The Center for Law, Brain & Behavior puts the most accurate and actionable neuroscience in the hands of judges, lawyers, policymakers and journalists—people who shape the standards and practices of our legal system and affect its impact on people’s lives. We work to make the legal system more effective and more just for all those affected by the law.

The Criminalization of Addiction: Law, Medicine, and Future Directions: Is Compassion Consistent with Accountability?

 March 31, 2022, 12:00 PM

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Event Description

In Commonwealth v. Eldred, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held that a court may order a defendant who is addicted to substances to remain drug free as a condition of probation and that if a defendant tests positive for an illegal substance, the defendant may be found in violation of his or her probation. Join us for a discussion of this important case. Attorney Lisa Newman-Polk, who litigated Eldred, will discuss the legal landscape regarding criminalization of addiction. Dr. Alexander Walley will contextualize substance use disorder as a medical illness. Dr. Stephanie Tabashneck will then lead a discussion on the implications of criminalizing substance use disorder.


  • Introduction: Carmel Shachar, Executive Director, Petrie-Flom Center
  • Lisa Newman-Polk, lawyer and licensed certified social worker
  • Alexander Walley,  Professor of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine; Director, Addiction Medicine Fellowship Program; Co-Director, Fellow Immersion Training Program in Addiction Medicine; Associate Director, Faster Paths to Treatment Addiction Urgent Care Clinic; and Medical Director, Opioid Overdose Prevention Pilot Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health
  • Stephanie Tabashneck, PsyD, JD, Senior Fellow in Law and Applied Neuroscience, CLBB and the Petrie-Flom Center

This event is part of the Project on Law and Applied Neuroscience, a collaboration between the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School.