“Imminent Danger of Addiction” as a Ground for Involuntary Commitment in California–People v. Victor

Since the passage of the Harrison Act in 1914, the principal means of controlling drug addiction in the United States have been rigid controls on importation and domestic production of narcotics, and increasingly heavy penal sanctions for the illegal possession or sale of addicting drugs. Effective as these measures have been in restricting the domestic traffic in narcotics and driving up the price of illegal drugs, long prison sentences have not been successful in either deterring or curing drug addiction. Recognizing the unique psychological and physiological aspects of addiction, the United States Public Health Service established hospitals in the 1930’s at Lexington, Kentucky, and Fort Worth, Texas, offering medical treatment to addicts in federal prisons and to others voluntarily requesting admission. The two hospitals have had notoriously poor results in effecting permanent abstinence from drugs. Their failure has been attributed largely to the lack of supervision over the patients after release and to the premature release of many volunteer patients who leave against medical advice.