Jails and prisons across the US are finally becoming less resistant to providing inmates with addiction medicine.
The prison system has long resistance administering opioid addiction medications to inmates. Many were skeptical of the long-term efficiency of them and the high costs it would put on the prisons. Prisons also saw these addiction medications as replacing one drug dependency for another. However, now 300 of the nation’s 3,200 jails and 1,900 prisons now offer some form of addiction medications to certain inmates for opiate detox. As more research comes out, more facilities are seeing the benefit.
Around 290 are offering monthly injections of naltrexone, also known as Vivitrol to inmates before release. Around 30 facilities are using the federally approved medications for opioid addiction treatment, methadone and buprenorphine, also known as Suboxone. The numbers are growing though.
Jails in American are “ground zero for the opioid crisis”. Many addicts find it easier to obtain drugs within prisons than outside of them. For inmates looking to kick their addiction, they often have to resort to smuggling in Suboxone just how heroin is.
Reluctance around administering addiction medication is waning. There are newer medications and more scientific evidence to back up their use. However, the cost of administering these meds is still the main deterrent. Facilities are looking to the federal government to reimburse them for the costs. Since beginning their Suboxone program two years ago, Franklin County jail has treated around 240 inmates for a cost of about $12,500 per inmate per year.
So far data shows that treating the problem in jails impacts usage rates outside. Franklin County saw a 35% drop in opioid overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017. This corresponds with when they began their Suboxone program, suggesting this was partly behind the drop.
Prisons and jails are calling for formal studies to be done so they can see how effective these addiction med programs really are. Facilities are looking for funding for more than addiction meds though. These pills aren’t magic and require other elements such as extra screen for patients, mental health counseling, and post-release aid for the most effective opiate detox.
While it’s still early, tackling addiction in the prison system appears to have a positive effect on the nation as a whole. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and needs treatment, feel free to contact us.