OPIOID ADDICTION AND PRISON
People addicted to prescription opioids or heroin are up to 13 times more likely to have problems with the law than those who don’t use these drugs, according to a study from July 2018. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 65 percent of people who are incarcerated are known to have a substance use disorder. This period of incarceration could be the perfect time to start inmates on the path to addiction recovery, but unfortunately, most of them don’t receive adequate treatment.
There are a variety of drug-related reasons a person might end up in prison. An individual might have been caught buying or selling drugs, arrested for possession, or stolen or committed an act of violence in order to obtain drugs. Those who do not receive treatment for their substance abuse are likely to repeat these same offenses after they are released.
According to research from 2006, alcohol and drugs were involved in 78 percent of violent crimes, 83 percent of property crimes, and 77percent of public order, immigration or weapons offenses and probation/parole violations. Despite the prevalence of addiction in prisons, a mere 11 percent of inmates in the U.S. who need addiction treatment actually receive it.
Perhaps even worse is when someone who was beginning to undergo treatment is arrested and their care discontinued. Suddenly stopping the use of methadone, for example, can lead someone to experience severe withdrawal symptoms and makes it unlikely that they will remain abstinent after release from prison. According to a 2007 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, released inmates’ risk of a fatal drug overdose is 129 times higher than for the general population during the first two weeks after release.
The World Health Organization recommends that all prisons keep methadone and buprenorphine on hand for treatment and naltrexone available for relapse prevention. Of course, medication alone is not enough, and inmates also need access to behavioral counseling, in an approach known as Medication Assisted Treatment or MAT. The medication serves to stabilize brain chemistry, block the euphoric effects of alcohol and opioids, relieve physiological cravings, and normalize body functions.
So far, Rhode Island is the only state that offers access to all three suggested medications. Sixteen states offer only naltrexone, and 28 don’t fully offer any medication to prisoners with opioid use disorders. Every inmate in the Rhode Island correctional system was screened for opioid addiction, and those who tested positive were treated with MAT including the drugs methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. The state also established a system of 12 community-based Centers of Excellence in MAT with the purpose of continuing treatment and providing support after release from prison or jail. There was a 60.5 percent reduction in fatal overdoses during the first two weeks after release.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.