Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Drug Addiction Goes Untreated in Prison

Only 20% of addicted inmates get rehab.

Among the many ironies of the American War on Drugs, the situation of drug abusers in prison ranks high on the list. Despite decades of research showing that drug treatment can be effective, the federal government has failed to offer it consistently, on demand, for prisoners who need rehabilitation. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that only one-fifth of inmates needing formal treatment are able to get it.

Why aren’t imprisoned drug addicts getting treatment, instead of ready access to a continuing supply of whatever they are addicted to? “Addiction is a stigmatized disease that the criminal justice system often fails to view as a medical condition,” says the report’s lead author, Dr. Redonna K. Chandler, chief of NIDA’s Services Research Branch. “As a consequence, its treatment is not as available as it is for other medical conditions.”

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that roughly half of all prisoners suffer some degree of drug dependency. “Treating drug abusing offenders improves public health and safety,” asserts co-author and NIDA director Dr. Nora D. Volkow, citing increased risk of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C among addicts. “Providing drug abusers with treatment also makes it less likely that these abusers will return to the criminal justice system.”

While the high cost of treatment is often cited as a reason for its general absence from the prison infrastructure, Chandler says the cost benefits of treating drug-involved offenders is obvious: “A dollar spent on drug courts saves about $4 in avoided costs of incarceration and health care; and prison-based treatment saves between $2 and $6.”

Adds Volkow: “Viewing addiction as a disease does not remove the responsibility of the individual. It highlights the responsibility of the addicted person to get drug treatment and society’s responsibility to make treatment available.”

Photo Credit: www.thecyncom


Anonymous said...

The lack of methadone and Buprenorphine treatment for opioid addicted prisoners, and the refusal of jails to continue medication for established clinic patients--instead forcing them to go through mind bending, agonizing withdrawals--is immoral and unethical in the extreme. Many have died at the hands of such indifferent torture--and no other modern nation treats its incarcerated addicts this way.

Dirk Hanson said...

Nicely put. I agree completely.

Authorities aren't going to make treatment available in prison if they don't really believe addiction is a treatable disease in the first place.

C said...

" Only 20% of addicted inmates get rehab"?? The numbers are appalling! I think prisoners with a drug-addiction problem should receive a path to rehabilitation. Otherwise both for the system and the community get affected, since the prisoner would return to the community unrehabilitated and unprepared for life on the outside... this is certainly counterproductive. Human Rights Watch just published a very interesting article about New York inmates with substance-use problems and the way the system is dealing with them.


Check it out!

Dirk Hanson said...

C: Thanks for the link to the excellent article about the appalling conditions for drug addicts in New York prisons. I may do a post on this.

Deepak:Addiction said...

Drug addiction is a pathological condition. The disorder of addiction involves the progression of acute drug use to the development of drug-seeking behavior

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