THE APPEAL, JUNE 11, 2021
But COVID-19 has not been the nation’s only public health disaster. The pandemic has turbo-charged the overdose crisis, already 20 years in the making. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) shows a sharp spike in overdoses, and an analysis of Emergency Medical Services data shows overdoses up 50 percent over previous years. The Biden administration has an opportunity to bend this curve by embracing proven measures and abandoning ineffective and counterproductive policy. This will require coordinated action by many federal, state, local, and tribal agencies. But the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) role deserves special scrutiny because it profoundly shapes the nation’s approaches to substance use, addiction, and overdose.
WHYY NEWS, JUNE 2, 2021
As opioid cases spiked over the past decade, so did DDRD prosecutions — and Pennsylvania came to lead the nation in drug delivery prosecutions. Though the Tuesday decision in federal court would not directly affect those state-level prosecutions, attorney Peter Goldberger, who brought the appeal of Semler’s case, said it was still impactful.
The Lab and Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University filed an amicus brief in the case on behalf of the defendant, charged for her friends overdose death.
THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, JUNE 1, 2021
Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University, said it is counter-productive to not employ medication-assisted treatment in jails and prisons. “The fact that we incarcerate folks with substance use and do not provide them with adequate and scientifically based treatment — and essentially force them to go into withdrawal — is not just inhumane but dangerous for the people incarcerated and for the staff,” he said.
THE CRIME REPORT, MAY 19, 2021
Policing that places more emphasis on deterrence and incapacitation rather than rehabilitation and retribution, can aggravate problems like homelessness, mental distress and drug use that often bring individuals into contact with law enforcement. But a public health approach informed by behavioral health and science can have a positive effect...
EUREKA ALERT! SCIENCE NEWS , MAY 17, 2021
In another commentary, John C. Messinger, BS, of Harvard Medical School and Leo Beletsky, JD, MPH, of Northeastern University, Boston, call on addiction care providers to "challenge the use of state power to coerce people into treatment settings - especially when such settings often diverge from best clinical practices." They conclude: "Addiction professionals must reject perpetuating punitive structures that harm the individuals we are hoping to serve."
THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, MAY 11, 2021
Today, many films about drugs have a different vibe. They take place not in cities but in upscale suburbs or in rural areas, and they tell their stories not from the perspective of drug users but of their terrified loved ones. Like “Ben Is Back,” “Beautiful Boy” and “Hillbilly Elegy” — some of Hollywood’s other swings at the opioid era — “Four Good Days” is ultimately a family drama about the power, and the limits, of a mother’s love.
DAVIS VANGUARD, APRIL 30, 2021
Leo Beletsky’s expertise is in the public health impact of laws and their enforcement, with a special focus on drug overdose, infectious disease transmission, and criminal justice reform through a public health lens.
FILTER, APRIL 22, 2021
Tanesia DeMacon is no stranger to jail. [...] “I used to joke that county jail was school for the ‘hood,” says DeMacon, an African American woman from East Portland, Oregon. “I just started meeting more and more people who were into more and more things. Honestly, it taught me how to do more criminal activity.”
MY BUCKHANNON, MOUNTAIN STATE SPOTLIGHT, APRIL 14, 2021
“The science is very clear about what works to address overdoses,” said Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University. Beletsky said there are three major actions that can be taken to address the crisis...
BUZZFEED NEWS, MARCH 19, 2021
Meanwhile, as needle exchanges grow nationwide, similar disputes have flared up in California and Washington state. “It’s easy to beat up on West Virginia, but this is a nationwide problem, and these kinds of disputes are happening all over the country,” Leo Beletsky, a public health law expert at Northeastern University, told BuzzFeed News.
FILTER, MARCH 17, 2021
Facing the known risk of a massive viral outbreak linked to syringe sharing, Dr. Gupta put politics above the health of vulnerable and stigmatized people, public health experts say...
“The most concerning aspect, to me, is that under Dr. Gupta’s leadership the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health unjustifiably decertified what I considered to be a very well-run harm reduction program,” Robin Pollini, a professor at West Virginia University who has studied harm reduction programs around the country, told Filter. “And the result of that is Charleston now has what CDC says is the most ‘concerning’ HIV outbreak in the US.”
THE NEW REPUBLIC, MARCH 15, 2021
Americans, especially affluent, white Americans, have always used drugs accessed through what Herzberg calls “white markets,” legally sanctioned and trusted medical institutions like hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies. The majority of morphine users in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were well-to-do white women, some of whom were maintained on morphine for years thanks to doctors who recognized that without it, their lives would be miserable. The same goes for anti-anxiety sedatives like benzodiazepines, immortalized in the 1965 Rolling Stones song “Mother’s Little Helper”: [...]
