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Substance Abuse

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Dr. Amy Janes, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, provides a general introduction to the brain networks affected by substance abuse disorders. The following questions are addressed:

  • What is addiction?
  • What is the reward circuit in the brain, and how is it affected by addiction?
  • What are the underlying brain mechanisms involved in tolerance, withdrawal, and the cycle of substance abuse?
  • How does the brain change with repeated substance abuse?


  • to understand how addiction is defined and how certain brain pathways are changed by substance use disorders
  • to understand how changes in the brain related to substance abuse can present challenges to treatment

To learn more about Dr. Janes, click here.

Additional Resources:

Chronic substance use and mental health disorders are common problems for individuals in the criminal justice system. Alone or together, and sometimes in conjunction with other risk factors, these disorders can drive behavior that results in violation of supervision conditions or even in new criminal conduct. To deal with these problems, probation and pretrial offices services offices in the nation’s 94 U.S. district courts maintain contracts with treatment providers. Sometimes these offices can also supplement contract services with community-based treatment.

But what does good treatment look like? How should treatment providers be evaluated? How can probation and pretrial services offices ensure that individuals on community supervision are receiving appropriate, high-quality care? What outcomes should be expected from treatment providers? And, finally, are there proven practices criminal justice professionals can use to improve treatment outcomes?

In this episode of Off Paper, Dr. Peter Luongo answers these questions and talks about his more than thirty years researching, making policy, and treating individuals with substance use and mental health disorders in the criminal justice system. Dr. Luongo, Executive Director of the Institute for Research, Education and Training in Addictions (IRETA), has been a trainer and clinical consultant for the federal courts since 2011. Prior to that he served under three governors as director of Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration. Dr. Luongo has served as a faculty associate at Johns Hopkins University, and, in 2015, he was nominated and elected a Class A Trustee of the General Services Board of Alcoholics Anonymous. Off Paper is hosted by Mark Sherman of the Federal Judicial Center.

In Print: Available for Distribution

The preliminary report of the Center's multiphase effort to document the effects of the Probation Division's aftercare program for drug-dependent federal offenders. The author reviews the operation of the program in a sample of ten probation districts. He describes the program's general approach; various characteristics of offenders in the program; services planned for and received by offenders; and adjustment experiences of offenders in aftercare, including resumed or continued drug use, new arrests and convictions, and technical violations.

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