Massachusetts Medical Society: President's Message: Treatment vs Imprisonment of Individuals Suffering From SUD

President's Message: Treatment vs Imprisonment of Individuals Suffering From SUD

Dr. Maryanne C. Bombaugh, MMS President, on treatment vs imprisonment of individuals suffering from SUD

“The Massachusetts Medical Society intently followed and was disappointed in the outcome of Julie Eldred’s case. There is clear scientific and medical consensus that substance use disorder is a chronic brain disease, of which relapse is a symptom. Demanding a person who is addicted to drugs remain drug-free as a condition of probation defies this reality. “The Medical Society submitted an amicus brief to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court in support of Ms. Eldred, affirming its contention that relapse is a symptom of substance use. Further, the Medical Society supports House bill 1343 and Senate bill 937, An Act Relative to Treatment, Not Imprisonment.”

“Relapse is not a choice nor a referendum on the character of the patient suffering from disease, and is, unfortunately, common and often recurring in patients undergoing medically appropriate treatment toward recovery and abstinence.

“The antiquated idea that an individual struggling with substance use order and who has encountered legal issues must remain drug-free as a condition of avoiding incarceration is a cruel form of punishment. In fact, evidence shows that a disruption of medically appropriate treatment increases the likelihood of relapse. In the case of Ms. Eldred and others like her, a more humane alternative to incarceration would have been continuation of evidence-based treatment of her disease, including medication-assisted treatment, if appropriate.

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