Opioid and Other Types of Substance Abuse in the Prison System

Opioid and Other Types of Substance Abuse in the Prison System

Opioid use and addiction has become an epidemic in the United States. While the death toll associated with opioid overdose climbs higher every year, the number of prison inmates suffering from substance use disorders is also skyrocketing. In addition, most prisoners are not being treated for this issue in the ways we understand to be most effective, and this is only intensifying the epidemic.

For example, four cases of opioid withdrawal-related prison deaths were reported in 2015. While this withdrawal syndrome is not usually life threatening, it can be under certain circumstances, especially when withdrawing individuals do not have access to safe, effective detox medications. Unfortunately, a recent study showed that only 50 percent of state and federal prisons actually dispense these medications to withdrawing inmates and usually only under specific circumstances, such as when an inmate is pregnant.

While we know medications are especially beneficial toward minimizing withdrawal symptoms and in helping recovering addicts avoid relapse, the low rate of individuals who are actually receiving it could be keeping prisoners from breaking the cycle of addiction and crime. In the same sense, while there are group therapy sessions and 12-step programs available at some prisons and jails, only 65 and 74 percent respectively of incarceration facilities offer this kind of help. Also, when medication is not used reinforce this type of treatment, it is not as effective.

The issue of opioid abuse—as well as many other types of substance abuse—is being ignored in our prison system. Unfortunately, many prisoners once free will just fall back into dangerous old habits as a symptom of their addictions.

Categories: Health

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