Doctors and Michael Douglas' Son Hope to Help Addicts with Treatment, Not Prison

Cameron Douglas, the son of actor Michael Douglas, is currently serving five years in prison for drug distribution and heroin possession, and recently got four and a half more years for being caught with heroin and Suboxone (an opioid suppressor) behind bars. His case underscores what many doctors have been saying: that addicts should be treated with rehab, not prison. The New York Times:

And it was that sentence, believed to be one of the harshest ever handed down by a federal judge for drug possession for an incarcerated prisoner, that prompted about two dozen addiction doctors and groups to file a brief on behalf of Mr. Douglas, whose case is under review by a panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Their argument is that Mr. Douglas, who began injecting heroin daily in his mid-20s, is a textbook example “of someone suffering from untreated opioid dependence” and that more prison time would do nothing to solve his underlying problems.

“My outrage is as a physician for someone who has a medical condition which has been ignored,” said one of the brief’s signees, Dr. Robert Newman, the director of the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center. “What the judge has imposed has zero benefits for the community and has staggering consequences for society.”

The Drug Policy Alliance told the Times that the additional time handed down to Douglas was out of the ordinary and excessive, but also that the brief was meant to emphasize that prison time in lieu of treatment is an injustice to prisoner-addicts who need help. As Howard Josepher, a former addict who now runs a drug treatment center in New York put it, "The various powers that be view addiction as a disease, but they treat people who have this illness as criminals." 

Read the full piece here.

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at May 21, 2012, 8:36am

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