Drug Court: Should Treatment Be Denied?

March 25th, 2015 by Attorney Dan Carman

Imagine having your doctor prescribe a potentially life-saving treatment for you, but being unable to take advantage of it if you wish to stay out of jail. It has happened and continues to happen to thousands of Kentucky drug court defendants, despite scientific evidence that it can be harmful.

Courts v. Doctors

Do the courts have a right to interfere with the doctor/patient relationship and prohibit individuals from receiving competent medical care? One woman who doesn’t think so has filed suit against the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, claiming the court system’s Monitored Conditional Release program has wrongfully interfered with the right of individuals to be treated by Kentucky physicians.

The plaintiff, a nurse with an opiate addiction, has a pending criminal case in Floyd District Court involving her arrest for allegedly stealing drug remnants from a bio-hazardous disposal box. She is forbidden by the conditions of her bond from taking any medications that would be prescribed by her doctor to treat her addiction, such as Suboxone or Methadone.

She was told that if she took such drugs she was likely to have her bond revoked, which would result in incarceration.

Arguing that the ban is unconstitutional, the lawsuit alleges that the policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (which recognizes addiction as a disability), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

Options are Available

The state’s drug treatment system relies heavily on the concept of abstinence, believing that the most effective way to recover from a substance abuse disorder is abrupt and complete abandonment. On the other hand, the medical community and the Office for National Drug Control Policy recommend counseling along with a semi-synthetic opiate substitution treatment, which allows people to function without persistent cravings and reduces the risk of overdose. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that relapsing after a period of abstinence is highly dangerous because the person’s tolerance has been reduced and a dose that would not have been fatal previously can turn deadly.

Interestingly, drug court policy states that judges can use their discretion and allow the use of medically supervised detoxification or treatment for up to six months.

One Northern Kentucky drug court judge has been doing this somewhat successfully with the non-narcotic drug Vivitrol to help prescription painkiller and heroin addicts in his court stay clean.

While many judges consider Suboxone and Methadone to be legalized narcotics, Vivitrol may be the middle ground for those judges who want to help addicts through treatment but are opposed to synthetic opiate replacements.

If you are an addict awaiting trial or have questions about how the law might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, KY-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation. Call today at (859) 685-1055 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.