Finding ways to treat drug overdoses in correctional facilities

Alcohol and substance abuse are rampant among jail inmates in the United States. Overdosing incidents are common inside prison walls due to illegal drugs flowing into the country’s most guarded prisons. In many instances, inability to medicate or provide timely support proves to be fatal. Studies have shown that most of the overdose deaths can be curbed by enabling pharmacies to provide naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of overdose, through opt-out strategies. Although many states have passed the 911 Medical Amnesty Law, which aims to reduce drug overdoses, there has been a steep rise in overdose deaths in recent years.

Unfortunately, correctional centers are home to drugs and alcohol smuggled clandestinely through various channels. Thus, drug overdoses are the leading causes of deaths in prisons, with unaddressed or untreated drug withdrawal symptoms resulting in death. Incidentally, California state prisons have recorded a high number of drug overdose deaths, with nearly 17 inmates dying within the confines of jails in the state each year, according to federal reports.

Considering the spate of drug-induced overdosing in California jails, federal Judge Thelton Henderson of San Francisco waived a previously enacted law that allowed only registered nurses and not licensed vocational nurses from administering the overdose drug naloxone, an opioid antagonist that prevents respiratory failures. According to federal receiver J. Clark Kelso who asked for overruling of the current law, “Precious time can thereby be lost and unnecessary injury, and even death, may result.”

Abstinence during jail does more harm than good

When an inmate is forced to practice abstinence, involuntarily, the craving for drugs gets invariably high. Also within a few days, there is drop in the tolerance level forcing the inmate to seek illegal drugs to fulfill the urge. Once a dependence on a particular drug is formed, withdrawal pangs set in when the substance is removed. Although in most cases, withdrawal pangs are not severe, they can be life threatening if proper medication is not provided at the right time.

Another side effect of forced abstinence in jails is relapse to one’s opioid-seeking behavior. It has been observed that the two weeks post release are most critical, wherein the inmates are 12 times more likely to die. Thus, it is not only important to control substance abuse in jail, but also to prevent its occurrence once the offender is released. While correctional programs and therapies are important in managing severe cravings, medications also play a vital role in fighting drug abuse. Making methadone or Suboxone available to inmates within weeks prior to their release can prevent relapse and aid in rapid recovery. Another medication that can help combat the withdrawal signs is Vivitrol, an extended-release injection that suppresses brain opioid receptors. Unlike Suboxone, Vivitrol is immune to abuse.

An example of a correctional facility that has made significant progress in curbing overdose deaths in prison is Rhode Island. Here, offenders with various addictions can continue with their substance abuse recovery programs even from the jail. Rhode Island’s Department of Corrections’ medication-assisted treatment program has far-reaching impact, with many inmates who have struggled with addiction leading a better life post release.

Road to recovery

Drug use among prison inmates is a serious epidemic that reportedly affects hundreds of inmates under federal supervision. Studies have shown that offenders who were not provided with medical-assisted treatment or detox were highly prone to an unhealthy behavior during later years.

By accessing a carefully planned and monitored medical detox, one can effectively take care of the problems associated with drug abuse. If you or a loved one is grappling with addiction and planning to undergo detox, contact the California Detox Helpline to know more about the best detox and rehab centers in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-780-2495 or chat online to find the most reliable drug rehab centers in California.

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