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March 29, 1965

The Addict and the Law

JAMA. 1965;191(13):1088. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03080130048026

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In 1925, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision which recognized the view that narcotic addiction is a disease and that physicians can give an addict moderate amounts to relieve withdrawal distress. This decision has been little proclaimed and is, even today, little appreciated by physicians. On the basis of earlier decisions, however, physicians have been frightened out of the treatment of addicts. As a result, addicts have been treated as criminals— often they have had to become criminals in order to obtain drugs for their own use—and have been denied proper medical assistance in the treatment of their addiction. The history of addiction, therefore, has been an interesting one in the US—the view that addiction is a crime always competing with the view that addiction is a disease.

The author, professor of sociology at Indiana University and a student and writer in the field of

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