Less than two weeks after a court ordered Julie Eldred to not use drugs while on probation, she tested positive for the powerful opioid fentanyl. The woman, who has severe substance use disorder, spent the next 10 days behind bars in Massachusetts until her lawyer could find a bed for her at a treatment facility.
In a case that could have big implications, Eldred is challenging the practice of requiring people with addiction to remain drug free as a condition of probation. The 29-year-old argues that by jailing people with substance use disorder for failing to stay clean, courts are unfairly punishing users for something beyond their control.
“For the person who suffers from substance use disorder, a court order to be drug free is effectively a court order to be in remission of one’s addiction,” her attorney, Lisa Newman-Polk, told Massachusetts’ highest court Monday.
Most addiction specialists — including groups such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and American Society of Addiction Medicine — view substance use disorder as a brain disease that interferes with a person’s ability to control their desire to use drugs.