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The Case of Cameron Douglas: Prison Is Not Rehab, Say Addiction Experts

The box of Cameron Douglas could be an doubtful branch indicate in this country’s unconstrained fight on drugs. Douglas, a 33-year-old son of actor Michael Douglas who is now portion a five-year judgment for possessing and distributing drugs, was slammed in Dec with an additional 4.5-year tenure for possession of heroin and Suboxone, a drug used to yield opioid addiction, while imprisoned.

Although Douglas had not perceived any diagnosis for his heroin obsession during his incarceration, a sovereign district probity decider saw his continued drug use as defiance. Judge Richard Berman called Douglas, “continuously reckless, disruptive and noncompliant, notwithstanding [his] co-occurring addictions and mental health issues, that are no doubt serious.”

To anyone who understands addiction, that is mostly done some-more serious by mental health problems — and that can't be treated with punishment or seizure — a judge’s “notwithstanding” creates no sense. Addiction involves inability to respond to punishment: it is tangible medically as a compulsive use of a piece despite ongoing disastrous consequences. Since disastrous consequences and punishment are synonymous, if punishment marinated addiction, obsession wouldn’t start during all.

(MORE: DSM-5 Could Categorize 40% of College Students as Alcoholics)

Moreover, to serve incarcerate a drug-addicted invalid since of his addictive function is to omit his medical needs. That’s because a organisation of heading obsession experts has filed an amicus brief in support of Douglas’ interest of a sentence, anticipating to get a probity complement to commend this medical reality. The brief was sealed by a obsession medicine societies of New York and California, a American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry and 13 tip obsession experts, especially physicians.

Typically, inmates who are held with drugs in jail are penalized with a detriment of jail privileges, such as visits and phone calls, though those sanctions had not stopped Douglas from using, that hurt a judge.

The New York Times described a calm of a brief this way:

Their evidence is that Mr. Douglas, who began injecting heroin daily in his mid-20s, is a text instance “of someone pang from untreated opioid dependence” and that some-more jail time would do 0 to solve his underlying problems.

“My snub is as a medicine for someone who has a medical condition that has been ignored,” pronounced one of a brief’s signees, Dr. Robert Newman, a executive of a Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute during Beth Israel Medical Center. “What a decider has imposed has 0 advantages for a village and has towering consequences for society.”

Indeed, one of those consequences is exile spending on incarceration. It costs $28,000 a year usually to close adult a singular sovereign prisoner, so if Douglas’ additional judgment is upheld, his seizure alone will cost taxpayers an combined $126,000.

It’s formidable to establish precisely what suit of rapist probity spending goes to a bonds of those convicted of drug possession, possibly outward jail or behind bars, though given that 81% of all drug arrests are for elementary possession — accounting for some-more than 1.6 million arrests annually — a cost of prosecuting or incarcerating these cases could be in a billions.

To be clear, a brief does not brawl Douglas’ strange sentence, that he perceived for perplexing to mail 215 grams of methamphetamine to an informant. The experts who sealed a brief aren’t pulling for legalization of drug sales or observant that rapist traffic should go unpunished. Rather, they are arguing that it creates no medical or authorised clarity to judgment a chairman with untreated obsession to additional jail time for relapsing.

Ironically, if Douglas were to accept a best therapy accessible for opioid obsession — upkeep diagnosis — he would be given possibly methadone or Suboxone, a drug he was destitute for possessing in prison.

(MORE: Heroin Cheaper, More Effective than Methadone For Hard Cases: Study)

About 15% of American prisoners are dependant to heroin or other opioids, and some-more than 80% of these inmates go though treatment. Those who do get caring are not customarily offering maintenance, notwithstanding a fact that it has been found to be a many effective diagnosis for opioid addiction, in terms of shortening genocide rates and disease.

Perhaps Douglas’ impassioned box will expel a spotlight on a millions of obtuse cases of drug-war additional that start each day — quite to a system’s insistence on “treating” obsession with incarceration. The U.S. corrections complement seems to trust that if one sip of jail doesn’t do a trick, some-more is a answer. (Isn’t that a genius of a drug addict?) More is not better, however, possibly you’re an addict perplexing to solve your problems with another injection or an murderous decider perplexing to retaliate someone who is medically unqualified of responding to punishment appropriately. Evidence-based diagnosis is not usually cheaper, though distant some-more effective, even if it doesn’t yield a romantic compensation of punishment.

Maia Szalavitz is a health author for TIME.com. Find her on Twitter during @maiasz. You can also continue a contention on TIME Healthland‘s Facebook page and on Twitter during @TIMEHealthland.

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