Many Arizona DUI offenders have mental disorders

Posted by Craig Penrod | Mar 28, 2014 | 0 Comments

Most first-time driving under the influence (DUI) offenders in the state of Arizona and elsewhere have been found to have high rates of other substance abuse as well as other psychiatric disorders, according to a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

In Tempe, Phoenix or other communities in Maricopa County, it is important that you consult Arizona lawyers experienced in DUI and related offenses like those associated with the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod, P.C.

An arrest on a DUI charge can be a frightening situation that can result in severe consequences for your future, your job status, and your family. It is true that the stress of a DUI arrest can exacerbate an already existing mental health condition. Other charges could have been brought as a result of an existing mental health condition which you were unaware of. Either option requires close observation by a trained specialist.

A tricky defense

Mental health can be tricky in regards to developing a DUI defense as many aspects of the defense plan rely on the mental health of the accused prior to their arrest. According to a study by the Yale University School of Medicine, DUI offenders may require intervention programs that go a step further than conventional alcohol abuse treatment programs. "While other studies have examined symptoms of depression as a predictor of change during interventions for DUI offenders, ours is the first to examine formal diagnoses of drug use and other psychiatric problems," said Rebekka S. Palmer, corresponding author for the study.

Palmer said that the study found that 42 percent of first-time DUI offenders admitted to a lifetime history of drug abuse. "Marijuana abuse or dependence was the most prevalent, followed by hallucinogen abuse or dependence, and then cocaine abuse or dependence," she said. Also, approximately 30 percent of study participants revealed a history of anxiety or a mood disorder. "Social phobia was the most frequent anxiety diagnosis, and major depression was the most common mood disorder," Palmer reported.

Considering other disorders

Study researchers reported the 290 participants exhibited significant reductions in their drinking and alcohol-related problems. According to study co-author Mary E. Larimer, some subgroups were less responsive than others. "The programs we use to treat DUI offenders to help them stop using alcohol are less effective in the long run for those who have a psychiatric disorder or a drug-use disorder than they are for those who are only experiencing problems with their drinking," she said. "This means those who have another disorder in addition to their drinking problems are at greater risk to drive under the influence of alcohol again in the future, or to be involved in other accidents or harmful situations related to their drinking."

DUI treatment should be extended

The authors of the study suggested that current DUI treatment approaches could be modified, enhanced or extended to meet the needs of these subgroups. "For those with psychiatric disorders it may be that treatments need to be longer and more intensive, and/or have specific additional components designed to improve coping resources, teach skills for mood management to counteract the tendency to use alcohol as a way to cope with mood, and help these individuals improve their confidence that they can change," Larimer said.

The study results indicated that these individuals are actually more willing and ready to change than individuals without other psychiatric diagnoses. At the same time, the individuals with psychiatric diagnoses are uncertain how to make the necessary changes and their confidence levels in their ability to change is low.

Targeting relapse situations

The need to extend the aftercare components of treatment was indicated by the results of the study for individuals with other substance disorders. "Perhaps clinicians can target additional situations associated with relapse to other drugs that might not be covered in alcohol-focused treatment, and address the ways in which alcohol -- and other drug -- use are related for these individuals," Larimer said.

Larimer also suggested that individuals seeking treatment for multiple disorders should investigate the extent to which treatments address issues beyond these of alcohol. Individuals seeking treatment should also investigate the extent to which follow-up care is available and easily accessible to meet their needs. "Also, moving these programs into the prevention arena, to reduce rates of DUI prior to citation and conviction, is an urgent public health priority. This is not a simple problem and one-size-fits-all treatments are not likely to be the solution," Larimer added.

It is important that your legal situation should be handled by expert professionals with the experience possessed by the attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod, P.C. Our office offers free consultations for all DUI and criminal matters. Our Arizona DUI attorneys and Arizona criminal lawyers can provide you with the experience and knowledge needed for qualified representation. An experienced Arizona DUI lawyer is vital in DUI cases and our DUI attorneys set that standard. If you're in need of a criminal defense, our Arizona criminal attorneys are ready to assist you.

About the Author

Craig Penrod

Craig W. Penrod was born and raised in Arizona and has practiced criminal defense for over 30 years. Mr. Penrod is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, Maricopa County Bar Association, State of Nevada Bar Association, American Bar Association, American Trial Lawyers Association, Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, Nevada Trial Lawyers Association, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.


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