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By Andrea Peyser
Aug 5, 2016
Solitary confinement has done a world of good for Cameron Douglas.
The gratingly privileged 37-year-old drug pusher, scion of Hollywood Oscar-winning royalty — son of Michael Douglas, grandson of Kirk Douglas, stepson of Catherine Zeta-Jones — was released from federal prison after nearly seven years to a Bronx halfway house. He was photographed this week in The Post walking along a New York City street sporting a newly buff bod, hand-in-hand with his hot new girlfriend, renderings of his dad’s and gramps’ faces tattooed on his absurdly flat belly, as he revealed on Instagram. A scrawny, strung-out junkie no more.
Next: A source told The Post’s Page Six that Cameron Douglas, now working for a film production company in Manhattan, plans to write a tell-all book “about his struggle being the son and grandson of Hollywood icons.’’ We all should have such struggles.
While I applaud his effort to turn his life around, however belatedly, I have to argue that the reigning societal attitude toward rich druggies does them, as well as the rest of us, a grave disservice.
Douglas is coddled, infantilized and labeled chronically ill, considered as powerless over his addiction and drug dealing as a cancer patient or diabetic is over disease.
He suffers from just one affliction — affluenza.
Never mind that he did not just use garbage, he attempted to sell copious amounts of methamphetamines, some of which undoubtedly would have wound up in the mouths of children. His refusal to go straight after being locked up resulted in his original five-year sentence being extended.
He also upended the lives of two women addicted to him. His former live-in girlfriend, Kelly Scott, served more than seven months in a federal lockup for smuggling heroin to him inside an electric toothbrush while he was under house arrest. His smitten defense lawyer, Jennifer Ridha, lost her job after she was caught sneaking Xanax pills inside her bra to him at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
Perhaps out of a sense of guilt for having been an absentee dad, Michael Douglas, 71, who fathered Cameron with his first wife, Diandra Luker, used his 2013 Emmy Awards acceptance speech (for playing Liberace in the TV movie “Behind the Candelabra’’) to blast correctional brutality. He was diagnosed with throat cancer near the time his son was sentenced to prison.
“At first, I was certainly disappointed with my son, but I’ve reached a point now where I’m disappointed with the system,’’ he said. “If you happen to have a slip, they punish you. In my son’s case, he has spent almost two years in solitary confinement.’’
His anger was misplaced.
A poor drug dealer bearing dark skin wouldn’t be handed a glamorous postprison job — or a book deal. Adherents to the recovery-industrial complex, a multibillion-dollar venture devoted to often useless 12-step programs popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous and others, united in outrage after I wrote a column following the 2014 heroin-overdose death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. All I did was express the notion that Hoffman may have chosen to use drugs — because he liked getting high. Blasphemy!
The theory may be gaining traction.
In a groundbreaking opinion piece published in June in The New York Times, journalist and author Maia Szalavitz revealed that she injected heroin and cocaine into her veins, sometimes many times a day, while attending Columbia University in the 1980s, getting suspended from school, busted for dealing and surviving an overdose. Why did she do it?
“For me, heroin provided a sense of comfort, safety and love that I couldn’t get from other people,’’ she wrote. Addiction “skews choice — but doesn’t completely eliminate free will; after all, no one injects drugs in front of police.’’
She quit using drugs at age 23, essentially after growing out of them.
Rather than follow the gospel of the 12 steps (“Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over [insert substance] — that our lives had become unmanageable’’), she’d like to see drug- and alcohol-recovery programs treat addictions like learning disorders that can be overcome, not illnesses that probably can’t. She urged kindness toward users.
I wish Cameron Douglas well. But I think everyone in his life would show real kindness if they stopped treating him like a powerless victim. He made rotten life choices with his eyes wide open.