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Doctors Say Addicts Need Treatment, Not Jail

Addiction doctors use the case of Michael Douglas' son, Cameron, to argue for jailed addicts' rights.

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Cameron and his famous father, actor Michael
Douglas. Photo via

By Valerie Tejeda

05/21/12

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Addiction doctors are using the case of Michael Douglas' son, Cameron Douglas—who is currently serving a five-year federal sentence for heroin possession and distribution of drugs—to make the case that drug addiction should be handled with treatment instead of more prison time. After being caught with heroin and Suboxone behind bars, 33-year-old Douglas Jr. was sentenced to an additional four and a half years; this angered a group of doctors who argue that Douglas—who began doing drugs in his 20’s—is an example “of someone suffering from untreated opioid dependence,” and that an extended sentence will fail to address his issues. “My outrage is as a physician for someone who has a medical condition which has been ignored,” says Dr. Robert Newman of Beth Israel Medical Center. “What the judge has imposed has zero benefits for the community and has staggering consequences for society.” Douglas’s defense team filed an appeal earlier in May, profiling his teenage struggle with alcohol, which progressed to cocaine and heroin addiction. Douglas’s "star power" apparently contributed to his being smuggled many drugs in prison, providing an additional roadblock to his recovery. “A guy like this gets into prison, he’s got star power, so people inside actually they want to get close to him,” says Howard Josepher, who runs a New York-based drug treatment program. “And they do that by offering him drugs.” Josepher, a former addict and ex-convict, hopes that Douglas’s case can show what he refers to as a contradictory approach to addiction by the criminal justice system. “The various powers that be view addiction as a disease,” he argues. “But they treat people who have this illness as criminals.” 

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