The sad realities of drug abuse are not exclusive to its impacts on health. In fact, issues frequently cascade, affecting outside factors, including family life, the workplace, and the community. Communities nationwide are riddled with the complex and devastating nature of the after-effects of ongoing drug abuse. There’s been a long-standing correlation between drug abuse and crime rates. Criminal activity can feed habitual abuse. Drug possession arrests are on an upward trajectory, especially in areas most exposed and vulnerable to the grueling opioid epidemic. Prisons and local jails are inundated nationwide. It begs the question: what happens to drug addicts in jail?
Unfortunately, jails are not drug rehab centers and are not equipped to help individuals overcome substance abuse. It’s important that families seek help before their loved one is forced to face the criminal system. Jail is often counterproductive to long-term recovery.
If you or a loved one needs help, contact AspenRidge Recovery at (855) 281-5599. We’ll work with your insurance company and develop a personalized treatment plan for your unique situation.
Drug Rates & Crime Trends
Despite bipartisan calls to address drug addiction as a public health issue rather than through the criminal justice system, arrests for drugs increased dramatically over the last few years. According to the American Center for Progress, one-fifth of incarcerated people –or 456,000 individuals–are serving time for a drug offense. Another 1.5 million people are on probation or parole for drug-related crimes.
The U.S. continues to be in the grips of a surging drug overdose crisis driven by opioids, methamphetamine, and other lethal narcotics. In 2018, over 67,00 drug overdose deaths occurred nationwide. That’s about 41 deaths per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“These trends have led to continued debate around the appropriateness of using the criminal justice system to respond to people who use drugs, and what constitutes the most effective set of inventions to curb the rising tide of death.” -The State of Justice Reform, Vera
The consensus is that incarcerating people for drug-related offenses has been shown to have little impact on substance use rates. Further, incarceration has been linked to an increased mortality rate from a drug overdose. Jail may actually be making the problem much worse. Understanding what happens to drug addicts in prison is an important factor that disease prevention specialists are studying more carefully.
According to researchers, the more important question is how can a person effectively achieve long-term recovery after addiction? If the answer doesn’t include criminal prosecution, perhaps it’s time to rethink how drug addiction is perceived and sentenced.
America’s Policy on Drugs
Drug policies in America and many other countries have largely focused on a belief that arrests will effectively deter use. Few analysts suggest punishment through the judicial system, and stigmatization prevents criminal behavior by making it costly for an individual, both monetarily and in social aspects. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has enforced strategies based on this theory. However, critics recognize the high cost and racial disparities that exist among groups most impacted by drug epidemics.
Deterrence initiatives may only exacerbate long-standing issues as they surround alcohol and drugs. Systems in place today would suggest that a person with an addiction should be able to overcome the disease from a jail cell. What actually happens to drug addicts in jail indicates otherwise.
One study by the National Institute of Health concluded that individuals who returned to drugs and alcohol upon release were almost always battling with no social support and a lack of economic resources. For this reason, addiction experts believe that providing support through outreach programs is a more crucial step to take rather than hyper-focusing on mandatory jail time.
Resources, when made available, can effectively support an individual reintegrating into the community.
Drug Courts vs. Criminal Justice
There are organizations currently working to address racial disparities among drug users and criminal drug offenders. Some communities are moving toward a reformed system, one that disrupts the status quo within the criminal process.
Currently, there are more than 3,100 drug courts nationwide. These specialized judicial systems offer programs that can reduce the likelihood of relapse by sentencing defendants to substance use treatment, supportive services, and supervision or monitoring rather than incarceration. Reports following drug court statistics show significantly lower recidivism rates–about 40% versus 53%. Studies are in the early stages but suggest l positive results from the drug court model.
What Happens to Drug Addicts in Jail?
No surprise that U.S. prison populations are substantially linked to drug-related offenses. It’s difficult for analysts to measure substance use disorders (SUDs) among inmates because a lack of resources prevents basic assessments. However, some research estimates close to 65% or more of the prison population has existing SUD. Another 20% did not meet the official criteria for SUD but were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of their crime.
With comprehensive substance use treatment in prison, inmates may be better equipped to reenter into their community free of drugs and crime. Unfortunately, only about 5% of inmates with an existing SUD received this type of treatment. Comprehensive treatment may include ongoing therapeutic services, relapse prevention, skillset building, group therapy, and more.
Withdrawal in Prison
One of the more sensitive subjects regarding what happens to drug addicts in jail is withdrawal. The physical act of seizing drug use after years of dependency is extremely dangerous. Only five detention centers in the United States currently provide people medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction. Others may provide some supervision, but inmates are largely left to deal with detox independently.
“Addiction care [in the US prison system] doesn’t meet community standards.” Sarah Wakeman, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University and an addiction medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Many addiction treatment specialists are in dismay over what happens to drug addicts in jail. Legally, inmates are entitled to healthcare equal to community standards. This means that inmates should have access to evidence-based treatment. Here, the operative word is “should” because most jails and prisons lack the ability to provide inmates with adequate health care, particularly for mental health and substance abuse.
Strong disagreements exist between law enforcement and many medical professionals about whether medication-assisted treatment is the best way to help people fight and recover from addiction. There’s a lot of promising research about how effective and underutilized addiction recovery drugs are, particularly for opioids and methamphetamine.
Avoiding Jail: Treating Addiction Sooner
Avoiding the criminal justice system is a proactive step that families and individuals should consider. Prisons and court systems are largely unable to keep up with the growing levels of drug abuse, but outside treatment is proven effective.
The sooner drug abuse is addressed, the more promising the outlook for an individual’s sobriety. Various treatment facilities have addressed what the criminal justice system is currently unable to achieve long-term recovery. Since addictions vary in severity, it’s best to begin seeking help before drug use leads to a life of crime.
AspenRidge Colorado Addiction Treatment
As addiction treatment professionals, we applaud any move toward drug treatment care rather than sentencing behind bars. Additionally, as interventionists, we also believe that families can and should quickly respond to drug abuse trends prior to arrests or criminal activity. We can help to make that happen. Please call our admissions center at our Colorado addiction treatment centers to gain immediate assistance. Call us at 855-281-5588.