According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2012) publication titled Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, Medications are an important part of treatment for many drug abusing offenders. Medicines, such as methadone, buprenorphine, and extended-release naltrexone have been shown to reduce heroin use and should be made available to individuals who could benefit from them. (NIDA, 2012b, p. 6).
Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is effective for the treatment of opiate addiction and alcohol dependence, and NIDA recommends use of MAT as an effective treatment for opiate dependence in general populations, as well as for criminal justice populations (NIDA, 2012b).
Methadone is a synthetic opioid chemically similar to morphine, whose actions in the brain are longer lasting than other opiates, such as heroin. Another medication used to treat opiate addiction is buprenorphine, a synthetic opioid which is a partial agonist that reduces withdrawal symptoms and has a low risk of overdose. A third medication, naltrexone, is called an opioid antagonist because it blocks opiates from binding with receptors in the brain, and thus prevents their euphoric effects.
Several studies have found that methadone and buprenorphine can be successfully administered to jail and prison populations, and that when continued in the community after release, MAT can increase treatment retention and reduce recidivism and relapse
There are several studies that show the effectiveness of medication assisted treatment while in custody. Despite evidence of its effectiveness for treating opiate addiction, MAT is rarely used in correctional settings: only 0.2% of state inmates reported receiving MAT since prison admission.
Why, in your opinion, are jail and prison systems reluctant to use MAT programs for inmates struggling with opiate addictions? (List at least three reasons for the reluctance in supporting MAT treatment in jails/prisons). Would you support a tax-payer funded MAT program to support in-custody treatment of opiate addicted inmates? (Why/why not?). What suggestions would you recommend to policy makers in support of expanding MAT programs in jails and prisons? (Give two specific suggestions.
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