STREET ROOTS, MARCH 10, 2021
“No matter how well I was doing, every meeting with my P.O., it made me just feel fear in my heart,” Godvin said Feb. 25. “I would start to tremble, like actually tremble, in my chest. Why? “Their most famed tool is arrests,” she told lawmakers. “Them using that tool against you feels like an eventuality. Countless UAs (urinalysis). An officer stared at me as I pulled down my pants and underwear and peed into their cup.” She always panicked, she said.
MEDIUM, MARCH 9, 2021
A former narcotics prosecutor and former heroin injector are unlikely allies. A slight tweak of circumstances and we could have been adversaries, playing out a tragic trope of the ‘War on Drugs’ in a court of law.
Fortunately, Morgan Godvin and I met in a safer space: Twitter. She has survived overdoses and served time in federal prison for providing a fatal dose of heroin to a friend. She is now a freelance writer, advocate and researcher.
Morgan and I do not agree on everything — for instance, broad decriminalization. We are, however, deeply aligned on the urgency of harm reduction...
THE CRIME REPORT, MARCH 5, 2021
If we want to move beyond the discredited War on Drugs and save lives, we must abandon the fixation on drug courts, invest in proven solutions, and let healthcare professionals ― not lawyers and judges ― guide treatment.
Drug courts aren’t new. For the last 30 years, the primary way the criminal justice system has attempted to connect people with substance use disorders to healthcare is via drug courts. In drug courts, people undergo court-monitored inpatient or outpatient treatment, often featuring frequent drug testing and “stepped sanctions” for noncompliance, such as failing a drug test or missing a court date, generally in exchange for a reduction or dismissal of charges.
THE NEW REPUBLIC, FEBRUARY 25, 2021
Recent surges in stimulant-involved overdose deaths—accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic—are creating more interest in contingency management programs, or at the very least exposing the urgency behind the treatment. More people now die from stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine than from prescription opioids like oxycodone, and in 2018 more than a million people in the United States met the criteria for methamphetamine use disorder, which experts consider a massive undercount. Yet very few programs offer effective, science-based treatment. With a growing need for stimulant treatments that work, experts in the field are working to change laws that they see standing in the way of contingency management’s wider adoption. – Zachary Siegel
FILTER, FEBRUARY 24, 2021
There is good reason to suspect that the treatment facility in this pilot program will simply be jail by another name. In one Massachusetts treatment center, “patients” are required to wear orange uniforms and carry a badge with the word “inmate,” as Leo Beletsky and Denise Tomasini-Joshi pointed out in a New York Times op-ed. An investigation by Reveal exposed hundreds of rehab facilities across the country for requiring residents to work substantial hours without compensation.
FILTER, FEBRUARY 23, 2021
When I first spoke to Casey William Hardison last October, he was calling from a Wyoming jail cell. Now he’s running for president in 2024. It’s yet another weird turn in the life of a legendary chemist and advocate for the freedom to expand one’s consciousness with drugs. But his current legal troubles could have a much bigger impact than a statistically unlikely chance at the White House.
OREGON LIVE, FEBRUARY 21, 2021
The tensions around policing are high nationwide but seem even more so in Portland. “Back the Blue” billboards can be seen along Oregon highways, running through suburban areas. The opposite message can be found, too, tagged around the city’s center or tweeted into the ether. While some call for defunding of the police, others plead for law-and-order. – Morgan Godvin
THE NATION, FEBRUARY 18, 2021
Watching hours upon hours of films and shows that feature addicted characters to write this piece, I came to realize a drab and dreary sameness running across the genre. Whether the character is an exurban white twentysomething, like Ben (Lucas Hedges) in Ben is Back, or a bipolar Black teenager in Los Angeles, like Rue (Zendaya) in Euphoria, the same themes and slogans permeate the character’s treatment and recovery.
Audiences are subjected to the same recycled stories and character arcs, flattened of complexity, full of one-size-fits-all approaches for what is maybe the most complex and confounding human condition—an insatiable desire for the very thing that’s destroying your life. Instead, what we most often see play out is moral turpitude followed by an exercise in character-building. – Zachary Siegel
FILTER, FEBRUARY 18, 2021
The role of policy in helping to produce such changes is described by what’s known as the “Iron Law of Prohibition.” As researchers Leo Beletsky and Corey S. Davis described this phenomenon in a 2017 IJDP article: “…efforts to interrupt and suppress the illicit drug supply produce economic and logistical pressures favouring ever-more compact substitutes”—that is, increasingly potent drugs.