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Incarcerated People Not Receiving Proper Drug Treatment, Research Shows


Last month, The Sentencing Project released a report titled “Opioids: Treating an Illness, Ending a War,” which addressed the lack of rehabilitative services in the prison system. The report found that there is a shortage of treatment access for inmates struggling with drug addiction, and suggests “increasing access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for people in prison—a treatment that has been proven to work” (de la Cretaz, 2017). Given that most people incarcerated in this country were found guilty of drug-related crimes, this treatment could assist with long term rehabilitation.

According to Britni de la Cretaz, “the Bureau of Justice Statistics [states that] between 2007 and 2009, fifty-eight percent of people in state prisons and sixty-three percent of people serving jail sentences reported having a substance use disorder in the year prior to their incarceration. That rate is ten times the rate in the general population” (2017). Yet only one fourth of these inmates reported receiving addiction services while in prison. Only a fifth of inmates with drug use disorders received professional treatment in a residential facility, detox, or with the use of a maintenance medication.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s director, Dr. Nora Volkow, “studies have shown that outcomes are much better when you are on medication-assisted therapy. For one, it decreases risk of relapse — significantly. Second, MAT has also been shown to be effective in preventing infectious diseases like HIV. Third, medication-assisted therapy has been shown to be effective in preventing overdoses” (Sheridan, 2017).

Additionally, The Sentencing Project suggests that “policymakers and criminal justice professionals should continue to end reliance on incarceration as a remedy for substance use disorder, and recognize that it is often not an effective means of reducing the supply of illicit drugs. They should also increase rates of effective drug treatment among those who do enter the criminal justice system” (The Sentencing Project, 2017).

Anderson, C., & Ghandnoosh, N. (2017). Opioids: Treating an illness, ending a war. Retrieved from http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Opioids-Treating-an-Illness-Ending-a-War.pdf
de la Cretaz, B. (2017). People in prison are not getting the drug treatment they need. Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/people-prison-are-not-getting-drug-treatment-they-need
Sheridan, K. (2017). How effective is medication-assisted treatment for addiction? Here’s the science. Retrieved from https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/15/medication-assisted-treatment-what-we-know/