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Addiction and Overdose Treatment for Prisoners Lacking in the U.S.

Addiction and Overdose Treatment for Prisoners Lacking in the U.S.

Congress passed the First Step Act in 2018 featuring an inclusive reform plan for federal prisons to provide access to opioid addiction and overdose treatment and other services that could improve recidivism rates while also attending to the medical needs of inmates. These measures were enacted just before the most significant spike in opioid overdose deaths in history as the prevalence of fentanyl in street drugs and the isolation of COVID-19 lockdowns and limitations cause many to seek out substances to cope. Although tens of millions of dollars were implemented into programs to save the lives of those who need it most, the stigma of addiction and outdated mindsets have limited these federal programs, leaving many without the help they need.

Opioid Addiction Treatment for Prison Reform

A recent Government Accountability Office report from July shows that only 2% of the 15,000 inmates eligible for opioid use disorder treatment were receiving medication, stating that prisons and jails lacked planning elements to expand the programs quickly and effectively. Despite the tens of millions in funding, medication-assisted treatment, including the use of buprenorphine, methadone, and Vivitrol®, continue to be limited to the prison and jail populations in most states.

Though the number of states that offer one or more MAT medications is currently up to 20 from 4 in 2017, local administrators are still reluctant to adopt opioid addiction treatment measures. Many states continue to favor “old school” methods of abstinence and group meetings while disavowing the diagnosis of addiction as a disease altogether.

MAT in Prisons Saves Lives

Over the past two decades, overdose deaths have skyrocketed by 600% inside prisons and 200% inside jails. Contraband is frequently smuggled into facilities through visitors, staff, and incoming prisoners creating a haven for drug misuse and a toxic environment for those who attempt to remain abstinent.

Data from a study conducted in a Maine prison shows a significant reduction in overdose deaths upon release of 60% for inmates who completed MAT programs. The results also showed reduced instances of inmate violence, self-harm, positive drug tests, assault on staff, and other disciplinary write-ups. Overall, the recidivism rate of inmates also dropped, proving that MAT and resources for ex-inmates such as extended treatment, halfway houses, and vocational programs upon release could significantly improve the lives of those affected by the opioid epidemic.

Many people incarcerated have untreated substance use disorder that causes them to re-offend and eventually end up back behind bars. Those who have long struggled with addiction often end up in trouble with the law with a hindered ability to recognize and acknowledge the consequences of their drug misuse. Recovery Services of New Mexico is dedicated to providing medication-assisted treatment for inmates at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center to help improve the lives of everyone in the surrounding community. There is hope for those who want to take control back over their lives and leave opioid addiction behind; give us a call or message us today to learn more about our recovery programs.


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