« DC Circuit strikes down FCC rules placing caps on payphone rates in prisons | Main | Collateral Consequences Resource Center creates Compilation of Federal Collateral Consequences »

June 15, 2017

"Support Grows for Civil Commitment of Opioid Users"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable new Stateline article.  Here is how it gets started:

Amid an opioid addiction epidemic that is killing more than 90 Americans every day, there is a growing movement to make it easier for relatives and health care providers to quickly secure court orders to forcibly confine and treat people who are addicted to drugs.  Most states have civil commitment laws primarily designed to protect people with mental illness from themselves and others.  Many of the laws include drug addiction and alcoholism as a justification for temporary confinement, or at least don’t preclude it.

But in practice, most commitment laws have been ineffective when it comes to people who use heroin and other opioids, in part because some judges have been leery of taking away a person’s civil liberties for what society has long perceived as a moral failing.  Unlike people with severe mental illness, people who are addicted to drugs typically retain the mental capacity to take care of their basic needs, even though the chronic disease alters the brain, making the person eventually value drug use above all else.

New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington are considering new civil commitment laws specifically designed for opioid use.  Kentucky has gone back to the drawing board after failing to enact a commitment law for opioid addiction last year.

And in Massachusetts, the one state where civil commitment has been used extensively for opioid addiction, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker wants to make it even more common....

Historically, confining people against their will has been fraught with moral and legal ambiguities and haunted by reports of abuse.  But the parents of young adults who use opioids are pushing state lawmakers and governors to make intervention easier, even as physicians and state health officials search for ways to break the cycle of repeated overdoses.

Addiction professionals generally agree that civil commitment can save lives. But they argue that without effective treatment, confining people with an addiction may do more harm than good.  “People who use substances and have addictions still have civil rights,” said Dr. Alex Walley, director of an addiction medicine fellowship at Boston Medical Center.  “The real question is whether effective treatment is available, which in the case of opioids, is going to be medication. And it’s not OK to limit it to just one medicine,” Walley said.  Another concern is whether the state can ensure that continued treatment will be available once the person is released, he said.

June 15, 2017 at 03:05 PM | Permalink


May I crow now...

Civil commitment is a sham. I predicted this behavior by the state after they went after pedophiles with civil commitment. There is no rational endgame. We will "civilly commitment" anyone who is different.

"even though the chronic disease alters the brain, making the person eventually value drug use above all else."

Oh ha ha ha. Wait until you see what 30 years of estrogen and androgen blockers do to the brain. Watch out transsexuasls, you are next on the hit list.

Posted by: Daniel | Jun 15, 2017 3:15:47 PM

Thank the Supreme Court if you like 30,000 opioid overdose deaths a year.

Posted by: David Behar | Jun 15, 2017 5:12:30 PM

Do not save them when they overdose. If you want civil commitment then think about a warehouse with cows already in there.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jun 18, 2017 12:27:04 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB