The Case for Medication-Assisted Drug Treatment in Prisons and Jails
Date:  01-15-2016

Two-thirds of people who are incarcerated in America have an addiction to drugs or alcohol
From Pew Charitable Trusts January 13, 2016

Helping Drug-Addicted Inmates Break the Cycle

By Christine Vestal

BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. — A week before 22-year-old Joe White was slated for release from the Barnstable County Correctional Facility, 26 law enforcement officials and social workers huddled around a table to discuss his prospects on the outside.

For substance abusers like White, they aren’t good. In the first two weeks after a drug user is released from jail, the risk of a fatal overdose is much higher than at any other time in his addiction. After months or years in confinement, theoretically without access to illicit drugs, an addict’s tolerance for drugs is low but his craving to get high can be as strong as ever.

Most inmates start using drugs again immediately upon release. If they don’t die of an overdose, they often end up getting arrested again for drug-related crimes. Without help, very few are able to put their lives back together while battling obsessive drug cravings.

Barnstable, on Cape Cod about 70 miles from Boston, has broken that cycle with the help of a relatively new addiction medication, Vivitrol, which blocks the euphoric effects of opioids and reduces cravings. Such medications have been shown to be far more effective at helping people quit drugs than counseling and group therapy programs that do not include medication. But even as the nation grapples with an epidemic of opioid overdoses, the use of medication to treat opioid addiction has faced stiff resistance: Only about a fifth of the people who would benefit from the medications are getting them. Read more