The testimony of defense witness Dr. Robert Waldman yesterday in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray finally cleared the record on a crucial point: The facts in this case do not support the notion that Michael Jackson was addicted to opioid pain relievers or any other medications.
Since before this trial began, I have been stressing the fact that the evidence in this case does not support a conclusion that Michael Jackson was addicted. Rather, Jackson suffered from undertreated anxiety, insomnia, and perhaps chronic pain. Any drug-seeking behaviors Jackson displayed were likely the result of desperation for care that would enable him to live a normal life that included the basic human essentials of family time, work, and sleep.
Waldman is a self-proclaimed addiction specialist (not certified by the American Board of Addiction Medicine) who provides care for substance-related disorders some of the time, and kidney dialysis treatment the rest of the time.
Waldman’s definitions of key terms were consistent with those set forth by real authorities in addiction medicine:
Addiction: a primary, chronic, neurobiologic disease characterized by behaviors such as impaired control over drug use, continued use despite harm, and craving.
Dependence: a state of adaptation that is manifested by a drug-class-specific withdrawal syndrome that can be produced by abrupt cessation, rapid dose reduction, decreasing blood level of the drug, and/or administration of an antagonist.
[See Definitions related to the medical use of opioids: evolution towards universal agreement. J. Pain Symptom Manage. 2003; 26(1):655-67.]
Waldman testified that the evidence he reviewed suggested that Michael Jackson may have shown signs of dependence on opioid pain relievers such as demerol, which Jackson received when undergoing dermatological procedures. Jackson was “probably not” addicted to the medications. A diagnosis of addiction could only be supported by what Waldman described as the “public behavior” of Michael Jackson — not facts on the record.
The court of public opinion is rarely a just arbiter.
I am pleased to know the “expert” agrees with my longstanding analysis of the facts in this case.
None of this discussion would matter or even take place were it not for the outmoded stigma that still accompanies addiction: the notion that it is a choice or a weakness. Public awareness has not yet caught up with science.
Even if Conrad Murray’s defense team had been successful at portraying Murray’s patient as an “addict”, Waldman provided the members of the jury additional information that will help them make an informed decision in this case:
Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this case , the record is now straight, thanks to Dr. Waldman.