Although many U.S. inmates are opioid addicts, only Rhode Island provides all three FDA-approved medications. President Trump has vowed to screen all 180,000 federal inmates for opioid addiction and provide Vivitrol in residential treatment centers prior to release.
At least a quarter of U.S. prison and jail inmates are addicted to opioids. Those who are released rejoin their communities with dangerously reduced tolerance and nothing to blunt their drug cravings, making them highly susceptible to a deadly overdose. New scientific evidence and a recently announced federal investigation may soften prison officials’ long-held opposition to medication-assisted treatment, Stateline reports. Rhode Island is the only state that provides all three FDA-approved addiction medications, methadone, buprenorphine and a long-acting, injectable form of naltrexone known as Vivitrol, to all inmates. A recent study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that opioid overdose deaths dropped by nearly two-thirds among recently incarcerated people in the first year of a program that screens and provides addiction medicines to all state inmates.
In Massachusetts, which doesn’t provide methadone or buprenorphine, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether corrections officials are violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by forcing inmates who were taking those addiction medicines when they entered prison to stop taking them. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the state’s prisons and jails to offer all three FDA-approved medications. A similar proposal is advancing in Connecticut. At the federal level, President Trump promised last month to screen all 180,000 federal inmates for opioid addiction and provide Vivitrol in residential treatment centers prior to release. Trump also called for more federal support for state, local and tribal drug courts to help provide “evidence-based treatment as an alternative to or in conjunction with incarceration, or as a condition of supervised release.” Fewer than one percent of the more than 5,000 U.S. prisons and jails, housing more than two million inmates, allow access to the FDA-approved medication, even though medical societies, addiction experts and correctional health organizations support their use.