Participants’ views on the strengths and limitations of drug court: Recommendations to enhance assessment and treatment of mental illnesses

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Social Work in Mental Health

Publication Date


Date Added



Since 1989, drug courts have provided an alternative to incarceration for arrestees who have a substance use disorder. Previous research has suggested that participants who graduate from the program are less likely to recidivate than those who are terminated from the program. The majority of research on drug courts is quantitative; therefore, the benefits of qualitative methods are not fully seen in the literature. This qualitative study developed an in-depth understanding of participants’ (n = 42) views on the strengths and limitations of a Midwestern drug court. Two themes emerged from the data. First, participants felt that the drug court promoted camaraderie, which enhanced their motivation for change and supported them in graduating from the program. Second, participants felt that the drug court did not adequately treat their mental illnesses, which for some resulted in relapse and was perceived as a barrier to graduating from the program. Recommendations for drug court practice are discussed.




Social Work