Should the Court System Interrupt the Addiction Treatment Process?

To answer this question, we’ll need to analyze a Massachusets case that perfectly shows the many differences between how doctors look at addiction and how the US laws regard it.

The medical community has been saying for years now that addiction is a health condition that’s not different from diabetes or heart disease. Therefore, drug rehab facilites nearby are oftentimes necessary to completely recover from that disorder.

However, courts don’t always have the same opinion on substance abuse. 

Court-Ordered Rehab: Julie Eldred’s Case

Julie Eldred is a young woman who was found positive for Fentanyl while she was under supervision for theft. According to the court, she later violated her probation because she failed a drug test, and that leads her to contest the court’s decision of punishing her stating that she shouldn’t be punished for having a relapse. 

More specifically, she pointed out that relapse is a symptom of her illness, and punishing her with jail time and court-ordered therapy was a violation of her rights. 

Layer speaks for her client in the court.

Attorney General Maura Haley shared her opinion, saying that for far too long, addiction hasn’t been considered a serious disease that should be treated with the right means. However, in the case at hand, her office also stated that, in a legal setting, it’s quite different. 

It’s not easy for judges to decide whether a failed drug test during probation should be punished with jail time or with additional court-ordered rehab, but, in this case, Eldred was moved from jail to inpatient treatment. This lead to several discussions on the matter.

Lisa Newman-Polk, Eldred’s attorney, pointed out that incarceration can threaten the recovery process, especially because it might make a person afraid to even talk about relapses and cravings if it meant they could be incarcerated for that.

However, Assistant Attorney General Maria Granik remarked that it couldn’t be proved that Eldred’s relapse was involuntary, and those drug addicts still have the ability to make choices on their own. 

Regardless of Granik’s opposite opinion, Newman-Polk argued that Eldred couldn’t choose to relapse, a statement that was later supported by the Columbia Law School Professor Kristen Underhill, who said that it’s not realistic to expect people to abstain from drugs as a condition of probation since people are now aware of how substance abuse affects the brain. 

The Reaction of Medical and Law Experts

Eldred’s case caught the attention of the medical community, such as The American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry and the Massachusetts Medical Society, but, despite their opinion, the attorney general’s office is supported by specialists who argue that addiction isn’t primarily a brain disease. 

According to the psychiatrist Sally Satel, even though addiction causes changes in the brain, experts are still not sure how much this condition affects a person’s self-control. From her experience in the clinic where she works, consequences are a great deterrent that might help addicts fall into relapses less easily. In cases like this, where probations are involved, the answer to the question “How to get someone into rehab against their will” would be to let them know there are severe consequences if they don’t. 

In fact, even among the people who believe addiction is a brain disease, there are some who think incarceration shouldn’t be eliminated as a punishment. The Harvard Medical School professor John Kelly specified that the opinions of Newman-Polk and of the Commonwealth aren’t completely accurate.

He shares Newman-Polk’s statement that it’s unethical to punish someone for showing symptoms. However, he also supports the attorney general’s office’s opinion that the severity of the addiction influences how successfully a person can avoid relapses. Kelly concludes that deterrents such as incarceration or additional rehab treatment, if correctly carried out can improve the chances of a successful recovery.

Court hall.

How to Get into Court-Ordered Rehab?

Court-ordered rehab is a different kind of sentencing that tries to treat addiction with several types of rehab instead that with incarceration. 

What happens in rehab? The main goal of court-ordered therapy is to help addicts recover with treatment programs that are actually going to help them get rid of their substance abuse disorder instead of sending them to prison. 

Keep in mind that this kind of rehab will only be issued by the court if:

  • The crime wasn’t violent.
  • The offense was a result of substance abuse.
  • The individual qualifies for probation.

If you’re wondering how to get court-ordered someone rehab, then the answer is to arrange for a screening investigation. Professionals are going to evaluate whether the offender is in control of his or her actions and if they’re suffering from health problems that are a result of substance abuse. If it turns out the person is in danger, then a hearing is scheduled, and a judge will then decide if the addict will get court-ordered therapy or jail time. 

If you wish to know more about the impact mandated treatments can have on the therapeutic process, the NCBI website can offer important information on the matter. 

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