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Majority of Prison Systems Challenged in Their Approach to Drug Addiction

How well is the U.S. prison system equipped to deal with inmates’ addiction problems? According to new research from the Miriam Hospital, Brown University and their affiliated Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, many prison systems do not offer medical treatment for heroin or opiate addiction.

A recent release in Science Daily shows that nearly one quarter of a million individuals addicted to heroin are incarcerated each year. According to statistics, only half of all federal and state prison systems offer proper treatment with medication. Even these institutions still only offer the treatment in very limited circumstances.

Of all the states in the Union, only 23 provide referrals for some inmates to treatment upon release from prison. Such policies tend to counter to guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Pharmacological treatment of opiate dependence is a proven intervention, is cost-effective and reduces drug-related disease and re-incarceration rates, yet it remains underutilized in U.S. prison systems,” said Amy Nunn, ScD, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of medicine (research) at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

“Improving correctional policies for addiction treatment could dramatically improve prisoner and community health as well as reduce both taxpayer burden and re-incarceration rates.”

At the present time, the U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate at roughly 10 million individuals incarcerated each year. More than half of these individuals have a history of substance use and more than 200,000 people with heroin addiction are incarcerated annually.

“In spite of overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating that pharmacological treatment for addiction has greater health and social benefits than abstinence-only policies, many prison directors are philosophically opposed to treating substance use. Most prisons also do not provide referrals for substance use treatment for prisoners upon release,” said Nunn.

via Majority of Prison Systems Challenged in Their Approach to Drug Addiction.

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