others with similar interests

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.