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Defending Cameron Douglas and Addicts Everywhere

 

Cameron Douglas, the troubled son of Michael Douglas, is reaching out from behind bars to advocate for a different approach to the penalization of drug addicts. In his letter that the Huffington Post published, he decries the current legal approach of throwing addicts in prison for terms that are often longer than those received by violent criminals, and suggests that a more effective solution would include mandatory treatment instead of incarceration. The backlash surrounding this letter is surprising to a degree and utterly characterizes the misconceptions and stigmas that still surround the disease of addiction.

Cameron Douglas is a case that is all too commonly seen in today’s judicial system. In 2010, he was arrested by the DEA for possessing heroin and methamphetamine. He was later charged with possession as well as the intent to distribute, based on the amount of methamphetamine he was caught with. For this, he received a five year sentence. During the course of this sentence, he was caught using drugs in prison, which got him an additional 4 ½ years in prison. Although he appealed the additional sentence, the ruling was upheld. While in prison, he penned an essay that was recently published that addresses the unsuccessful methods that are being used to deal with addiction.

In Cameron Douglas’ letter, he addresses the issue of the lengthy prison terms that are doled out for nonviolent drug offenses. He begins by addressing the fact that prisons are “filled with non-violent drug offenders…” and goes on to point out how the current penal system “pays little…concern to the disease of addiction and instead punishes it more harshly than many violent crimes.” In this essay, he also focuses on the idea that imprisonment does “nothing but temporarily deter them from succumbing to their weakness” when used to deal with addiction. He goes on to note that the systemic approach of “lock the door and throw away the key” isn’t helpful, as the “effective remedy for relapse should be treatment….” He acknowledges the necessity for punishment as he says, “I’m not saying that I didn’t deserve to be punished, or that I’m worthy of special treatment” (Douglas). Cameron Douglas isn’t crying for the legalization of drugs, or removing punishment. He is simply echoing the growing sentiment that there has to be a better, more effective way of dealing with addiction than by throwing the same people in prison, time and time again.

While reading about this essay and Douglas’ experiences, I was taken aback by comments written by readers on some of the articles I researched. These comments include saying that he is a loser, and that the law didn’t force him to do drugs. Others see this explanatory letter as a complaint and a way to dodge responsibility, and condemn him for partaking in illegal activities, saying “he only has himself to blame…not the law” (Pizello). These harsh comments characterize the type of misconceptions and stigmas that are attached to addiction, but addiction is a disease. It is a crippling, progressive, and eventually fatal disease – so yes, while he did take that first drug, he didn’t choose to become an addict. It is because of this very nature of addiction that Douglas’ suggestions make perfect sense.

There are some who would say that Cameron Douglas isn’t a reputable source; because he is an addict, a convict, or both. In response to that, I would bring up the very court that upheld the sentencing of the additional 4 ½ years Douglas received. The court addressed the same issue by saying, “It may well be that the nation would be better served by a medical approach to… addiction than by a criminal-justice ‘war on drugs.’” The judge, Guido Calabresi, added on by saying, “The multiple costs of our imprisonment approach…impel me to express the hope that Congress may someday seek out a different way of dealing with this problem.” (Associated Press) The appeals court sees these situations all of the time, and even they are noticing the ineffectiveness of the current policies.

No one in this situation is saying that drug law violations shouldn’t be penalized. The nature of the punishment, however, is what needs to be changed. By imprisoning drug addicts for a long amount of time, we aren’t effectively changing anything or helping anyone. Addiction is a disease, and needs to be treated as such – with mandatory treatment, follow-ups, and probation in the case of non-violent criminal drug arrests. Long term imprisonment only costs us as a society – both monetarily and in terms of productivity and happiness. It is long past time that we find another, more effective solution to the drug problem. The option is there; all we have to do is make the switch.

 

Works Cited:

Associated Press. “Cameron Douglas pens drug policy essay from jail.” 11 June 2013. CBS News. Web. 12 June 2013.

Douglas, Cameron. “Words Behind Walls.” 11 June 2013. Huffington Post. Web. 12 June 2013.

Pizello, Chris. “Michael Douglas’ son Cameron pens drug policy from jail : ‘I seem to be trapped in a vicious cycle of relapse and repeat’.” 11 June 2013. New York Daily News. Web. 12 June 2013.

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Written by

A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Addiction, Alcohol and Drugs, Celebrity News, Substance Abuse · Tags: Cameron Douglas, Douglas, drug