Court personnel attitudes towards medication-assisted treatment: A state-wide survey

Barbara Andraka-Christou, Meghan Gabriel, Jody Madeira, Ross D. Silverman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Despite its efficacy, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is rarely available in the criminal justice system in the United States, including in problem-solving courts or diversionary settings. Previous studies have demonstrated criminal justice administrators' hostility towards MAT, especially in prisons and jails. Yet, few studies have examined attitudes among court personnel or compared beliefs among different types of personnel. Also, few studies have explored the relationship between MAT education/training and attitudes. Finally, few studies have directly compared attitudes towards methadone, oral buprenorphine, and extended-release naltrexone in the criminal justice system. Methods: We modified a survey by Matusow et al. (2013) to explore justice professionals' MAT attitudes, including associations with demographic variables, court role, and previous MAT education/training. After piloting the survey, we distributed it to a convenience sample of justice professionals registered for an educational summit held in Indiana in 2018. Data was analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistical methods. Results: 231 Indiana court employees who had registered for a state MAT educational summit completed the survey prior to the summit, including judges, probation officers, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, probation officers, program directors, counselors, and case managers. Overall, participants had significantly more positive attitudes towards extended-release naltrexone than towards other medications (p value <0.01). Court employee average attitudes towards methadone were significantly more negative than average attitudes towards oral buprenorphine; and average attitudes towards oral buprenorphine were significantly more negative than average attitudes towards extended-release naltrexone (p value <0.01). Employment as a prosecutor or law enforcement officer was associated with more negative attitudes towards oral buprenorphine and methadone (p value <0.05). Exposure to previous MAT training was associated with more positive attitudes for all medications (p value <0.05). Compared to participants with graduate degrees, participants with less education had significantly more negative attitudes towards extended-release naltrexone (p < 0.05). Gender, age, rurality, and personal/family recovery history were not associated with differences in attitudes. Conclusion: As expected, court employees' attitudes significantly differ by medication, with average attitudes towards agonist medications being more negative than attitudes towards extended-release naltrexone. Despite a larger evidence base for the efficacy of methadone and oral buprenorphine, justice personnel may have more positive attitudes towards extended-release naltrexone due to targeted marketing by the pharmaceutical manufacturer, fears about diversion or misuse of agonist medications, and historic criminal justice hostility towards agonist medications. Importantly, previous education/training regarding MAT is associated with more positive attitudes, suggesting that more awareness-raising or capacity building educational interventions are needed, especially for prosecutors and law enforcement personnel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-82
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitudes
  • Beliefs
  • Buprenorphine
  • Courts
  • Criminal justice
  • Education
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Medications for opioid use disorder
  • Methadone
  • Naltrexone
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Survey
  • Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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